Mozilla recently released the latest beta of its Firefox browser for Windows 8, and we downloaded it to a Windows 8.1 tablet to take it for a spin.
As this is a beta, it is available to download directly from Mozilla's website, rather than from the Microsoft Store. That said, we found the beta remarkably stable and polished – much more so than many of the release versions of apps we have tried from Microsoft's Store.
Our other first impressions of Firefox for Windows 8 Touch Beta are also positive; the browser is responsive, even on a relatively low-powered 8in tablet based on an Atom processor, and looks slick and modern when viewed in the Modern UI or "Metro-style" environment.
When used in Metro mode, Firefox follows the design conventions that Microsoft has dictated, using as much of the screen real estate for content as possible, while menus and controls are accessed by sliding in from the edges of the screen. Here, users will find an option to relaunch Firefox in the legacy Windows desktop instead, which keeps all your current tabs open.
In Metro mode, Firefox opens with a tile-based start screen giving one-tap access to recent or frequently accessed sites. The left and right edges of the screen also feature overlaid buttons to go back a screen and open a new tab.
Relaunching Firefox in desktop mode shows off a look and feel that will be familiar to existing users of Firefox for other versions of Windows, and provides access to all of the standard menus, including bookmarks, options and access to Add-ons.
Mozilla warned that the Windows 8 mode version of the browser does not share bookmarks, history or passwords with the desktop version at present. However, as a workaround, users can sign into the Firefox Sync service.
We ran Firefox for Windows 8 Touch Beta through the HTML5 compliance test website, which produced a score of 466 out of 555 points, compared with 372 for Microsoft's IE11 on the same system.
We also ran both browsers through Futurmark's Peacekeeper browser performance test. Firefox produced a score of 924 with 7 out of 7 for HTML5 capabilities, while IE11 produced a score of 680 with 5 out of 7 for HTML5 capabilities.
Overall, Mozilla's touch-based Firefox project is shaping up nicely, and looks set to be a viable alternative to IE for Windows 8 users when ready. We would be happy enough to use it as it stands, thanks to its responsiveness, ease of use and slick user interface.
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