With each update Firefox grows more stable and useful. In previous versions, the developers made the interface more austere, sped up the browser, improved crash protection, and applied some other modifications. The new version 13, the latest Firefox release so far, includes further changes to provide faster browsing experience; and yet there are also a few remaining bugs, which I hope will be fixed later.
The two new major features that Firefox 13 boasts are the changed New Tab contents and redesigned Home Page. Let's have a more detailed look at each of them.
The renewed Home Page now provides users with a quicker access to their bookmarks, browsing history, settings, add-ons, downloads and sync preferences. These are now available from the shortcuts at the Home Page. Now when a user opens a new tab, Firefox welcomes him or her with a Chrome-like list of most-visited pages, providing quick access to the user's favorite sites, layed-out as thumbnails. This tab can also be customized: you can add new thumbnails or remove any unnecessary ones. If you don't need the page displayed anymore, you can easily hide it.
Alongside these innovations, Mozilla has made some optimizations in terms of the browser responsiveness, speed, and memory usage. In the previous versions of the browser, like Firefox 12, all tabs were loaded at the same time, consuming a lot of memory. The latest Firefox 13 introduces the Tabs-on-demand feature, which is claimed to have reduced processing requirements, network usage, and memory consumption. However, this feature is rather ambiguous and raises questions about its functionality and usefulness.
On the one hand, Tabs-on-demand is created for sessions with numerous tabs opened at start-up. In this situation, the browser itself starts faster as it loads only the latest activated tab from the previous session and all background tabs are deferred until you view them. This might be helpful, for example, when you need to do a fast search or you have a lot of different clips opened on YouTube – you won't get overwhelmed by multiple sounds played at the same time. That's where such 'clean browser' imitation comes in really helpful.
On the other hand, because of this tabs-on-demand feature, you have to activate manually every page you are going to work with, which can be tedious. Moreover, it proves to take a bit more time to load all the required tabs than if they are all loaded together at start-up. Another drawback to mention is that Tabs-on-demand are activated by default, without any opt-in procedures offered. As a result, if you want to deactivate this feature, you have to drill down to the start-up properties and opt out of Tabs-on-demand.
Another improvement is related to the allocation of memory. Unneeded memory is now freed more efficiently, which results in fewer pauses when you're working in Firefox. Besides, the start-up process has been slightly optimized to improve the browser's responsiveness. Besides, smooth scrolling and SPDY (a new protocol that reduces the time needed for websites to load, it was designed as a successor to HTTP) are now enabled by default, making your browsing of the technology-supporting sites more comfortable.
Unfortunately, despite all these changes, there are still some bugs left unresolved: for example scrolling may be slow in a GMail window and some other ones.