Archive for the ‘browsers’ Category

Monday, February 16th 2009

Unbelievable

Microsoft have done it again.

Did anyone really think they had turned good?

Thursday, January 29th 2009

A few thoughts on IE8 RC 1

I have just downloaded and installed the upgrade from Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 to release candidate 1.

Internet Explorer 8 logo

The installation required restarting the computer twice. The second time Windows didn’t get further than the welcome screen, so I had to restart a third time.

Some thoughts about IE8 RC 1 then:

  • It definitely feels faster than beta 2. It seems load quite a bit faster and new tabs open faster too. My installation of Firefox doesn’t start up as quickly (which might have something to do with the 14 extensions + 1 theme I use), but it opens tabs much faster. Instantly even.
  • The IE team claim full compatibility with CSS 2.1. That’s great news and a huge leap forward for the IE rendering engine. Web designers will still miss some of the CSS 3 goodies that Firefox and Safari have put out recently though. Rounded borders and transparent colours come to mind.
  • Internet Explorer 8 has quite a few new features that I covered in my review of beta 2. But not much seems to have happened in the way of features for RC 1.
  • JavaScript performance seems to have improved quite a bit from beta 2. Firefox 3.1 beta 2 runs the Sunspider benchmark more than four times as quickly though.

To sum up: Nice improvements made by the IE team, but it’s a shame for web designers that we still won’t be able to use rounded borders and semi-transparent colours.

Thursday, October 2nd 2008

IDG.se, Try Sticking to the Facts

I read this article over at IDG.se. (Google translation) I was so annoyed by the factual errors and speculation I felt I had to write something.

The article tries to give the current standings in the browser wars. But like many other articles on IDG.se it is full of holes and guesswork.

Here’s what got me annoyed (translated from Swedish):

There are studies that, although financed by Microsoft, show that Firefox is more often subject so security issues than Internet Explorer because Firefox is released in new versions more often.

First – basic rules of journalism. If a study is paid for by a player in the game then it most likely gives a skewed view of reality. (If Internet Explorer really were safer, Microsoft wouldn’t have to pay someone to come to that conclusion.)

Second – basic rules of software development. That argument is so obviously flawed and backwards I can’t see how anyone could possibly buy it let alone publish it.

… since Google now has a browser of their own they aren’t investing as much in Mozilla when it comes to browsers.

Umm, didn’t Google just renew their deal with Mozilla? This time for three years instead of two.

The biggest advantage for Internet Explorer 8 is its market share, which is at around 75 percent.

Let me say umm again. IE7 and IE6 currently have roughly 35 percent each. If IE8 is going to be deployed or downloaded as slowly as IE7 then it will take many years before it has 75 percent market share.

On a side note: Microsoft really should push their new browsers harder via auto-update systems for the benefit of the web.

Apple’s web browser Safari is usually said to be the third largest, but it isn’t really in the same competition as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.

That is mainly because Apple isn’t doing as much to create solutions for running applications in the web browser as the competitors.

Wassatagain? Safari 4 will let the user create icons in the operating system as shortcuts for web apps. Are they saying Internet Explorer is doing this too? That would be news to me. (Although I’m not really a big fan of this feature myself, it feels like a step back.)

And what about the Acid3 test? Safari 4 will pass it with flying colours, before any other browser. That’s a big deal for app developers if I’ve understood things correctly.

Furthermore, the Javascript engine in IE8 is embarrassingly slow compared to the competition.

Mozilla’s representatives also claim that the finished version of Tracemonkey, the company’s Javascript platform, will blow Google out of the water.

Another typically journalistic exaggeration. Mozilla may have said Tracemonkey will be faster, but they have never said that it will be that much faster. They will still be in the same league.

All in all, a pretty typical article from IDG.

Tuesday, September 16th 2008

IE8 and max-width

Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 is behaving pretty strange when it comes to max-width. (And min-width?) It seems to cope with it sometimes, and sometimes not.

