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What’s New in Firefox 25

Craig Buckler

Firefox 24 was released in mid-September 2013 and was a little uneventful. That’s unless you’re a Java developer who was unimpressed by Mozilla’s decision to remove “Always Activate” for the plug-in. (Seriously, is anyone still creating Java applets?)

Firefox 25 was released on October 29. The new features list may be smaller than we’ve seen in the past but there are a few gems lurking in the browser. As usual, you can install it by waiting for the auto-update, clicking About Firefox from the Help menu, or visiting firefox.com.

Web Audio API

The Web Audio API permits audio processing and synthesizing in JavaScript. In other words, you can create your own sound effects and add filters to audio clips. I’m not even going to attempt to explain it; the API has options which would challenge the most knowledgeable sound engineer.

The most obvious use for Web Audio is games, although sound effects could augment many app UIs — especially on mobile devices where you’re not necessarily viewing the screen all the time (refer to Should the Web be Wired for Sound?)

Mozilla has created a great Minecraft-inspired demonstration named Songs of Diridum

Songs of Diridum

Move around using W,A,S,D/cursor keys, mouse and space to jump. Explore the map and you’ll notice that sound and music becomes less distinct the further you move away from the source. You can also configure the instruments being played.

The Web Audio API is now supported in Gecko and Webkit/Blink browsers (with a webkit prefix) — only IE does not have support. I suspect most of us need a decent library before it can achieve widespread deployment.

Tab-Specific Find Bar

The Find (in page) bar interface has been simplified. In addition, it’s no longer shown or shared between tabs. It seems to be an improvement since you can now search for different strings on different pages — at the expense of having to re-open the bar.

CSS3 background-attachment: local

In CSS2.1, the background-attachment property could be set to:

  • scroll — the background image scrolls with the page
  • fixed — the background image remains stationary within the viewport as the page is scrolled, or
  • inherit — use whatever property is applied to a parent element.

These work as you’d expect when applied to the body but didn’t consider that individual elements could also be scrolled.

As of CSS3, you can now use local. This positions the background relative to the element’s content. So, if that element uses overflow: scroll or overflow: auto, the background scrolls when the element is scrolled. But it doesn’t move when the page is scrolled.

Firefox is the last browser to add support for local; it’s already available in IE9+, Chrome 4+, Safari 5+ and Opera 10.5+.

Miscellaneous Updates

A number of minor changes have also been implemented:

  • The Profiler tool can save and import test results.
  • Iframes can use inline content.
  • Additional ECMAScript 6 functions are available.
  • Guest browsing on Android allows you to share your phone without that person being able to see your open tabs, history etc.
  • Mobile add-ons can now add indicators to the address bar.
  • The Contacts API is available on Android.
  • The usual plethora of bugs and security issues have been addressed.

The new Australis theme with Chrome-like rounded tabs and simpler icons has been put back to Firefox 28 — due March 4, 2014. Some had speculated it would appear in Firefox 25, so don’t expect the browser to look like this for a few months yet…

Firefox Australis

Firefox 26 should arrive during mid-December 2013.