What’s New in Firefox 19

Contributing Editor

Another six weeks has passed so it’s time for a new Firefox release. Version 19 appeared on February 19, 2013. If it hasn’t automagically installed, look at Help > About Firefox or head over to getfirefox.com. Let’s take a journey through the new features…

Native PDF Viewer

I never quite understood the necessity for native PDF viewing. Plugins can be slow, unstable and unavailable on some platforms, but I generally download or avoid PDF documents where possible. That said, Mozilla has made a great job of the built-in viewer. It’s faster than Adobe’s rendering and converts documents to HTML5 which you can inspect (not that you’ll want to — it’s a mess).

CSS3 Viewport Percentage Support

Firefox 19 now supports the new vh, vw, vmin and vmax elements. Refer to The New CSS3 Relative Font Sizing Units for more details.

The units now have full support in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE10 with partial support in IE9. Opera’s recent switch to WebKit will inevitably include the feature.

@page Support for Printed Documents

@page allows you to target the margins or page breaks of printed pages, e.g.

@page
{
	margin: 30mm 50mm;
}

Note that @page can be followed by :first, :left or :right to target specific pages, but that has not been implemented in Firefox yet.

Export canvas Content to an Image

The generated graphical content of a canvas element can now be exported to an image blob using the toBlob method:

toBlob(callback [, imagetype]);

The export occurs asynchronously so it requires a callback function to handle the resulting image. By default, images are exported to lossless 24-bit PNG but you can specify JPG if necessary, e.g.

// JPEG at 90% quality
toBlob(callback, "image/jpeg", 0.9);

This simple example copies the canvas to a new image element on the page:

var canvas = document.getElementById("canvas");
canvas.toBlob(function(blob) {
	var newImg = document.createElement("img"),
		url = URL.createObjectURL(blob);
	newImg.onload = function() {
		// revoke blob after use
		URL.revokeObjectURL(url);
	};
	newImg.src = url;
	document.body.appendChild(newImg);
});

Updated Developer Tools

While it’s difficult to out-do Firebug, Mozilla has added a range of great developer tools to Firefox. The JavaScript debugger now permits pausing on exceptions and you can hide non-enumerable properties. In addition, CSS links in the Web Console now open in the Style Editor.

An experimental remote web console has also been added which can connect to Firefox Mobile on Android or Firefox OS. It must be enabled in about:config — set devtools.debugger.remote-enabled to true.

Miscellaneous Improvements

There are a number of smaller updates under the hood:

Firefox has been losing ground to Chrome but the browser is more than a match for Google’s offering. It certainly works well on Windows but is anyone still having trouble on Mac or Linux?

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  • David

    Installed and found that it would not connect to the web (could not find server type messages on all sites tried)
    Hastily uninstalled, downloaded 18.0 and everything working again.
    Will try 19 again when I have time to investigate

  • Omer Sabic

    Still no input[type=date] support :(

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      As far as I’m aware, only Opera supports it properly. And that’ll change once they switch to WebKit. In many ways, I wish vendors would concentrate on the basic stuff such as form elements rather than rushing to implement 3D widgets and other nonsense!

      • James

        Agreed, Craig. FULL support for webforms (or whatever the HTML5 module replacing it is) really should be a basic requirement these days. Everyone has forms.

  • http://keryx.se/ Lars Gunther

    No problems for me running Firefox on Linux.

  • Anonymous

    The native PDF viewer can be disabled by setting “pdfjs.disabled” to true in about:config. If you want PDF files to open automatically in the system’s PDF reader, you may also need to adjust the action for PDF files in Options > Applications.

  • Grzegorz Grzybek

    +1 for the XForms removal :) I’ve been trapped in this model in 2004/2005 – it was horrible!

  • http://www.f2key.info Khalid

    I have Installed the latest version of FireFox i.e version 19.
    Also tried to view the pdf. Its awesome. Looking forward for newer version

  • http://twitter.com/QuasarCR Ramiro

    About the PDF viewer, I cound’t find a way to disable the nasty header (wuth path and name) that Firefox adds when printing a document.

  • Daniel

    The built-in PDF viewer is a welcome addition. As a Linux user, any links to PDF’s had to be downloaded and then viewed. Well done Mozilla!

  • Christian

    Have had version 19 for a while. I still develop primarily in Firefox but of course check in Chrome and all the other browsers.

  • http://l4jp.com Karen

    Argh! After struggling for years to produce formatted (printable) output from my online database app, I finally gave up on the hope that all browsers would eventually support things like break-inside:avoid, multiple columns, etc., and I learned how to generate PDF to get consistent printable results. But Chrome’s PDF viewer has no way to turn off the shrinking of the PDF page inside some imaginary margins (e.g. I can’t print an A4 page at 100% on A4 paper), so I have to teach all my Chrome users to disable the default viewer and turn on Adobe. I haven’t tested Firefox’s new viewer, but I suspect it also will have quirks. Having fled from HTML to PDF to get predictability, now PDF is no longer predictable, either. I say again, argh!

  • http://www.arcelikbuzdolabiservisi.net chivu

    I have Installed the latest version of FireFox i.e version 19.
    Also tried to view the pdf. Its awesome. Looking forward for newer version wey good all right

  • http://www.d80d.com/ abdel

    Installed and found that it would not connect to the web (could not find server type messages on all sites tried)
    Hastily uninstalled, downloaded 18.0 and everything working again.
    Will try 19 again when I have time to investigate

  • Ben Axnick

    I’m going to join in the chorus of people condemning the pdf viewer. I’ve never quite understood the need to take this print document format and put it in the browser. It causes a bunch more issues than it solves.