It passes the Acid2 test (which tests both min/max width/height). It also seems to cope perfectly well with this test page.

So why doesn’t it cope with the max-width rule I have in the CSS of this blog? I haven’t managed to work it out anyway. IE8 b2 doesn’t obey my rule that says paragraphs should be a maximum of 30 em units wide.

I have tried debugging the behaviour by changing various factors in the stylesheets but nothing seems to help. If anyone happens to know about this bug, please leave a comment.

Edit: I finally found the reason for max-width not working. This blog used the XHTML strict doctype which IE8 doesn’t understand. Now I have changed it for the HTML 5 doctype and it works beautifully.

Friday, September 5th 2008

Nice, Google

This is just what I was hoping for. Google is promoting their new web browser Chrome on google.com:

Screenshot of Google.com with Chrome promotion

This should hopefully get a heap of IE users to switch over. What a smack in the face for Microsoft. Just out of nowhere Google releases a browser and then they start pushing it on the most visited page in the world… Me smiles.

Tuesday, September 2nd 2008

New Web Browser: Google Chrome

This morning I was very surprised to read that Google was just about to launch their own web browser: Google Chrome.

First impressions

Just now it went online so I went and downloaded it right away. First impressions are that it seems pretty solid. Not at all buggy, as the 0.2.149.27 version number would suggest. And I really like the way it looks, very sleek.

It feels like a mix of all the other browsers:

  • The blue look from Internet Explorer (but nicer!)
  • Tab layout from Opera
  • Speed-dial feature from Opera. (Though I don’t know if Opera’s speed dial is automatic?)
  • Password saving (info-bar style) from Firefox 3
  • User interface simplicity à la Safari
  • Smart location bar à la Firefox 3, recently also copied by IE8 beta 2
  • Hidden/minimized menus like IE8
  • New tab button like IE8
  • Private browsing, implemented just like IE8. (Safari had it first though.)
  • Find in page similar to Firefox. (Also copied by IE8)

Also, it copes with the Acid 2 test. (The Acid 3 test seems to have taken a dive, presumably from all the geeks hammering it with Chrome.)

Meanwhile, it’s kind of hard to say exactly what is unique about this browser. It has plenty of neat features under the hood, but not many that are obvious to the user.

I guess the main selling point is the extreme simplicity of the browser. It feels very easy to use and is very easy on the eyes. For instance, there are no menus, just two buttons over to the right (like in IE7 & 8). The theme is very smooth and feels physically light.

But I’m thinking this browser will need quite a marketing push from Google to get out to the masses, even if it is a very good browser. Beacause, by now, most people already have their favourite.

Anyway, as many others have already said: The more the merrier in the browser wars.

Thursday, August 28th 2008

Quick Review of IE8 beta 2

IE8 about dialog

I just downloaded IE8 beta 2 and gave it a quick spin. Here are my first impressions, starting with the good:

  • The new tab grouping & colouring feature is nice. Hopefully someone will make a Firefox extension to replicate this behaviour. (I can’t seem to find one today.)
  • The private browsing feature is great. Firefox 3 should have had this by default. (At least two Firefox extensions exist that do this.)
  • The Accelerators feature is good and exists as a Firefox extension: Context Search.

Then a few good things where IE8 has caught up with the competition:

  • It passes the Acid2 test and now renders the web in a much more standards compliant way.
  • It has a Find bar and not a Find window that constantly gets in the user’s way.
  • It restores crashed sessions.
  • It lets you restore closed tabs.
  • It has an improved Fullscreen mode, à la Firefox 3.

The bad is that my main reasons to avoid Internet Explorer are still there:

  • Opening a new tab still feels as slow as beating an elephant to death with a USB stick. The funny thing is that the IE team mock Mozilla et al for working with improvements on the millisecond scale, while they themselves still have improvements to make on the whole second scale.
  • The menu-buttons to the right are slow as well.
  • I still can’t rearrange the toolbars and buttons as I would like to. Which equals a step back to Netscape 6.
  • Ctrl+L still brings up the stupid open dialog instead of just focusing the location bar.

