Our Favourite Updates to Chrome 87 and Firefox 83

Our Favourite Updates to Chrome 87 and Firefox 83

New versions of Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers dropped yesterday, and if you haven’t yet updated, now’s as good a time as any: Visit the “About Chrome” or “About Firefox” portion of your browser, both under each browser’s help menu, and it will start updating automatically. While that’s chugging along, here are the major changes you’ll experience in Chrome 87 and Firefox 83.

What’s new in Chrome 87

First, and most important, Google has made a number of tweaks to kick up Chrome’s speed in a few key areas. You don’t have to enable anything to benefit from these adjustments, simply update to Chrome 87 and let ‘er rip. As Google describes:

  • Chrome now prioritises your active tabs vs. everything that’s open — reducing CPU usage by up to 5x and extending battery life by up to 1.25 hours (based on our internal benchmarks).
  • Chrome now starts up to 25 per cent faster, loads pages up to 7 per cent faster, and does all of this using less power and RAM than before.
  • Chrome on Android now loads pages near instantaneously when you navigate backward and forward, making these common tasks super fast.

I won’t copy Google’s blog post word-for-word, but the next feature it highlights is also a game-changer for anyone like me who tends to have too many tabs open at the same time. If you’re on a Chromebook, you can now search through your open tabs by clicking the downward-facing arrow to the right of Chrome’s minimise button.

For Windows users, you’ll have to pull up the properties of whatever Chrome shortcut you use to launch the browser and add -enable-features=TabSearch to the end of your “Target” field, like so:

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

You’ll now see the little drop-down logo appear, and you can use it to search through your open tabs to find a missing (or buried) website.

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

Chrome also has a new PDF viewer that takes this boring UI:

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

And updates it to look like this:

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

You basically get a better view for navigating between pages, as well as additional viewing controls (zoom, fit to page, and rotation). If you don’t see the new look when you open up a PDF in your browser, enable this Chrome flag to force the change manually: chrome://flags/#pdf-viewer-update

And while you’re there, enable this Chrome flag so you can save the contents of PDF forms you fill out in your browser: chrome://flags/#pdf-form-save

What’s new in Firefox 83

Mozilla, too, is joining the “we made our browser faster” game. Here’s the word, straight from them, about the performance boosts hitting in Firefox 83:

Firefox keeps getting faster as a result of significant updates to SpiderMonkey, our JavaScript engine, you will now experience improved page load performance by up to 15%, page responsiveness by up to 12%, and reduced memory usage by up to 8%. We have replaced part of the JavaScript engine that helps to compile and display websites for you, improving security and maintainability of the engine at the same time.

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

Next, and just as important, is a new HTTPS-only mode that Mozilla is debuting in Firefox. Enable this within Firefox’s options and you’ll no longer need extensions like HTTPS Everywhere; your browser will default to encrypted HTTPS connections whenever they’re available, keeping you safer as you browse around the web and use your credit card information.

Firefox is also tweaking its search panel. Like Chrome, you’ll be able to search through your open tabs to revisit anything you’ve forgotten about. You can also click on the icons at the bottom of the search panel to redirect your search to a specific service — Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, eBay, etc. — or to specifically search your bookmarks, tabs, or history for a particular keyword.

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

Firefox 83 also has new pinch-zooming features for those running MacBooks or Windows laptops with touchscreens, as well as new keyboard shortcuts for when you’re watching picture-in-picture videos:

  • Ctrl + : Mute
  • Ctrl + : Unmute
  • : Volume decrease
  • : Volume increase
  • : Seek back 15 seconds
  • : Seek forward 15 seconds
  • Ctrl + : Seek back 10%
  • Ctrl + : Seek forward 10%
  • Home: Seek to beginning of video
  • End: Seek to end of video
  • Space: Pause/Continue

Mozilla also has adjusted the look of Firefox’s PDF viewer — no setting needed to enable it. More importantly, you can fill out PDF forms directly in your browser and save their contents (including your inputs) to your desktop or laptop.

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