Mozilla Firefox 81 has been released and no hype: it features some genuinely useful improvements.

Okay, okay: know I say the same thing for every new release, and I know that last month’s Firefox 80 was pretty low-key for such a major milestone.

But Mozilla has delivered plenty to talk about in this, its latest update.

For instance, the open source web browser now allows you to pause/play audio and video in Firefox using keyboard shortcuts (physical ones); using MPRIS (e.g., sound menu); or using a connected headset (assuming it has player controls).

This time-saving addition means you can control (supported) media playing in one tab (e.g., YouTube, Spotify Web, etc) even when you’re eyeballs-deep in another. The functionality also works if the screen is locked too. Support spans Windows, macOS and Linux, though on the latter it’s limited to GTK-based desktop environments.

firefox 81 media shortcut controls
Media controls via MPRIS

Now, Firefox isn’t being particularly innovative here. Browser media control is a capability cribbed (belatedly) from Google Chrome and Safari. Those browsers offer more features in their implementations too, letting you can skip prev/next media (where supported) in addition to just toggling pause/play.

But still: it’s nice to see.

Elsewhere Firefox 81 supercharges its PDF support using something called AcroForm. This feature, Mozilla tease, “…will allow you to fill in, print, and save supported PDF forms”. Hurrah! At last! Finally!

firefox 81 pdf forms
PDF Viewer

Except …this doesn’t actually work just yet. At least, it doesn’t work for me running Firefox 81 on Ubuntu.

It isn’t the only PDF power-up the browser sees. As of this release the built-in Firefox PDF Viewer boasts a lighter, brighter look too.

You have you noticed that the version of Firefox in my screenshots looks a bit different to how it should. This is the new Alpenglow theme. It’s available on Windows, macOS and Linux builds but it’s not shipped as default (and doesn’t play nicely with titlebar enabled on Linux):

firefox 81: pip icon
New picture-in-picture icon

If you’re less concerned with consistency and more about vibrancy you can enable Alpenglow from the Customise > Theme menu.

Other changes include the inclusion of Pocket recommendations on the New Tab page for users in Austria, Belgium and Switzerland; there’s a new icon for Picture-in-Picture mode buttons; and the bookmarks toolbar is automatically shown when bookmarks are imported into Firefox.

Firefox 81 is also able to open .xml, .webp and .svg files. This will be handy on systems which lack dedicated apps associated with those file types.

Download Firefox 81

Firefox 81 is free, open source software available to download for Windows, macOS and Linux direct from the Firefox website.

Download Mozilla Firefox

This release is in the process of being packaged up and pushed out to all supported Ubuntu versions meaning Ubuntu users (and those on related distros) can upgrade to Firefox 81 using the Software Updater app.

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