IE9 and Firefox 4 ready to battle

Showing impeccable timing the developers of both Firefox and Internet Explorer have decided to release new versions of their browsers within days of one another. Microsoft’s IE9 browser was released on Tuesday (15 March 2011), just a couple of days after Firefox released its final release candidate and days before its final release on March 22.

One of the primary objectives for the latest versions of IE and Firefox has been to streamline the interfaces. Taking their lead from Google’s Chrome browser, both IE and Firefox 4 have pushed their tabs higher up on the browser window and reduced the number of popups and menu options.

In IE9’s case the tabs for open sites are positioned by default next to the address bar. This is okay unless you tend to have a lot of tabs open which could fill up the available space pretty quickly. It does save having another toolbar open, which is good for smaller screens, but you’ll probably want to right-click on the tab bar and choose to have the tabs shown on their own line.

Firefox positions the tabs above the URL bar much like Chrome but somehow doesn’t feel nearly as clean as Chrome does. Firefox also uses separate URL and Search boxes, unlike IE9 which opts to combine these.

On Windows-based machines Firefox hides, by default, the usual menubar. All the elements of the menubar are housed under the orange Firefox button on the top left of the window. This is an increasingly common layout for Windows-based browsers.

Linux users will see the changes to the positioning of Firefox’s tabs but the old-style menubar is still very much in place. The orange Firefox button in the top left of the window for Linux users is not implemented in the version released for Linux.

In an effort to reduce popup windows and general clutter, IE9 has a number of changes to reduce the number of distractions. When downloading a file, for example, IE9 will no longer launch a new window with details of the download but will only activate a bar across the bottom of the window. The same is true of many other instances which would previously have launched in a new window.

Firefox retains its pop-up policy and downloads are detailed in a separate popup window.

Both IE9 and Firefox 4 have a number of additional security features. Among these is the ability to block sites from tracking your movements online. IE9’s version of this is more refined and allows to you to block various types of information and customise what can and what can’t be tracked.

Firefox’s version of this is a one-stop blocker. In the advanced options menu there is an option to tell sites not to track you. There is none of the flexibility of IE9’s version but it’s a lot simpler to operate.

Beneath the interface both IE9 and Firefox 4 have had substantial Javascript updates. Various tests suggest that IE9 and Firefox 4 return very similar Javascript results, so the differences in performance will largely be immaterial to users.

Internet Explorer 9 download

Final Firefox 4 Release Candidate download

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IE9 and Firefox 4 ready to battle