First Impressions of Firefox 3 Beta 2

Album Cover: Icky Thump

"You can't be a pimp and a prostitute, too."
White Stripes / Icky Thump

Posted on January 02, 2008 11:34 PM in Browsers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

This post won't be quite as lengthy as my post about Firefox 3 Beta 1, simply because most of those initial thoughts still apply to the latest release of the forthcoming browser, Firefox 3 Beta 2. However, there are a few new things I've noticed in the most recent release, which I am now using 100% of the time at home, and one thing I forgot to mention in my post about the first beta.

What I forgot to mention is that the Downloads window (available via Tools, Downloads) has been reorganized and provides some additional information, such as when the file was downloaded, where it came from and where it was saved to. This seems like useful information that doesn't clutter up the UI much, so it's a welcome touch. I also recall reading somewhere that Firefox 3 supports pausing and resuming downloads, even perhaps across browser restarts, but I haven't had a chance to try this out myself.

Now for the new things I've noticed in Beta 2, one of which isn't a good thing. Unfortunately, it appears that middle-clicking on items in the chrome, such as bookmarks on the bookmark toolbar and the Home button, for example, no longer opens those targets in a new tab. This is something I've gotten so used to and have become so fond of that I'm really struggling to deal with it in the latest release. As things stand right now, whenever I middle-click on items in the browser's chrome, I'm shown a strange interface that takes up my entire desktop and allows me to choose among any of the open applications on my desktop. This includes non-Firefox applications such as Thunderbird, Opera, etc. It really seems odd to me, so I'm hoping it's either a bug or a bad feature that they'll pull before Firefox 3 goes gold.

Now on to the good things. I've definitely noticed less RAM suckage from the browser than I've seen in the past, and that is a very welcome change. I also like the way they've improved the tab handling. When you start scrolling through a lot of open tabs, they start to spin across the tab bar at speeds relative to the amount of clicking you're doing. It's a nice visual effect, and it even kicks in when you choose a tab from the drop-down menu to the right if the tab isn't in the current set of focused tabs. Be sure to give that a whirl if you haven't already.

Google Reader Notifier and IE Tab still aren't compatible with the latest beta out of the box (you might be able to hack this in as Ian suggested), but I'm making do since Gmail Notifier does work and that is the most important extension to me.

Since I've removed Firefox 2 from my home computer completely (my Windows box, at least), I'll be forced into getting more experience with the latest beta, so I'll be sure to post here (or maybe over at Browsersphere) if I come across any other useful observations. If you've been playing around with either of the latest betas and came across anything you thought was interesting, please leave a comment and share.

Update: I'm an idiot. I got a new keyboard tonight and in the process had to reinstall my mouse. Doing so changed the default middle-click behavior in Windows, and not just Firefox, so that is why I was seeing the strange behavior. Phew!


Ian Clifton on January 03, 2008 at 7:47 AM:

Yesterday, I noticed that it zooms now rather than changing font sizes. That leaves Safari 3 as the only big name (relatively) standards-compliant browser that still does the font size +/- instead of zooming, and it makes me wonder if em-based layouts are going to die before they had a chance to take off.

It's nice that you can type in a word from a page title in the location bar, but it's weird for me to not think in URI/URL terms, so it will take some getting used to before I really take advantage of that. Unfortunately, you can't combine bits of pieces from each (e.g., searching by a keyword that you remember from the title and adding in "php" because you know it was a PHP page) and you can't search for words out of order or skip words.

As I mentioned before, I ended up editing the install.rdf of Firebug so that I could use it in FF3, because I just couldn't live without it. Now that I've used it for a fair bit of time, I can say that Firebug only seems to have a few minor bugs (ironic?) when used with FF3. That leads me to suspect that many other addons would probably work too.


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