Firefox 20 arrives -- adds new features and improvements

Mozilla has released Firefox 20 FINAL for Windows, Mac and Linux, and version 20 promises to be something of a landmark new release with a number of notable new features migrating across from the beta version.

The headline new feature has to be the long-awaited panel-based download manager, but Firefox 20 also debuts per-window Private Browsing, plus new developer features including an option to view Developer tools in a separate window to Firefox itself.

The new download manager is represented by a dedicated down arrow button that appears to the right of the Search bar. Clicking this or initiating a new download reveals the new panel-based manager, listing all current downloads with progress bars for those not yet complete. Right-clicking reveals additional options: pause/resume, cancel, go to download page and open downloads folder.

Clicking Show All Downloads opens the new Downloads Manager, which is integrated in the Library window alongside History, Tags and Bookmarks. The same options are displayed here as in the pop-up window, allowing users to manage downloads in the same way.

Also new in Firefox 20 is the ability to open individual windows in Private Browsing mode via the New Private Window option on the Firefox or File menu. This allows users to mix and match public and private browsing in the same session; a first for Firefox.

Another notable new feature allows Firefox to close hanging plugins without crashing the whole browser. Should a plugin hang, Firefox will wait 11 seconds by default before displaying a dialog box allowing the user to exit the plugin, allowing Firefox to function normally again.

Mozilla has also implemented the getUserMedia HTML5 control, which allows websites -- with user permission -- to access their camera and microphone. To see the new functionality in action, check out ShinyDemos.com’s Photo Booth.

Developer updates
Developers also enjoy a number of major new features in Firefox 20: the Developer menu has been reorganized to group the burgeoning number of developer tools more logically, with a Toggle Tools option added for quick access to the new, redesigned toolbar.

Clicking this reveals the Web Console, the new default view for developers. Firefox 20 adds a new Window button that allows the tool to be viewed in its own separate window, freeing up screen real-estate for the current web page and supporting multiple displays, allowing developers to pin them to a second monitor for convenience.

The only disappointment for developers in Firefox 20 is that the new Javascript Profiler tool for tracking the responsiveness of Javascript code is missing, stuck in beta.

Other changes include the usual evolutionary performance improvements around common browser tasks -- including page loading, downloads, and shutdown of the browser, improved HTML5 support, and the usual round of minor bug fixes and security tweaks.

Firefox 20 FINAL is available now as a free, open-source download for Windows, Mac and Linux. Expect the Beta and Aurora channels to be updated in the next few days.

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