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Beta Watch: Firefox 3.5 Beta 4

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firefox1Last week, Mozilla released Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 as a public preview, and I duly downloaded it for a look-see. I had tried earlier beta builds of Firefox 3.1 and 3.5, but hadn’t been favorably impressed, and soon reverted to using either the latest final update of Firefox 3, or lately Camino 1.6, with its Mac-dedicated Cocoa-based GUI on top of the Firefox Gecko browser engine, and which seems to be better-optimized for the Mac than cross-platform Firefox.

Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 is the sixth development milestone and fourth beta release of what will become Firefox 3.5, the next version of the Firefox Web browser. While this release is considered to be stable, Mozilla says that it is intended for developers and members of the testing community to use for early evaluation and feedback — for example, don’t expect all your plugins and add-ons to work properly with this beta. That’s not a problem for me since I don’t use many plugins, and one that I do, WeatherBug, works fine with 3.5.

Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 is based on the Gecko 1.9.1 rendering platform, which has been under development for the past 10 months, and incorporates many “under-the-hood” changes over the previous version, supporting new web technologies, improving performance and ease of use, and adding new features, some of which are:

  • Improved tools for controlling your private data, including a Private Browsing Mode and the updated Clear Recent History function (in the Tools menu) to keep your browsing habits a secret.
  • Better performance and stability with the new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine.
  • The ability to provide Location Aware Browsing using web standards for geolocation.
  • Support for native JSON, and web worker threads.
  • Improvements to the Gecko layout engine, including speculative parsing for faster content rendering.
  • Support for new web technologies such as: HTML5 and elements, downloadable fonts and other new CSS properties, JavaScript query selectors, HTML5 offline data storage for applications, and SVG transforms.

New stuff you can do with Firefox 3.5:

  • Tear tabs off the tab bar to create new windows, and drag and drop them from one Firefox window to another.
  • Watch a video in your browser without needing any plugins or external media players.
  • Control the Smart Location Bar results with special characters.

All to the good, although nothing to get up in the night and write home about, and there are no interface changes I could discern. What I really wanted to check out is whether basic performance had improved. Living and working in an area where broadband is not yet available, browser speed is critical for me. Previous builds of Firefox 3.1/3.5 had proved sluggish on my setup compared with other browsers.

Unfortunately, that pattern remains consistent with Firefox 3.5 Beta 4, which I persevered with for several days, but finally got fed up with and switched back to Camino 1.6.7, which is gratifyingly lively (so to speak in the dialup context) and stable.

The final version of Firefox 3.5 is anticipated for release later this year, perhaps before the end of Q2. Hopefully, they’ll be able to inject some √Člixir de Lapin between now and then.

15 Responses to “Beta Watch: Firefox 3.5 Beta 4”

  1. kckman

    I like it greatly. But, am disappointed that it won’t retain saved passwords and logins. It is a known bug, but I am hopeful that it is corrected any day now.

  2. Boris

    Victor, the comparison for Safari is almost certainly to whatever is installed with the OS, which is NOT Safari 4. It’s 3.2 or so, last I checked. Might want to double-check exactly what browsers people are comparing before declaring them to be smoking anything.

    (That’s not even mentioning the fact that Sunspider doesn’t measure “browser performance”, but specifically performance of JavaScript execution on a particular rather narrow set of benchmarks; it does not test DOM performance, layout performance, UI performance, etc. My personal experience is that Firefox actually starts up faster than Safari (either 3.2 or the webkit nighlies), if I measure time to being able to type in a url as opposed to the window appearing.)

  3. Charles W. Moore

    Hi Folks;

    I’m mystified as to why Camino is faster (a lot) on all three of my production Macs (a unibody MacBook 2.0, a 1.33 GHz 17″ PowerBook, and an old 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBook) than any of the Firefox 3.1/3.5 betas, but it is, consistently. Actually old Netscape Navigator 9 is as well. I;m guessing that it may have something to do with the fact I’m on a dialup connection (no broadband available in this neck of the literal woods).

    I’m not referencing startup times, for which which Safari has an edge on every6body else. Safari and Opera are faster than the Firefox 3.1/3/5 betas too on my rigs.

    I lake the Safari 4 interface better than the version 3 interface, but I’m not blown away by either.


  4. Josso

    On my Uni MBP Fx3.5 is definitely faster than previous versions of Firefox.

    But you have forgot the main reason to use it: Support for multiple finger gestures.
    3-finger-swipe left/right = back/forward
    3-finger-swipe down/up = go to bottom/top

    Thanks for those great themes. :D

  5. Victor

    you’re smoking some good stuff if you think ff3.5b4 is faster than safari 4. some seriously hardcore stuff.

    According to sunspider the total for safari 4 is 878.0ms, ff3.5b4 is 1363.4ms.

  6. I think a lot of people mistake the slower launch-time of Firefox compared to Safari to mean that the browser itself is slower. I’ve found that not to be true. FF 3.5b4 is easily faster than Safari on my MacPro, and as fast or a bit faster on my MacBook Pro.

  7. Victor

    I think more people like the new Safari 4 ui that dislike it, it’s just that the dislike it crowd is more vocal. I’ve found it’s been much easier to surf the web and manage tabs with the new system.

  8. Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 has been nothing but stable for me. I’m one of the few that actually likes the new Safari 4 UI, so when I found the following theme (GrApple Crisp) for Firefox, I’ve been sold!

    I think Firefox 3.5 is bringing a lot of great features to Firefox. It’s the first version that has made me switch from Safari, and I won’t be going back any time soon.