Mozilla launches Firefox 49 with better Reader Mode, offline viewing for Android

Jonathan Keane
Mozilla’s Test Pilot gains three new experiments – we gave them a try
Mozilla launched on Wednesday three new experiments for its Test Pilot program for Firefox. These include a screenshot tool and a picture-in-picture tool. The company is also bringing Tracking Protection to the main browsing window.

Following a delay announced last week, Mozilla has now released Firefox 49, which makes some improvements to Reader Mode, brings offline viewing to Android, and kills off Firefox Hello.

Firefox 49 was originally slated for release last week but a number of last-minute bugs affecting the loading of GIFs from Giphy and a slow browser script put the release on hold.

On the desktop version, there have been several adjustments and improvements to Reader Mode. Users can now change the fonts on the page, change the width and line spacing, adjust the lightness or darkness on the theme, and use a narrator function to read content aloud. The latter is particularly helpful for users with vision impairments that pose an obstacle to their reading abilities.

Related: Vivaldi’s latest release proves it’s the Swiss Army knife of web browsers

Firefox 49 also marks Mozilla’s next step toward bringing multi-process support to the masses. The feature has been a work in progress for a couple of years and was slowly introduced to a small proportion of users with Firefox 48. However, it hasn’t been a total success so far with responsiveness and freezing being a serious issue.

The latest edition, though, shows an improvement in the overall responsiveness of the feature — an over 400-percent improvement, Mozilla claims — and the firm says it plans to roll multi-process support out to all users by the middle of next year.

Firefox Hello is finally been given the chop, too. It was announced in July that Mozilla would be retiring the feature, and now it’s gone for good. Mozilla as a result has recommended a couple of alternative video chat add-ons.

On the mobile front, Mozilla has made some improvements to the Android version. It now allows for wider offline reading of previously loaded pages when you’re in airplane mode or have an unstable connection. But this can depend on the specs of your device, according to vice president of Firefox product Nick Nguyen.