Firefox 4 Beta vs. Chrome: UI Smackdown
Jared Newman, PC World
To put it nicely, the Firefox 4 beta’s new user interface is a sincere form of flattery.
Honoring the great tradition of “borrowing” other browsers’ features, the next version of Firefox looks a lot like Google Chrome, with tabs moved above the navigation bar and a single button that replaces the menu bar. That doesn’t mean the two browsers look and feel the same. Here’s a breakdown of Firefox 4 beta’s interface features and how they fares against Google Chrome:
(Click any of the images below to enlarge)
If Chrome has an omnibar for URLs and search, Firefox 4 has an omnimenu for almost every option that used to appear in a dedicated menu bar. It’s always bothered me that Chrome uses two menu buttons, one of which contains mostly useless functions like copy and paste (seriously, who doesn’t use keyboard shortcuts or alternate click?). Firefox wins this battle for rolling everything into one while banishing copy and paste.
Like Chrome, Firefox 4 beta has tabs on top of the navigation bar, but with an important distinction: Firefox’s menu button is still above tabs. This kind of defeats the purpose, because you still have to carefully align your mouse the menu bar and the browser to switch tabs. Chrome’s tab positioning at the top of the browser lets you move the mouse all the way to the top of the screen — a subtle but important difference when you’re flying through the Internet.
Bookmarks and bookmark options are missing from Firefox’s new menu bar. That’s because Mozilla moved them to a separate button that resides next to the search bar. There’s enough activity and options associated with bookmarks to justify this move, and it’s nice to have quick access without Chrome’s dedicated bookmarks bar. Firefox also has an optional bookmarks bar, if you must.
Room to Browse
Firefox beats Chrome by six pixels with its default interface. Chrome is dragged down by its bookmarks bar, but Firefox could have widened its margin if the menu button was better-positioned. Atop the browser, Firefox’s menu button is flanked by nothing but wasted space until you hit the window buttons on the right side. It’s kind of an eyesore, and it almost defeats the purpose of having a condensed menu bar in the first place (I suppose all those options would look messy scattered across the page). Still, you can’t argue with numbers, and Firefox 4 Beta is just roomier.
I use Chrome for day-to-day browsing, but Firefox 4 beta has me considering a switch. User interface, I think, is the most important part of any Web browser, and Firefox looks cleaner and more modern than ever. And Firefox veterans needn’t worry; you can bring back the old interface with a few menu options. It’s frustrating that certain things could be improved, like the wasted space next to the menu button and tabs that aren’t really on top, but this is a beta. I’m hoping Mozilla’s not done cleaning up its interface just yet.