by Bill Snyder

Firefox 20 Makes it Easier to Stay Private on the Web

Apr 03, 20132 mins
BrowsersConsumer ElectronicsInternet

Mozilla has simplified the process of keeping your browsing habits private. The new version of Firefox also includes a greatly improved download manager.

Mozilla’s Firefox 20 Web browser rolled down the upgrade shoot Tuesday and is now available with improvements to private browsing and a much better download manager. Although Firefox 20 is not a major upgrade, the improvements make it well worth the small amount of effort it takes to upgrade.

It’s hard not to mention private browsing and porn in the same breath, but in its announcement of the new version of the browser, Mozilla plays it cagey, using the example of someone shopping for a birthday gift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. No matter why you’d like to keep your browsing habits private, Mozilla has made it easier.

Private browsing on Firefox is similar to Internet Explorer’s InPrivate or Chrome’s Incognito. When you go private, you’ve turned off the browser’s session recording features, including cookies, history and temporary files. You initiate a private browsing session by going to File or the Firefox tab at the left of your screen and clicking on “New Private Window.”

Firefox has had this feature for a while, but rather than having a separate private browsing window that doesn’t give easy access to bookmarks, you can now open private tabs, a much cleaner solution. However, and Mozilla deserves credit for highlighting this information in a help page, private browsing does not make you completely private. Mozilla explains that point this way:

“Warning: Private Browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet. Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn’t protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.”

The new download manager lets you monitor, view, and locate downloaded files without having to switch to another window. The new one appears in your toolbar next to the location bar. It also shows download progress in the toolbar. Every now and then I can’t find a file I’ve downloaded, usually something I need to install; the new manager should help eliminate the problem.

Two other improvements worth mentioning: If a plug-in stalls, the browser will ask if you’d like to restart it if it’s been frozen for more than 45 seconds.

Meanwhile, Firefox for Android now lets you save Web site shortcuts to your phone’s home screen, making it much quicker to get to frequently visited sites.