Meet the new Firefox Add-ons Manager

It has taken a long time for the Firefox team to come up with a significant update to the Add-ons Manager, but it’s finally coming to Firefox.next. It looks and works great and there are a lot of opportunities for the new interface.

The Add-ons Manager as you knew it is gone. The new version works in a tab with a sidebar to choose what kinds of add-ons you want to work with: Languages, Extensions, Themes, and Plugins. Plus the Get Add-ons section that integrates with Mozilla Add-ons (not hooked yet) for the fastest, easiest experience.

The Main addition to the AM is (finally) a section for search engines management, becoming a real add-ons central.

Right now you can only remove a search engine from there (or undo it, though it doesn’t work yet). You can’t organize search engines, ask for search suggestions, set a keyword, or restore the default search engines, so it’s not a replacement for the current search engine manager yet. It’s also somewhat buggy. For example, it shows search engine sizes in the order of megabytes, which makes no sense as they are only a few kilobytes XML files.

Also, I don’t know if there are plans for an Add-ons Manager button (which would be very useful according to Mozilla metrics numbers that suggests it’s one of the most used menu items), but it would be easy to do so with a bookmark pointing to about:addons, the new special address.

Changes are not limited to the UI but there’s also “a totally new extension manager backend that will make it easier for us to improve and build upon in the future.”, noted Dave Townsend on a blog post.

Among improvements to come are support for jetpacks (or light extensions) at some point scheduled for Firefox 4, silent extension updates (optionally), and ,hopefully, a streamlined interface for add-ons configuration.

It’s also worth noting neither the icons, nor graphics are final here.

This is a great time to help test the new AM. Mozilla QA has prepared a new Add-ons Manager Test Day for tomorrow April 30th.

Firefox 3 RC 1 full review

A year and a half after the last major Firefox release, Firefox 3 Release Candidate 1 is here with a very long list of new features and improvements.

For those who have been following Firefox 3 development you may want to jump to What’s new in Release Candidate 1.

For the whole scoop, make yourself comfortable and read on.

Performance

Firefox 3 gets several performance improvement gains. Among them, profile guided optimizations (PGO) provides an optimized Firefox build based on the way it internally works. So far it is only available for Windows.

A very noticeable gain can be seen in JavaScript: it is about three times faster than Firefox 2 implementation. JavaScript is twice as important for Firefox since it is not only used in a large number of web pages but it’s also what makes Firefox UI work.

Memory wise, a much needed memory cycle collector is now in place to take care of freeing memory no longer used by modules that requested it but failed to release it properly. This and other memory oriented tweaks, seem to have paid off so far: a set of tests I recently ran suggests a noticeable increase in memory management efficiency with more memory freed as tabs and windows are closed and no mysterious memory eaten up when Firefox is kept open and idle for several hours as it has been reported several times in the past for Firefox 2.

Places

A much announced and expected feature is Places, the integrated history and bookmarks manager interface powered by SQLite, a small open source database engine that provides much more robust querying capabilities.

With Places you are able to search your history, tags and bookmarks with a fully fledged search interface. You can select where to search (History, Bookmarks Menu, Bookmarks Toolbar, All Bookmarks or the selected folder), and then save the search as a Smart Bookmark that updates as your personal web grows and changes.

The Library, Places manager, also adds backup and restore UI so it is easier to recover a damaged file or incorrectly deleted bookmark.

Tagging is a new Firefox feature tightly related with Places and some of the changes to the location bar: click on an empty star icon in the location bar to save the current page as a bookmark. Click it again and you can specify a folder to save the bookmark to, create a new one and add tags you can later search on.


The Location Bar

The autocomplete list that appears when you start entering letters in the location bar is no longer restricted to web addresses but also looks into bookmark and history page titles and tags which make it more comprehensive.

Suggestions are shown in two different lines and colors for page titles and addresses, which according to studies on human cognition, makes it easier for us to focus on what we are looking for. So, if the user knows she is entering part of a web address or a page title it will be easier for her to find what she’s looking for. Highlighting the match result also helps to direct the user’s attention.


