Jack Wallen test drives Firefox 103 and rejoices with a two-finger salute at the addition of swipe gestures.

Kharkov, Ukraine - August 23, 2021: Firefox app logo on mobile phone screen. Woman using Firefox browser application
Image: FellowNeko/Adobe Stock

Firefox has been my web browser of choice for a very long time. Sure, it’s had its ups and downs — such as one extended period when the browser suffered from serious bloat — but, for the most part, the open-source browser has been solid, secure and easy to use.

But there’s one feature I’ve been waiting for a long time to see: One that makes using the browser considerably more efficient when a trackpad is involved, and a feature that makes me jealous every time I hop on my MacBook Pro and use just about any browser. It is a feature that so many users have begged to get, especially in the Linux version of Firefox, which is my go-to combo.

That feature is back and forward swipe gestures.

SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I know, I know… it’s such a basic feature for most apps in my operating system. But for many reasons, the back and forward swipe gesture has been missing in Linux. In fact, you can go back three years to see that the horizontal swipe gesture should have already been working in GTK.

However, with the release of Firefox 103, that feature finally finds its way into the mix. Even back then, when the feature was supposed to have been introduced, it failed to come to fruition.

That was then, this is now. With a caveat.

I downloaded the newest release of Firefox 103 from the Mozilla FTP server, unpacked the bz2 file from GNOME Files, and just right-clicked the file and selected Extract Here. After the extraction, I navigated into the newly-created folder and double-clicked the Firefox executable to see the latest version of the browser open.

Needless to say, I was excited. I grabbed my trusty Logitech T650, typed techrepublic.com into the address bar, waited for the site to load (which was blazingly fast, by the way) and then swiped left with two fingers to watch, in awe, as Firefox went back to the Start page.

But nothing happened. Say it isn’t so! Alas, it is.

However, there is a trick, and it’s one Linux users will probably have to get used to until this little glitch can be resolved. To use the horizontal swipe gesture with Firefox, you first have to click the Alt key on your keyboard and then swipe. When using that combo, backward and forward navigation in Firefox works like a charm.

Huzzah! That’s progress — albeit glacially slow-moving. I would not be surprised if the Alt requirement is stripped away in the next release (fingers crossed).

What else is new in Firefox?

That swiping Linux goodness isn’t the only thing that’s new in Firefox 103, although it is one of the bigger ticket items. Other additions and fixes include:

  • Improved performance on macOS
  • Required fields in PDF files are now highlighted
  • More support for subtitles and captions in Picture-in-Picture mode (added Funimation, Dailymotion, Tubi, Hotstar and SonyLIV)
  • Tab bar buttons can now be accessed with Tab, Shift+Tab, and keyboard Arrow keys.
  • Windows 11 Make Text Bigger setting now affects UI and content pages
  • Non-breaking spaces are preserved when copying text from a form control
  • WebGL performance issues on NVIDIA binary drivers addressed
  • Configuration option to allow SHA-1 signatures in certificates has been removed

Although Firefox 103 might not be a game-changer for some, it’s a pretty important step forward (of the two-finger sort) for Linux users. This is just one more piece of the subtlety puzzle put in place to help bring Linux into the modern era of keyboard and trackpad efficiency. It’s not much, but it does help make Firefox a much more efficient tool on the Linux operating system.

Make sure to download your copy of Firefox 103 and start enjoying those two-finger horizontal gestures now.

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