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What is Firefox Nightly and should you be using it?

If you're looking to get the newest (sometimes experimental) features in your browser, Firefox Nightly might be what you need.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Firefox logo on an open laptop.

There are a few different versions of the Firefox web browser. 

First and foremost, there's the Stable version, which is probably what you're using now. The Stable version is reliable for most use cases and includes plenty of new features and security patches.

There's also the ESR version, which stands for Extended Support Release. This version is intended for large organizations, such as universities and businesses, that require a web browser at a larger scale. 

Firefox ESR does not come with the latest features but does include the latest security patches and stability fixes. 

The purpose of the ESR release is to offer the most stable version of the browser for organizations that depend on their tools working exactly as expected for as long as they are needed.

Also: What are Firefox Container Tabs and how do you use them?

The third version of Firefox, Firefox Nightly, is what we'll focus on here.

What is Firefox Nightly?

As you might have already guessed, Firefox Nightly is the version of the open-source web browser that is under the heaviest development. This take on Firefox has a new build every day and is the least stable and secure of the three. This version of Firefox is often used to test new features, some of which may or may not make it to the Stable version of the browser. 

I've seen a number of features come and go in Nightly that never wind up in the official version. 

Also: Firefox finally declutters the toolbar with the Unified Extensions button

For those who are curious about how Firefox Nightly evolves into the Stable version, here's how the timeline works:

  • Nightly is under heavy development and should only be adopted by experienced users and testers.
  • Beta is the final development stage for Firefox where bugs are resolved and includes the most accurate list of features that will be found in the Stable release.
  • Stable is the final product that is released to the public for everyday use.

Once upon a time, there was also the Aurora release, which was the next phase in the process between Nightly and Beta. The Aurora release version ended in 2017.

Should you use Firefox Nightly?

The straight-up answer is no. However, I would add this: I've been using Firefox Nightly for a long time and rarely have encountered any problems that don't vanish as soon as the next daily release is applied. And that's part of the fun of Nightly -- it's automatically updated. If you keep your browser running all the time, you'll be prompted, almost like clockwork, to restart Firefox to apply the new updates. 

Another part of the fun of using Nightly is that you get to experience new features before they hit the Beta or Stable releases. As I said earlier, sometimes these features don't make it to the final release, but it's kind of cool to get to experience them before they are dropped.

Also: How to open websites as apps with Firefox on Linux

Ultimately, however, the decision to use Firefox Nightly boils down to your ability to use a web browser that isn't nearly as stable as the final release. If you're OK knowing your browser might crash or experience issues, and you enjoy reporting bugs to developers to help them solve problems, then you might be a perfect candidate for Firefox Nightly. 

Just remember, Firefox Nightly is unstable. It will have issues. If the thought of getting your hands on those new features appeals to you, even at the cost of stability, I highly recommend using Firefox Nightly.

How do you use Firefox Nightly?

How you use Firefox Nightly will depend on the operating system you use. For example, if you use either MacOS or Windows, you can download a Firefox Nightly installer for your OS and install it as you would any other application.  

If you're using Linux, the process isn't quite as simple. Let me show you how to install Firefox Nightly on an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution. Here are the steps:

  1. Log in to your Linux desktop.
  2. Open a terminal window.
  3. Add the required repository with the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa.
  4. Update apt with sudo apt-get update.
  5. Install Firefox Nightly with the command sudo apt-get install firefox-trunk -y.

With the installation complete, you should now see the Firefox Nightly entry in your desktop menu. One thing that's really nice about this installation method is that you can run both the final release and the Nightly release at the same time. 

Also: What is Firefox View and how do you use it?

And those are the ins and outs, and ups and downs of Firefox Nightly. As I said, I've been happily using Nightly as my default version of Firefox for a long time and haven't come across any issue that the next day's update didn't mitigate. 

If you feel brave enough, give Firefox Nightly a try and see what the future has in store for your favorite open-source browser.

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