Mozilla developers are out this week with the latest major update of the Firefox 4 Web browser. With the beta 4 version, Firefox 4 integrates two new key features into the open source browser, providing a new way to organize tabs and synchronize browser activities.
The new tab features come by way of a Mozilla project known as Tab Candy, which enables users to group and organize sets of tabs together. In Firefox 4, Tab Candy has been rebranded as Firefox Panorama as it heads for public release.
"'Tab Candy' is the internal name for the development project, and we expect that it will continue to function as such," Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's director of Firefox, told InternetNews.com. "It's not really expressive for a consumer audience, though, so we selected a name that helps people understand that the feature gives them a panoramic view of their tabs."
Aza Raskin, the Mozilla developer who created the Tab Candy project, described the feature in a blog post as a way for users to see all their tabs and to quickly locate and switch between them.
"Tab Candy also lets you group tabs to organize your work flow. You can create a group for your vacation, work, recipes, games and social sites -- however it makes sense to you to group tabs," Raskin wrote. "When you switch to a grouped tab only the relevant tabs are shown in the tab bar, which helps you focus on what you want."
The other key item in Firefox 4 beta 4 is Firefox Sync, which began its life as the Mozilla Weave project. Sync enables Firefox users to synchronize tabs, history and bookmarks across multiple Firefox browsers. In combination with the Firefox Home app, Apple iPhone users can sync their Firefox browser activities as well.
"Now that Sync is part of Firefox, it will be updated through application updates," Beltzner said. "The Sync team will continue to maintain the add-on for users who are using older versions of Firefox, and Firefox Home allows iPhone users access to their data on the go."
Firefox 4 development hit its first beta milestone back in July, with the introduction of new performance and user interface enhancements. Mozilla is on a rapid development cycle with beta releases coming out approximately every three weeks ahead of a final release by the end of the year.
Mozilla is also planning to revamp its approach to updating Firefox soon in the beta cycle.
"The actual work planned is to apply application updates in the background while Firefox runs instead of on startup to ensure that users go from clicking on Firefox to getting online as quickly as possible," Beltzner said. "That work is scheduled to land sometime before we ship Firefox 4, in a future beta."
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