It remains to be seen if they can improve the tab-opening performance enough for the final release. I’m guessing they won’t. (Enough in this case would be as fast as Firefox 3, which on my 3200+ AMD opens tabs instantly.)

Tuesday, August 26th 2008

Four ways to improve form filling in Firefox

Over at Aza Razkin’s blog a flood of discussion has been going on for a few days, on ways to improve Firefox. This post is esentially a cross-post of my reply there.

In my view, form-filling is one area that can be improved a lot. I have been trying a few extensions that aim to improve form filling on the web, but they aren’t smart enough and they require a lot of pre-configuration.

Instead, form filling in Firefox should take a few lessons from the awesomebar:

  1. Use data from forms on all visited websites to give suggestions. So if I have ever entered David Naylor into a box it will be suggested when I want to enter it (and start typing D…) on a website I never visited before.

    Using all the saved entries as suggestions will give us a problem of very/too many suggestions. This can be countered by the following improvements:

    1. Count form entries per site: When visiting Gmail, keep track of the fact that I’m entering my own user name almost every time and put it at the top of the suggested list (even before I type anything). Then stick my girlfriend as number two, etc. (Currently entries are listed in the order they were first entered, right?)

    2. Count form entries across sites: When I visit a new webshop, understand that I’m most likely to type David Naylor when I start typing D… into a form.

  2. I guess, ideally, Firefox should understand whether I’m about to type into a name box or an e-mail box and use that knowledge to bring up the relevant suggestions quicker/further up. This function would have to be implemented with non-english websites in mind though. Perhaps this could be done by learning the names/labels (?) of the boxes being submitted with certain pieces of information.

  3. When asking whether to save a password, Firefox should give the user the option to log in automatically (fill login + password and submitting) in the future.

Tuesday, August 26th 2008

Firefox 3 being pushed to users

Today is the day Firefox 3 will start being pushed as an update to users of Firefox 2. That means, very soon 20 percent of the internet population will have one of the best rendering engine around with …

  • Support for soft hyphens
  • Support for transparent colours
  • Support for colour profiles in JPEGs.
  • Good support for rounded corners on boxes

These 20 percent will also be safer than ever with the new malware filter.

Here’s the complete list of improvements.

Tuesday, June 17th 2008

Firefox 3 ute nu

Firefox 3 finns att ladda ner nu. Ladda ner före klockan 19 den 18/6 så är du med och sätter ett världsrekord.

http://www.getfirefox.com/

Saturday, May 17th 2008

Almost Firefox 3 is here!

Mozilla have just released a release candidate of Firefox 3 while us Swedes were asleep.

It’s packed full of small and large improvements that make life easier.

And here’s a tip for saving some milliseconds now and then:

When using the new cool address bar, hit Tab and then Enter to easily get to the first suggestion in the list. That’s way easier than doing Down, Enter when you’ve got your hands in typing position.

Friday, April 11th 2008

Nice start, Ameibo

Screenshot of Ameibo

I was just checking out Ameibo which was launched only yesterday. If I’ve understood correctly it is a legal, torrent based file sharing service which charges for downloads and pays users for uploads.

I haven’t actually tried downloading anything yet. Since downloads cost money I’ll only download stuff I really want. But everything was looking really promising and I got the feeling of Wow, finally someone has worked it out!. How to provide legal downloads of films for a reasonable price.

But then I got a welcome email, and I quote: (translated from Swedish)

To make best use of the service we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 6.0 and Windows Media Player 11 or higher.

Emphasis mine there. Well as you understand, that’s a bit of a turn-off for a Firefox guy geek like me. At least there’s the higher which refers to IE7 I guess. That’s better than asking for IE6 only, which would be plain crazy.

