Mozilla unwrapped the release candidate of Firefox 4 for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Wednesday. Firefox 4's newly announced release candidate status indicates its features are finalized and, unless its developers uncover bugs of mass destruction, this version will likely become the official release.
According to Mozilla, the millions of users currently beta testing Firefox 4 will be automatically updated to release candidate 1, featuring a series of stability, compatibility, and performance improvements. Since the first beta became available last summer, the development team has fixed over 8,000 bugs in Firefox 4.
Firefox 4 is Mozilla's latest entry into the increasingly competitive web browser market. The unveiling of Firefox 4 Release Candidate coincides with the release of Google's Chrome 10 and comes as Microsoft prepares to officially release its much improved Internet Explorer 9 on March 14. All three browsers feature better support for the latest web standards and massive performance enhancements.
Mozilla executives don't anticipate seeing any show-stopping bugs or needing a second release candidate; they expect to officially release Firefox 4 later this month.
Mozilla also highlights the browser's fresh new user experience. To give browser tabs higher visual priority, open tabs now appear above the streamlined "Awesome Bar" (Mozilla's name for the address bar). A new tab management feature, Panorama, allows users to "drag and drop tabs into manageable groups to organize, name and arrange in a fun and visual way." Users can also use the Awesome Bar to quickly switch to an open tab or create "App Tabs" as powerful shortcuts to frequently used web applications.People who install a variety of add-ons will be pleased to discover Firefox 4's new Add-ons Manager. Offering descriptions, user ratings, recommendations, and screenshots, the Add-ons Manager helps users more quickly navigate through the 200,000 add-ons available in Mozilla's library. Firefox 4's new Jetpack technology also allows users to install add-ons without restarting the browser.
Additionally, Firefox 4 offers private browsing, location awareness, better SVG support, crash protection for plug-ins, and the ability to sync browser settings across multiple devices.
Firefox 4 Release Candidate, available in more than 70 languages, is a free download from Mozilla's website. The Mac version requires an Intel Mac with at least 512MB of RAM running Mac OS X v10.5 or later.