It features adaptive learning so after a few repetitions Firefox will learn what letter combinations you use for what site and will provide better suggestions. This should address the case where frecency (a combined frequency and recency index) didn’t provide the best results.

You can also perform multiword searches, so for example “firefox downloads” filters address, titles and tags containing both words but not necessarily in that order.

I believe this feature alone is the best Firefox 3 has to offer, justifies Places large resources investment and will become a landmark in Firefox and web browsers in general development. Once you get used to it, there is no turning back.

Visual Refresh

One of the most visible changes are the theme updates in all platforms with a strong emphasis in making Firefox feel as a native application on each operating system.

On Windows the theme is called Strata. Here’s how it looks on Vista.

And here is on Windows XP.


The Options window on Windows Vista with the new icons.


Mac OS X users get Firelight, a new Safari-like theme introduced with Beta 2, formerly known as Proto.

Linux users get Tango, a theme that blends with Gnome native icons.


The back and forward buttons have been combined in a single keyhole-shaped widget with a single history menu and is now featured in all platforms except Linux.

According to the new guidelines, consistency across platforms is kept through icons shape while OS integration is provided by texture. In Linux case, it’s very hard to set one due to the many available distributions and their particular themes.

For more details on the Firefox 3 themes update, check out Alex Faaborg’s post.

There’s an invisible splitter between the location and search bars that you can use to set their width when they are placed next to each other.

Developers are aiming to deliver better operating system integration in Firefox 3. This will be most notable for Mac OS X and Linux users who will now get native widgets like text boxes, menus, check boxes, icons, button order and orientation following each OS guidelines.

Mac OS X users get integration with Growl, a popular centralized notification system, while Windows Vista gets native looking menus and blue icons that blend better with overall Vista look.

See more Windows XP, Vista and Linux screenshots in this recent post.

The Page Information dialog has been reviewed to become more organized and informative and allows to set all site specific preference from a single location.


Tabbed Browsing

On tabbed browsing, Firefox will not only warn you when closing several tabs and windows at once but will prompt if you want to save the currently open tab set: a good catch and a good way to introduce this helpful feature to new users.

Tabs now scroll smoothly.

You can duplicate and move tabs (including its history and current status). To clone, press Ctrl while dragging a tab, or just drag them across windows to move. A very helpful addition!

Desktop web apps and snappiness top next Firefox (Namoroka) plans

Following the tradition of using national park names as code names for Firefox releases, Mozilla has chosen Namoroka, located in Madagascar, for the development cycle that started a few months ago when Mozilla decided to branch the current Firefox 3.5 (Shiretoko) and proceed with the development of the next release in the trunk (Minefield).

The next Firefox has been assigned version number 3.6 (and trunk builds are already labeled this way) but it is very unlikely it will remain the final release number, specially considering the many features and improvements listed in the first Namoroka feature plan drafts, posted by Mike Beltzner, Firefox product director.

Like in previous development cycles planning starts, goals and features are listed prioritized.

First in line:

  • Performance: get a perceivably better browser startup and tab creation times (reduced in at least 50ms), and improve overall responsiveness by adding animations for actions like tab creation, moving, bookmarking, etc. Chrome (and Mac OS X before it) has proved that animations can really make a difference on how snappy a browser feels, and it was even considered for inclusion in Firefox 3.5, now almost ready to ship. It’s also worth noting that Mozilla is planning to implement animations for XUL, at the platform level, so not only Firefox but all XUL-based applications (Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Flock, Songbird, etc.) would benefit from it.
  • A long time requested feature: theme and extensions activation without restarting is also planned for this release, at least partially. The draft vaguely mentions “light themes” and “light extensions” which could mean just anything like extensions without chrome or a cross platform component (XPCOM).
  • Better user interface for file uploading. Would be a welcomed addition as single an multiple file uploading becomes more and more prevalent and the old click and browse way just doesn’t cut it any more. Drag drop upload, a Firefox extension, lets you do this by just dragging and dropping files, and even automatically adds more attachment fields in Gmail, if needed.
  • Merge common site specific preferences with the site button.
  • An option to convert web apps into desktop web apps, which basically means bringing Mozilla Lab’s Prism into Firefox, a long time idea available as a Firefox extension. Far superior than Chrome’s desktop web app implementation. You can get it at Mozilla Add-ons.
  • Use of Aero Glass so Windows Vista and 7 users finally get translucent toolbars. Aero Peek support (in Firefox case, the ability to see tab thumbnails in Windows 7 task bar) is also mentioned but not prioritized yet. Though, after using Windows 7 beta for a few weeks now I believe it’s an obvious P1.

