4 Firefox rebuilds feed the need for speed

Alternative builds bring speed optimizations and custom features to the Firefox core

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Firefox remixes: Pale Moon
Pale Moon is currently one of the most popular and widely discussed Firefox rebuilds, and I suspect that's in big part because it's remarkably well maintained as a project. Unlike many other alternative builds, Pale Moon enjoys a properly built site devoted to it (instead of just a hastily assembled download repository), with solid documentation, a support forum, and proper explanations of everything in well-written English. Such professionalism alone makes Pale Moon all the more appealing, even if it's still delivering only the 9.2 version of Firefox.

Pale Moon exists in two basic version branches: the 3.6 version of Firefox's core code and the 9.2 version (32-bit or 64-bit). The main difference is processor compatibility; the 3.6 branch is for people stuck with PIII and Athlon XP processors, while 9.2 is for those using "a 7th or later generation CPU with SSE2 support," as Pale Moon's own documentation puts it. If you're wondering why Pale Moon's creators are using version 9.2 and not 10 or later, it's because they are planning to skip version 10 entirely.

When launched for the first time, Pale Moon brings up two tabs. First is a "Welcome to Pale Moon" tab that's reminiscent of Firefox's own first-run page, with general remarks about the browser and its relationship to Firefox. The other is a custom start page with a Google search bar and links to many popular destinations: Gmail, Twitter, the Firefox add-on repository, and so on. None of this is obligatory; I was able to replace it with my own custom start page easily enough.

Some custom builds of Firefox use the existing Firefox profile directory, which means they run the risk of trashing said profile if anything goes wrong. Pale Moon keeps its own profile directory separate to avoid such problems, and the migration tool is painless enough to use. To that end, Pale Moon's maintainers offer a profile migration tool so that Firefox users can copy their user profile into Pale Moon.

Firefox users won't find much outwardly missing or changed in Pale Moon, but a few stock Firefox features have been disabled: the crash reporter, the parental controls, and the accessibility functions. This last one may be a bone in the throat for people who depend on such items. But in many other ways that matter, Pale Moon behaves just like Firefox. Add-ons, for instance -- when you browse for new ones, you're taken directly to Mozilla's add-on repository, and add-ons behave exactly as they ought to. If you want to run Pale Moon in any language other than English, you'll need to do a little under-the-hood hackery -- nothing too major, fortunately -- in addition to downloading the appropriate language pack.

Pale Moon is currently only at version 9.0, as its maintainers are skipping to 11.0 before creating the next build.
Pale Moon is currently only at version 9.0, as its maintainers are skipping to 11.0 before creating the next build.
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