Ok, so we all know Firefox 3 will be great. But what will it mean? What will it feel like?
Well it just hit me. Firefox 3 makes Firefox 2 feel like a beta. It’s not that Firefox 2 is buggy or hangs, but there are just so many things in Firefox 3 that work better, easier, faster, simpler.
I guess all the Firefox releases so far have been like that. The improvements make you wonder: Why didn’t they just do that in the first place? That might sound like criticism, but it isn’t.
Instead it’s a matter of the Firefox community and developers managing to think of more and more ways to streamline and simplify the browser for every release.
New location bar
For instance, take the new location bar: When you start typing, Firefox will start listing previously visited pages that match what you’ve typed so far. It will match against URL, page title and bookmark tags. Firefox will take into account how often and how recently you visited the pages in the list and order them accordingly.
The location bar search is very
soft, in other words it will find matches with the searched words in any order, and it’ll also find parts of words.
Also, the location bar will learn how you think. Sort of. If you type in “news” and then choose http://www.cnn.com/ from the list of previously visited websites, Firefox will remember that combination of search phrase and web page. The next time you type “news”, CNN will end up higher in the list, if not at the top.
Other new features
Here are a few other things that will make Firefox 3 easier to use and live with:
- A panel in the Add-ons manager for installing addons straight from within the browser.
- Another panel in the Add-ons manager for plugins. Makes it very easy to enable and disable plugins as you like in stead of mucking around in the installation folder.
- Pausable downloads – great for large downloads or if you’re on a dialup connection.
- Searchable download history.
- Quick bookmarking – just click the star to save a bookmark! Click it twice if you want to place the bookmark in a particular place, or if you want to tag it.
- Per-site permission settings for images, cookies, popups and addons, all accessible in a new panel in the page info window.
- Full page zooming
- Saved bookmark searches. Allows you to automatically sort your bookmarks into folders based on tags, location (server/URL) or visiting dates. Great for the bookmark addict.
- New themes making Firefox 3 fit much better in Windows Vista, OS X and in Linux. I’m a little sceptical about the new XP theme though, but then it’s not actually finished yet. See Wikipedia for some fairly up to date screenshots.
- Malware protection. In the same way Firefox 2 blocked known phishing sites, Firefox 3 will also block sites known to try installing viruses, spyware, etc on your computer.
- New manager for controlling how your downloads are handled. Similar to the file-type handler in Windows, Firefox lets you set if you want different file types to be saved, opened by a certain program or handled by a plugin.
One major advantage of Firefox 3 over 2 is its performance. Firefox 3 is quicker and uses less memory than Firefox 2. I haven’t compared the two for speed myself, but the difference in memory usage is easy to see after a few hours of browsing.
I’ve always known Firefox was generally a quick browser, but I obviously hadn’t understood quite how fast it was. Yesterday I did a quick test of various pages in Firefox 3 and IE7. Man, this thing flies! It just sucks the pages down off the net, while IE7 sort of sits there – waiting to be served… If you want to read more about Firefox 3’s performance, see this article by Percy Cabello.
Well, I’m probably forgetting a few things now, but those are probably the main reasons to switch to Firefox 3. I’m predicting we will see a final version some time in July.