In second place priority-wise:

  • Session management, or the ability to save a set of tabs and their state so you can reopen it at will.
  • Add some file management capabilities to the download manager (move, copy, delete).
  • Taskfox, a project introduced a couple of weeks ago that aims to deliver some of Ubiquity command-line abilities to perform certain common tasks to the main Firefox code.
  • A revisited, more powerful/helpful new tab page.
  • An about:me page which would provide some basic statistics about your own web browsing habits based on your history. This was also considered for Firefox 3.5.
  • Identity management is once again in line for inclusion. There’s no detail on what exactly would be implemented but CardSpace and OpenID were both listed in Firefox 3 feature list a couple of years ago.
  • On Mac OS X, it would use the native spell checker. In the same line, Keychain (global password manager), and AppleScript (macro language) support would also be added but has not been prioritized yet. Camino users have enjoyed these features for a while so it should make it easier to move some code to Firefox tree.

Mozilla is estimating a 10 months release cycle, so we can expect to see Namoroka go final around May 2010.

Firefox calendars for 2010

To keep Firefox on sight at all times even when your computer is off, here are a couple of 2010 calendars for you to print, hang, and share with your friends, family, and colleagues.

There’s a project for each month. Can you identify all the logos? Can your relatives and friends?

Red versions: Letter size – A4 size – A4 en español

Blue versions: Letter size – A4 size – A4 en español

Source file (.docx) Note that the Meta Bold font for the Firefox logo is not free, but you can use fairly high resolution logos and wordmarks from Mozilla.

Private mode back in Firefox 3.1 plans

Following Chrome’s release, Mozilla has felt the pressure of the competition and put private mode back in Firefox 3.1’s feature list in second level priority, and on track for Beta 1, the next development release (around mid-October).

In private mode, all user activity involving data such as searches, visited web pages, downloads, cached pages, credentials passed to restricted sites, etc. is discarded once the user returns to normal mode. Despite being infamously well known as “porn mode” there are many other valid use cases. As stated in Mozilla Wiki.

For instance, users may wish to begin a private browsing session to research a medical condition, or plan a surprise vacation or birthday party for a loved one. Use cases will range from users cheating on their spouse, to users buying engagement rings. Given the breadth of our user base, specific use cases are likely to be extremely varied.

With Chrome’s InCognito and Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2’s InPrivate, introduced in the last couple of weeks, lacking a private mode option by targeted year’s end release, would put Firefox in one obvious disadvantage.

Safari added a private mode with version 2, about three years ago.

“Recent development with Chrome will likely make finally getting private browsing mode shipped a priority for 3.1.”, commented Mozilla’s Alex Faaborg shortly after Chrome’s release in the tracking bug.

According to Firefox’s Private Mode specifications, the implementation will attempt to do as much in-memory data storage as possible to provide the most reliable purge. Authenticated sessions will be lost when entering or exiting private mode.

Additional interfaces will be provided for extension developers so they can tweak their extensions to honor the private mode.

There’s still no definition on what the UI will be, but at least one important requirement is that it shouldn’t be evident for people other than the user that he is in private mode. Chrome for example changes the color and even adds a cute but tell-tale spy image.

I would personally prefer a more discrete but evident (for the user) indicator similar to IE8’s (shown below).

There are already experimental builds that include the necessary back end, mainly developed by Ehsan Akhgari, so it shouldn’t be long before it lands in the nightly builds.

There’s also no word if it will have some fancy name like Chrome’s InCognito or IE’s InPrivate.

With Firefox implementation, private browsing will become a standard feature for browsers just as tabbed browsing, antiphishing and antimalware protection, web feeds handling, secure connections notifications, the search bar, and others we’ve seen in the last few years. Let’s hope Browser Wars II lasts much longer than the first one!