Don’t they understand that their audience, people using (or willing to use) bittorrent, are much more biased towards using Firefox than the average internet crowd?

Then there’s the fact that most of the films are DRM’ed, and therefore can’t be burned and played on a DVD. But perhaps the film industry will one day understand (like the music industry now finally has done) that DRM is only a nuisance for the legal downloaders and no one else.

Wednesday, April 2nd 2008

Firefox 3 beta 5 is out

As the title says ^^. Get it now. Or read a review over at Mozilla links first.

Screenshot of the Firefox 3 beta 5 first load page

It’s available in an amazing 45 different languages, simultaneously! I hear Vista SP1 in Swedish will be out some time during quarter two…

There have been quite a few nice little theme tweaks since beta 4. And I believe all the memory and javascript performance improvements that the Internets have been raving about are new for beta 5 as well.

Wednesday, March 5th 2008

Good news from Redmond

I’m a bit late to the party, but in the last couple of days we’ve had two great pieces of news from Microsoft:

  1. IE8 will render web pages in IE8 standards mode by default, not IE7 standards mode as was previously announced.
  2. The first beta of IE8 has been released for testing.

Internet Explorer IE 8 logo

In the IE8 beta announcement I really like the sound of this paragraph (emphasis mine):

One theme I hope developers notice here is interoperability. The team understands how big an impact differences between browsers (and previous versions of IE in particular) have had on developers in terms of wasted time, frustration, and (in some cases) limiting the experience that they deliver to users. We want to deliver a big step forward in real-world interoperability for developers with IE8, and standards are at the core of our approach. This topic deserves a lot more than just this paragraph; expect more soon.

That’s really the first time they have properly acknowledged all the pain web developers have felt over the years. Sure, they have admitted they were behind the times back when they released IE7, but this was the first real reference to the huge annoyance IE has been to web developers.

Let’s hope all this means they really will try to move forward on the standards front. If IE8 passes Acid2 it means it must cope with min- and max-widths/heights, so my blog will look as it should for the first time ever in IE. If you happen to be stopping by in the IE8 beta, please send me a screenshot. (My email is in the right hand column.)

Edit: One very important factor which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere is that they’ve made IE8 available for Windows XP. If they hadn’t, all the dreamy thoughts about standards compliant web developing would have had to be postponted another five years, waiting for Vista to gain some serious market share.

Read more about IE8 and it’s features at microsoft.com. Personally I’m going to wait a bit before I install it. IE beta releases are usually about as stable and reliable as early alphas of Mozilla products, and considering how deep IE is integrated into Windows … Let’s just say I’m not going to risk borking my whole system.

Monday, March 3rd 2008

How to define Firefox 3

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

Cropped screenshot of Firefox 3 awesome bar or 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.

Speed

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.

Friday, February 29th 2008

Firefox bug submitted

Today I submitted my third Mozilla bug, “Search using awesomebar locationbar doesn’t always find history entries”.

(The use of both locationbar and awesomebar is to make it easier to find using the search in bugzilla.)

Screenshot illustrating Firefox bug 420271

Here’s the description of the bug I posted to bugzilla:

When I type in a word into the location bar it doesn’t always find the relevant
history entries.

For instance, in the past 60 days (my history cutoff) I have visited the
website “Helgessons kök”, http://www.helgessons.se/. Now when I type
“helgessons” (no quotes) into the location bar I get nothing, even though it
should match both the URL and the page title.

When I do the same search in the History side-bar I *do* find the website. (Se
attached screenshot.)

I have previously submitted one bug for Thunderbird and one for Firefox.

Wednesday, February 13th 2008

Firefox 3 beta 3 is out

The third beta of the mighty Firefox 3 is out now. You know you want it.

If you don’t know you want it, read this great review at Mozilla Links.

Edit: Here’s a full list of improvements in Firefox 3 beta 3.

