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Summary:

Mozilla is out with the first beta version of Firefox 3 in Windows, Mac and Linux versions. This release brings a number of solid improvements, better password management, easier paths to installing extensions, one-click bookmarking, more security improvements, and very noticeable performance enhancements. If you’re one […]

Mozilla is out with the first beta version of Firefox 3 in Windows, Mac and Linux versions. This release brings a number of solid improvements, better password management, easier paths to installing extensions, one-click bookmarking, more security improvements, and very noticeable performance enhancements. If you’re one of the Firefox faithful, though, note that this first beta is a developer preview version, and is not finalized enough to do things like work with your current extensions. During installation (I’ve been testing the Windows version), I got this message along with a list of my already installed extensions: “The following add-ons are not compatible with this version of Firefox and have been disabled…” I’ve also experienced occasional browser crashes, but Mozilla stresses that this first beta is only a testing version.

Those caveats aside, I can see that many Firefox users will appreciate the enhancements in the new version 3. This version marks a platform change for the browser. It is based on the new Gecko 1.9 Web rendering platform, which Mozilla claims has been in development for 27 months and fixes more than 11,000 issues. Page rendering, in particular, is noticeably faster in this new version.


For a complete laundry list of the improvements in Firefox 3 beta 1, check Mozilla’s release notes. Since many people use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer due to the security features, and the hacker-unfriendly lower market share the browser has, they will probably appreciate the new security enhancements. I particularly liked the warnings I got when I tried to visit sites known to contain malware, like the one seen below, which blocked my access to a malware site. Other security enhancements include automatic version checking when you install extensions, and integration with anti-virus software.

Firefox Version 3 beta 1 contains numerous interface enhancements. You can do a full-page zoom either from the View menu or by hitting Ctrl++. The layout, text and images adjusted and rendered very well in my tests. Also, in previous versions of Firefox, if you opened a folder of bookmarks in tabs new tabs would overwrite old ones—an annoyance. In this new version, the new tabs are appended. The new version also courteously prompts you to save tabs before you exit a session.

There are some new organizational items to be aware of in Firefox 3. A new Smart Places folder lets you get quick access to your recently bookmarked and tagged pages, and work with them much more flexibly. You can do advanced searches of your browsing history and bookmarks and save your frequent searches in dedicated folders. There is also a new button in the form of a star next to Firefox’s location bar. With one click on the star button, you can quickly bookmark the page you’re viewing. With two clicks on the star you can file and tag the page.

It looks like this new version will have no problem getting current Firefox users to upgrade, once it’s mature. The page rendering is significantly faster, and the interface enhancements and the Smart Places features make sessions easier. I am a little miffed that I can’t use my favorite extensions with this beta version, but it’s the first beta, and I suspect I’ll be able to incorporate them soon.

Do you plan to upgrade to Firefox 3 beta 1 right away, or wait? Have you used it yet?

  1. Been using it (nightly builds) for 2 months now as my default browser. While there have been the occasional crashes and frustrations, but then the excitement of seeing all those features land every night beats these minor frustrations… as one of the users rightly said ‘Its Christmas every night on Trunk’.

    Besides, you forgot to mention a very good enhancement to the download manager. You can now resume downloads across sessions; am sure quite a few of us will find that useful.

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  2. I totally agree about the extension support. It really is absolutely critical. I had to abandon several key extensions when I upgraded to Fx2. With Firefox 3, I will definitely wait until the reviews roll in before upgrading. I want to know for sure that my favorite extensions are supported. In my opinion, extensions are the best thing about Firefox — without them, I may as well be using Opera ;)

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  3. [...] CNET News.com, Read/WriteWeb, Ubergizmo, Today @ PC World, TECH.BLORGE.com, MacDailyNews, Web Worker Daily, Ars Technica, Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog, Hardware 2.0, PaulStamatiou.com, The Tech [...]

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  4. Mac users will appreciate the native forms in v3, rendering HTML GUI elements (buttons, text fields) using the OS X elements, rather than those klutzy old default ones.

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  5. You should try the Nightlies Tester Tools, an extension which lets you use extensions with nigtly builds and betas before they’re actually marked as compatible.

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  6. I haven’t seen the release until now but I will be installing it tomorrow and testing it out. Seems to have a lot of good improvements.

    I am not sure if this was only me, but the current version of FireFox seems to take up a lot of my computers RAM. While most programs on my computer are at 10K tops, FireFox ends up being 100K+ after a bit of time having it open. Granted I have 5-6 tabs open when I’m working on certain projects, but even when there’s only 1-2 tabs open it seems to be the same way.

    Anyone else having this issue?

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  7. [...] Foxes – As we mentioned yesterday, Firefox 3 Beta 1 is out. If you want to test without messing up your Firefox 2 install, create a separate profile. [...]

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  8. I’m addicted do my current extension collection, so I’ll probably hold off for a little while… but the new features are pretty tempting!

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  9. Looking forward to this one for sure, and also keeping my fingers crossed that they got that long overdue memory leak issue resolved. Without this one issue, FF would be totally perfect!

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  10. Another endorsement for Nightly Tester Tools ability to “make compatible” for many extensions. In a huge majority of cases, the only reason an extension shows up as incompatible is because it contains a line of code specifying up to which version it can be counted on to work. It’s the developers’ way of protecting themselves from future unforeseen changes in FF’s code.

    But extensions that don’t rely on changed areas of code will actually work fine on new versions. Nightly Tester just lets you automatically ignore that restricting version limitation.

    That being said, there’s often no way to know if an extension might rely on changed code – but you’re using a beta version of the browser anyway so should be taking precautions to protect yourself while using it anyway. So if a “made compatible” extension breaks something, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

    I have a number of no-longer-updated must-have extensions in daily use on FF2 that I just keep “making compatible” with each upgrade. I’d be seriously pissed to have to do without ‘em.

    Paul

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