Firefox 3.1 (Shiretoko) planned features draft

As Firefox 3 approaches its grand debut this next Tuesday, for Mozilla developers it means the end of a development cycle and the start of another. Firefox 3.next is the tentative name for the next relatively minor update to the Firefox 3 branch, which is most likely to become Firefox 3.1.

A very early draft of planned features reveals that as expected, this release will be mainly about landing stuff that didn’t make it on time for the Firefox 3, along with the usual performance, stability and security bug fixes.

Visual tab switching and tab searching/filtering were both tried for Firefox 3, abandoned for other more critical features, and are being considered for 3.1. Ctrl+Tab, a extension developed by Dao Gottwald implements both of them displaying a thumbnail of the opened tabs when pressing Ctrl + Tab to switch tabs.

It also modifies the List all tabs tab bar button to show tabs thumbnails you can search.

Ctrl+Tab, compatible with Firefox 3, is available at Mozilla Add-ons if you want to try these features.

Places would also receive several improvements like integrating the downloads history in the Library as it was planned for Firefox 3, so you could define smart folders of downloaded files. Regarding smart folders, the interface for advanced queries (like multiple criteria) that was available in the first betas and pulled back for performance concerns, would also come back.

Options for bulk tagging bookmarks and tag autocomplete are also being considered.

Add these to previously announced support for <video> tag, cross site Ajax requests, more power for the location bar, and some recently added support for CSS 3 selectors (which will improve Firefox score inthe Acid3 test), and we can already foresee an interesting update.

Following the tradition of using places as Firefox code names, Firefox 3.1 has been named Shiretoko after the Japanese national park.

Features in Firefox 3.1 should take about six weeks to implement with the rest of the time (the rest of the year) dedicated to polishing and testing. A first alpha is already targeted for mid July, just a month after Firefox 3.

Users are welcomed to join the discussion.

Firefox 3.1 targeted for year’s end

Mike Shroepfer, Mozilla VP of Technology announced today a draft plan for Firefox and the Mozilla platform beyond the upcoming Firefox 3 (and attached Mozilla platform 1.9) release next June.

Most notable is Firefox 3.1, the next update to the Firefox 3 branch. It would add a few features that were not ready to ship in Firefox 3 development time frame. Among the most relevant:

  • Support for the <video> as defined in the HTML 5 specification. Chris Double has been working on this for about a year now and there are even a few experimental Firefox builds featuring it with native Theora (Ogg) support. Whether or not a certain codec must be part of the specification was the subject of a lengthy discussion last year. Sadly, one of the reasons to oppose Theora as a mandatory codec is the fear of a submarine patent that could make browser vendors vulnerable to a patent lawsuit.
  • Support for cross-site XMLHttpRequests (XHR) which would allow more powerful web applications and an easier way to implement mashup. Support for cross site XHR was pulled out of Firefox 3 code due to ate changes to the specification.
  • More power for Firefox 3’s location bar. Mike Beltzner, Firefox 3 lead, talked recently about how the search and location bars could be merged. In an intuitive way. SeaMonkey -and the Mozilla suite before- already does this but the implementation is not the most discoverable.
  • More performance tuning, better system integration.
  • Native JSON DOM binding, a powerful feature for web developers.

It would branch from the Mozilla2 code (known as mozilla-central, in the works for eight months already) sometime this summer, in Mercurial, the new version control system Mozilla is moving to from CVS.

Firefox 3.1 would be targeted for this year’s to intentionally coincide with Firefox Mobile (Fennec) development and release, making it the fastest update in Firefox history. It usually takes about a year between releases.

Firefox 4 is targeted for late 2009 (back to year long development cycles) and would introduce Mozilla2, an extensive update to the Mozilla platform to feature highlights like ActionMonkey, the merge of Mozilla’s JavaScript engine (SpiderMonkey) and Tamarin, Adobe’s JavaScript virtual machine open-sourced in late 2006.