Thursday, December 20th 2007

IE8 will pass the Acid 2 test

This is seriously good news for everyone who is planning on making a website in the coming 10 or so years.

What does it mean? Well, here are a few things:

  • The IE team must have started working on IE8 roughly at the same time as they started work on IE7.
  • Finally, IE will support CSS min- and max-widths. (Which I use on this blog to regulate the width of this main column.)
  • Loads less IE layout bugs: Web designers and web developers will be happier at work in the coming decade.

However, there is a big however. The IE team speaks of some kind of switch to make IE8 work in IE8 Standards Mode. Let’s just hope they didn’t choose a non-standard way for websites to request standards mode… (I.e. I hope they’re going to stick with the transitional vs. strict doctypes for quirks mode vs. standards mode.)

Saturday, December 8th 2007

Internet Explorer 8

Cross posted from my comment at the IE Blog:

I must say I’m carefully optimistic about IE8. No thanks to the IE Blog though.

At the moment, the most informational information about IE8 is to be found at molly.com:

In the transcript of Molly H’s discussion with Billy G there is mention of a new engine.

However, I doubt that the IE team could have built a new rendering engine from scratch in just over a year. Or is that why they’ve been so quiet – they just haven’t had the time to post because they’ve been too busy rewriting Trident from scratch? We can always hope.

The fact that Molly just said what I’ve heard so far is to my liking about IE8 also adds to my optimism.

Thanfully though, I won’t need to care much either way:

  • If IE8 gets it right, I won’t need to care because it will render my websites like all the other browsers.
  • If IE8 gets it wrong, I’ll be too fed up with IE to even think about caring.

Tuesday, November 20th 2007

Firefox 3 beta 1 out now!

It’s here!

So what’s the big deal about Firefox 3? Well, many people who try new versions of Firefox (both version 3 and previous releases) complain that there aren’t any major new features. But that’s the thing with Firefox: It is constantly being refined and tweaked to improve your web browsing in subtle but great ways.

Here are some examples: (Copied from the official what’s new list.)

  • Easier password management: an information bar replaces the old password dialog so you can now save passwords after a successful login.
  • Simplified add-on installation: the add-ons whitelist has been removed making it possible to install extensions from third-party sites in fewer clicks.
  • Resumable downloading: users can now resume downloads after restarting the browser or resetting your network connection.
  • Full page zoom: from the View menu and via keyboard shortcuts, the new zooming feature lets you zoom in and out of entire pages, scaling the layout, text and images.
  • Save what you were doing: Firefox will prompt users to save tabs on exit.
  • Find toolbar: the Find toolbar now opens with the current selection.
  • Star button: quickly add bookmarks from the location bar with a single click; a second click lets you file and tag them.
  • Location bar & auto-complete: type the title or tag of a page in the location bar to quickly find the site you were looking for in your history; favicons, bookmark, and tag indicators help you see where results are coming from.

Firefox 3, alltogether, will be a huge improvement over Firefox 2. In my eyes there are two killer features:

  • Rendering updated to Gecko 1.9. (If that can be called a feature.)
  • Bookmarks and History combined into Places.

Once Firefox 3 has replaced most of the Firefox 2 installs (which should be sometime in april, thanks to Firefox’s sleek update feature) web designers can seriously start playing around with semi-transparent colours. Also, soft hyphens will work in all the major browsers. (Although it is rather embarrassing that Firefox is the last browser to implement ­.)

Places is a very nice semi-revolutionary change in Firefox 3. If you want to, you can keep using bookmarks in the same old way you always used them. But if you have lots of bookmarks, chances are you will have a go at using the new tagging feature and use the location bar for searching your bookmarks and history.

Right now though, Places doesn’t seem to work very well. The searching is slow, and sometimes doesn’t find bookmarks that I just added a couple of minutes ago. This could be because I use a nightly build of Firefox which is newer than beta 1. (Can someone tell me if this works in beta 1?)

Anyway, give it a try!