Tor Browser 13.5 brings Android enhancements, better bridge management

Tor browser

The Tor Project has released Tor Browser 13.5, bringing several improvements and enhancements for Android and desktop versions.

The Tor Browser is a specialized open-source web browser designed for anonymous browsing by routing the user's traffic through thousands of volunteer-run servers called nodes/relays, which constitute the Tor network.

Tor also provides access to ".onion" websites, which are only accessible over the Tor network and are commonly used for privacy and anonymity. The browser also features many built-in protections against persistent tracking and fingerprinting.

In Tor 13.5, the developers focused more on usability improvements than implementing major security or privacy-preserving mechanisms.

Desktop improvements

Starting with the desktop version, Tor Browser 13.5 brings better bridge management, improved letterboxing, and more consistent error messages.

Letterboxing – The visual design of letterboxing has been enhanced to reduce confusion among new users, making it clear that it is a privacy-protecting feature rather than a bug.

New settings have been introduced, allowing users to remember the last window size they used and adjust the alignment of the letterbox within the General Settings menu.

New Letterboxing designNew Letterboxing design
Source: Tor

Bridge settings – Bridge cards, which help users manage connections used to bypass censorship, have been redesigned for a more compact and user-friendly layout.

The new design pre-labels the sources of bridges, whether they are built-in, requested, or added by the user, making it easier to manage them.

Better Bridge management on the desktopBetter Bridge management on the desktop
Source: Tor

Onion site errors – The design of onion site error messages has been simplified to align visually with other network error messages in the browser.

Android enhancements

Historically, the Android version of Tor always lagged behind the desktop app, lacking many of the latest features or offering half-baked implementations of some key mechanisms.

With the release of version Tor 13.5, the developers want to make strides towards changing that, introducing several key enhancements for the Android app.

New connection experience – The connection screens in Tor Browser for Android have been completely overhauled to provide a more native and consistent user experience.

They are designed to lay the groundwork for the future introduction of the 'Connection Assist' automatic censorship circumvention system.

Tor logs - Tor logs, which help troubleshoot issues by recording Tor's background activity, have been relocated to a new "Connection Settings" section within the settings menu.

This change means that users can now access their Tor logs at any point, regardless of their connection status.

Tor's Android enhancementsTor's Android enhancements
Source: Tor

Finally, the Tor team reminds users that 13.5 is the last major version of their browser to support Windows 8.1 and older and macOS 10.14 and older.

That said, those still using those outdated operating systems should consider moving to a newer release, or they will stop receiving security fixes and updates.

Tor Browser 14.0 is set to release sometime in the last quarter of 2024, so impacted users are given several months to plan and execute their upgrade.