Firefox 2 Review

After eleven months in development Firefox 2 is expected to be released tomorrow.  As of this writing, Release Candidate 3 released last week will just be renamed to Firefox 2 and so be it. You can get Firefox 2 (on late Tuesday 24), here.

Since its first release, back in November 2004, the web browsers landscape has changed a lot. Competition is back and security, performance and features are again topics when talking about web browsers. Internet Explorer 7, Safari 2 and Opera 9 are all playing along and the great winners are of course us, the users.

Without more preamble, let’s give a look at Firefox 2.

First look: The visual refresh

Most apparent change in Firefox 2 is definitely its look. It was much criticized during its debut in Beta 2 because of its soft colors and somewhat enhanced for RC1 which is basically what we have here today. In general, we have glossy icons, integrated go and search buttons with their respective location and search bars, a new shape for the refresh buttons, glowing web feed and security icons and more distinguishable active and background tabs. Unfortunately some enhancements didn’t make it: integrating the location and progress bars a la Safari, which I would love to see. Another idea that made the round was converting the progress bar into a progress pie inside the throbber, which would make much sense. Other considerations like merging the stop and reload buttons and moving them inside the location bar along with the Go buttons didn’t make it either.

Firefox 2 in Windows XP with Luna Silver theme

  Firefox 2 in MacOS X

Main window in MacOSX

Firefox 2 in Ubuntu 6.06

Reorganized user interface

As part of the user interface enhancements, the Options window got the most dramatic update, making it simpler and cleaner.

As you can see download options have been brought to the front, along with the option to start with the tabs and windows that were opened at last close time.

Simplified options in the Tabs options page. Plus an alert for warning when opening many tabs at a time, like when accidentally clicking on a Live Bookmark Show all in tabs.

   The new Contents page. Again, streamlined and cleaner.

Simplicity is the key of the new Firefox user interface and the Feeds page keeps options down to two: subscribe automatically with the selected web feed reader or show me the web feed nicely formatted and ask me.

The Privacy page is where the most fat was removed mainly to the new Security page (below). Options have been reduced to a list of check boxes while all data is cleared from a single point in the Clear Private Data dialog.

The new Security page collects all security related options previously scattered among the Privacy, Contents and Advanced pages in one convenient view, including the new anti-phishing protection.
There is also a new dialog to enable/disable warning messages on web pages encryption levels.

The Advanced page shows a new option to enable/disable the spell checker. Also, the cache size option as well as proxy configuration have been moved to a new Network tab here.

The Go menu was renamed to more appropriate History, while Read mail option from the Tools menu was removed. New item Subscribe to this page… has been added to the Bookmarks menu.

Theme and extension management have been merged in a single interface, and I hope the same happens with dictionaries (keep on reading) and search plugins, as they all are Add-ons, the new label for themes and extensions. Developer oriented JavaScript Console has been renamed Error Console.

Anti-phishing

Protection has been added to alert when you visit a known fake site. An alert pops up with options to ignore it, report the site or go to somewhere else.

Anti-Phishing is activated in the Options/Advanced/Anti-Phishing tab. There are options to check web sites against a local black list (by default) updated periodically or a remote provider (like the default Google). The recommended option is to check against Google live black list which provides maximum security. Privacy concerned users can rest assured only the web address is  shared as stated in the privacy policy you must accept to enable the enhanced protection.

If you encounter a phishing site that Firefox doesn’t properly identify, you can report it: in the Help menu, select Report Web Forgery and you’ll be able to help other users.

Session restore

If you experience a crash in Firefox, fear not. The next time you start Firefox, it will detect an abnormal shut down and will prompt you to choose whether you want to restore the open session or start a new one. As easy as that. Restore Session will bring back all tabs you had previously open but bets with all contents you may have been typing such as blog posts, comments or a long email.

You can also choose to always restore the previous session when you start Firefox. In the Tools menu, select Options…. In the Main page select Show my windows and tabs from last time and you are done.

Spell checking

Firefox 2 automatically checks any text entered in multiline text boxes for proper spelling. Any word not found in the currently selected dictionary is highlighted with a red underline. Right-click in the misspelled word and you are prompted with options to replace it with a suggested word, or add it to your personal dictionary. Your personal dictionary is stored in persdict.dat in your profile, so you may want to include this file when you backup your Firefox settings.

If you tend to write in more than one language, you can add as many dictionaries as needed. Just right click in a text box and select Languages>Add dictionaries… You will be directed to Mozilla Add-ons dictionaries section. Dictionaries are available as extensions, so just click on one of them and have it installed. Restart Firefox, and now you can select the proper dictionary.

Single line text boxes are not automatically checked for spelling, but you can force it by right-clicking on it and selecting Spell check this field. You can disable spell checking in multiline text boxes in the same way. To completely disable spell checking, in the Tools menu, select Options…, open the Advanced page, and in the General tab, uncheck Check my spelling as I type.

I have noticed what seems to be a bug in the spell checker: if you have some words marked as unrecognized, marks will disappear as soon as you press Enter to start a new paragraph.

Tab browsing

Firefox 2 finally gets tab overflow handling. If you usually have lots of tabs opened you should have noticed that in Firefox 1.5 and previous versions, tabs descriptions became increasingly short as more tabs were added, and at some point, tabs even overlapped with the close button. In Firefox 2, a minimum size has been defined for any tab so that there’s always a readable, understandable description. If more tabs need to be accommodated, scroll buttons are added to both edges of the tab bar, but you will find that the mouse wheel is a much more comfortable and efficient way to do it. There is also a new tab list button at the very right of the tab bar to easily select a tab.

Another change is the inclusion of the tab close button in every tab. If there are too many tabs, the close buttons is shown only in the active tab. For long time Firefox users this may be annoying at first, but I strongly suggest giving it a try. After months using the new layout I now find hard and unintuitive having a single close button. But if you want your single close button no matter what or would like the close button in the active tab only, or further customize tabs behavior, check this tip.

For those times when we have accidentally closed tabs where we were writing a very long email, a blog post or a forum comment, Firefox 2 now allows complete recovery of a closed tab. In the new History menu, select Recently Closed Tabs, and the tab you want to restore. It will magically reappear just as you left it.

Search enhancements

The search bar has learned some new tricks as well.

Sites that offer suggestions when you start to type a search word (like Google and Yahoo!) are now supported and suggestions are displayed as you type. Your search history takes precedence however and previously entered terms are displayed separately from suggested terms. Suggestions can be deactivated from the search bar by right-clicking and unchecking Show suggestions.

Sherlock, the previous search engine plugin format has been replaced with modern OpenSearch. You can still install Sherlock plugins (like the thousands available at the Mycroft project) and Firefox will convert them on the fly to the new format. With OpenSearch, Firefox can detect a search plugin offered by a web site and turn the background color of the search engines list button into blue.  You can then press it and select Add search engine to have it available.

Finally, a complete search engine manager is now provided. Here you can remove and sort the installed search plugins, deactivate suggestions for all search engines, and, in case you accidentally delete a bundled plugin, an option to restore all of them. There is also a link to Mozilla Add-ons’ Search Engines section for more search engines.

Live Titles

When you bookmark a web page for which a micro summary generator is available, the Add Bookmark dialog will show an option to use the actual bookmark title or a Live Title, which is a small summary of the web page. For example for auction pages it could be the current price and remaining time for the auction to end. For a stock reports, it could be the current price and day variation. And options are literally endless as more web sites adopt this technology. It can be manually updated by right clicking on the bookmark.

Web feeds

Web feeds (RSS/Atom) handling has also been improved. A new setting in the General page in the Options window allows to specify how web feed subscriptions should be handled.

Options are to subscribe using a third party application such as Thunderbird, NewsGator, RSS Reader and others; a web feed aggregation service such as Bloglines, Google Reader, My Yahoo or NetVibes or just let Firefox handle your subscription as Live Bookmarks. To add more online web feed reader, check this tip.

Feeds are now displayed nicely formatted instead of the raw code (RSS/Atom) shown before when you clicked on an RSS/Atom web feed link. Above the contents, options to subscribe to the displayed feed are presented.

Even more enhancements

JavaScript has been updated to 1.7, with a number of enhancements for web developers. Accessibility has also got its fair share of updates as reported here.

In the security front, support for SSL version 2 (a weak version of SSL dating back to 1994) has been dropped. If you encounter a web site that fails to load because of this, you should really contact the web master to let him know the problem and update his web server to the better SSL version 3 or TLS 1 (both supported by Firefox). However a workaround exists.

A new installer is now available for Windows versions. It is now based on open source NSIS (Nullsoft Scriptable Installing System). It adds a couple of advantages over previous in-house developed Mozilla installer. First, it is a whole project dedicated to installing software so it delivers a higher level of flexibility and compatibility, including the option to download optional components/patches from the web at setup time, multiple languages in a single installer, patching and automated installation. Plus, NSIS is widely used by a number of other software makers so the interface may be already familiar for users.

Conclusion

Some people have voiced their concern that this release is not worth the 2.0 moniker. I however don’t understand the point. If numbers are to be believed, this version is as incremental as 1.5 was for 1.0 Firefox 1.5 basically brought the updates infrastructure, quick back and forward and tabs reordering, along with Clear Private Data. So, in terms of features, this update is sensibly larger, and makes it reasonable to sport at least the same version jump.  Yes I know version numbers are not decimal, but I would like to see someone suggest this update should be called 1.10 with a straight face.

Firefox 2 brings a lot of usability enhancements that some old time users may found intrusive. While you get used to this changes you may want to try some customization’s to better suite your taste.

I find Firefox 2 more stable than 1.5. I just can’t remember the last time it crashed. It still however has some memory clogging issues, though not as serious as in previous versions. Plus we can’t forget that Firefox is indeed a platform (that enables is extensibility) as well as an application so taking more memory should be expected. Some printing problems are still there and should get some attention for the next release, 3.0. I hope the Mozilla project may realize the importance of this and make an interim release focused in memory and printing alone.

The Future

Following Mozilla’s support policy, Firefox 1.5 will be supported until April 2007, 6 months from the latest release. But you have much more compelling reasons to update now: the features and the security enhancements.

Firefox 3 is already in the works under the code name Gran Paradiso. Among other enhancements, the inclusion of Places, a feature that integrates bookmarks and history in a single interface along with tag support, that should make bookmark pack rats more than happy. Also, Cairo should become Firefox’s graphic layer with some benefit including the possibility to natively opening and saving PDF files. Better support for upcoming Windows Vista, which is also already in the works.

Next Firefox version bumped to 3.5, another beta to come

The next release of Firefox, code named Shiretoko and currently in development, will be labeled 3.5 instead of 3.1 as it had been originally planned.

According to today’s Firefox meeting notes, the version bump aims to reflect more accurately the many changes introduced since the release of Firefox 3.0, the latest major release, last summer. These includes several changes to tabbed browsing, significant improvements to web standards compatibility, a deeply enhanced JavaScript engines, and several new privacy related including an all new private mode that allows users to clear all their browsing activities at the end of a session.

The next beta, Beta 3, will still be labeled as 3.1 while all the necessary changes are made on Mozilla’s several development tools.

The code for Beta 3 is now frozen and builds are already being produced. Final release is expected for next week following QA procedures.

It also seems Beta 3 will not be the final beta as it was originally thought, but a fourth beta should follow in the near future with a chance of including some more new besides fixing the about 100 blocker bugs currently identified.

These small new features are a series of very specific developments (sprints) that may be ready on time for Firefox 3.5, including tab searching via the awesome bar, some additional minor Windows theme retouches, an about:me page that profiles a user’s web usage based on his history, the ability to clear history for more precise periods of time, and a few others.

Update: Mike Beltzner, Firefox product lead, clarifies that despite what the meeting notes may have suggested, the version bump is not a final decision at this point.

Sweet plugin: Microsoft Cake 2.0 for Firefox 3

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team has sent a fancy cake to Mozilla’s Mountain View headquarters to join the celebration of the Firefox 3 release.

Surprising? Not that much. They did the same thing for Firefox 2 release.

It was also revealed today that Mozillians keep the IE logo piece frozen since then!

Kudos to the IE team for their sport spirit!