Firefox 3 Beta 4 review


One of the most requested features: downloads can be paused and resumed across sessions, limited only by the server capabilities. Also, on Windows, downloaded files are automatically passed to the installed anti-virus if present and Windows Vista parental controls are honored.

As seen in previous betas, the Download Manager has received a serious face lift as an easier to track download list with search capabilities. Beta 4 introduces the ability to search the file size and download date in addition to the file name.

Firefox 3 Beta 4 download manager

A status bar notification provides summarized status of current downloads. You can click it to open the Download Manager.

Download status


The Add-ons Manager has been integrated with Mozilla Add-ons, Mozilla’s official extensions and themes repository, providing recommendations, search, rating and add-ons install without leaving Firefox.

And a new Plugins page (identified with a neat Lego brick icon) allows easy plugin enabling and disabling, making the Add-ons Manager a powerful control panel for Firefox enhancements.

Firefox 3 Beta 4 add-ons manager

When installing, updating, disabling or enabling back an add-on, an information bar is displayed to remind a restart is needed for changes to apply, and a restart button.

Plus, just installed themes are automatically selected so Firefox uses it after the next restart.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 add-ons restart

Among other minor tweaks: FTP and gopher listings get a better styled and functional page where the list can be sorted by name, size and date by clicking the appropriate header, and a warning is displayed when accessing advanced preferences (about:config).

about:config warning

SecurityIn the security front, Firefox will check visited sites with a list of known malware sites -provided by and served by Google- to prevent spyware, rootkits, viruses, dialers and other kinds of malware from even being offered to you.

A rewritten password manager now unobtrusively prompts to store an entered password in the information bar and after trying a logon so you know if it is the correct one or not and avoid cluttering autocomplete lists.

Firefox 3 Beta 4 remember password

Identifying authentic sites and avoiding fake ones is now easier with the addition of the site button which provides details about the identity of the current web site. While the largest part of the web has no verified identity, financial institutions and similar usually do and it makes the site button in the location bar to change color and size so you can know with a glimpse.

Site button

As great as add-ons are they are also a liability and have proved they can become an attack vector. Firefox 3 requires add-ons updates to happen over an encrypted connection (to block malicious sites purporting the update site) or the add-on developer to sign it with a digital signature so updates can be verified to be from the same source. This will prevent middle-man attacks where bad guys could fake an update site address to serve malicious software.

Invalid or expired web site certificates now get an unfriendly treatment that requires adding the site to a white list. This should encourage web site owners to keep their certificates up to date so they can effectively ensure their visitors a more secure experience.

Under the hood

Powered by Mozilla logoThe list of changes for Gecko is not short either and benefit not only Firefox but all “powered by Mozilla” products including Thunderbird, Flock, SeaMonkey, Joost, Miro, Songbird and more.

Since Alpha 1, Firefox 3 passes the Acid2 test, a popular test of a browser styling standard compatibility. As of this Beta 4, Firefox 3 scores 67/100 in the Acid3 test. Not that bad for a test just released a few weeks ago.

Firefox support color profiles embedded on pictures and images to better replicate the original environment conditions as light and focus, thanks to new color management.

Discontinuous selections of text and images are now possible for better control of what you copy or print from a web page.

A biggie: page zoom magnifies the complete page and not only text. This is a much requested feature and a must for Mozilla plans for a Mobile Firefox. Beta 4 adds an option to choose whether you want to zoom the whole pager just text.

Firefox 3 Beta 4 optional zoom

Web developers can mark certain web page components such as images and scripts to be available while offline. In practice you could be able to compose emails or write documents though a web service while disconnected from the Internet.

Some interesting tricks that will please JavaScript developers: the ability to load local files for local use, cross site AJAX (XMLHttpRequest), native JSON support and most notably, FUEL, a library of Firefox programming interfaces that will ease the development of new extensions and ensure better practices (such as memory management) for common Firefox tasks.

Support for editable content, so a user can change portions of a web page marked by the author.

The MySpell spell-checking engine has been replaced with Hunspell which does a better job handling complex languages including Asian, Hungarian, Basque, etc.

For Gecko 1.9, Mozilla switched to open source Cairo rendering engine for better rendering performance. The change also enables easy PDF printing capabilities but it is only possible through an extension right now though.

More beautiful animated images are possible with animated PNGs (APNG): a full 16 million color palette and partial transparency will hopefully sweep GIF images in the future. While APNG was rejected as a standard PNG extension last year, Opera has announced it will support the format in future versions.

Proprietary TalkBack, the tool for reporting crashes to Mozilla included with Firefox and Thunderbird, has been replaced with open source Breakpad (formerly Airbag).

Breakpad submit dialog

Socorro, is a server crash reporting tool that will help developers track the most recurring crashes and identify stability and performance bugs. Users can see their submitted crashes entering about:crashes in the location bar.


75 thoughts on “Firefox 3 Beta 4 review”

  1. You can always just get the ‘IE tab’ extension for Firefox that allows you to load pages using IE’s engine but through Firefox. It also comes preset to automatically load the Windows Update page with IE’s engine. This way you can update using Firefox and Windows thinks your using IE. Best extension ever

  2. well I have been using beta4 since it came out…man I love it. I used it extensively on both on my Win XP and Ubuntu systems and works great. I am really liking they direction Mozilla took with FF3 especially in the themes department.

  3. Since Firefox is able to do so many nifty tricks- has anyone ever contemplated changing the scrollbar from the right side to the left?

    On a laptop, it’d be sweet to have the scrollbar on the left side, where most of the action of the cursor takes place.

    I’m actually surprised no one’s done a plug in or a hack to do that yet. Just a thought.

  4. As a software developer, I can tell you that it would be GUI suicide to change the placement of the scrollbar – as a default anyway.

    Usability is all about uniformity, and if you start moving around standard elements of the GUI, you absolutely ruin the overall usability.

  5. I wasn’t talking about changing the scrollbar from right to left for everyone, I was curious if it could be done via a hack or plugin, for those few weirdos like me that might prefer it on that side. Since the file/back/forward/ and other browser commands are typically assigned to the left side, it just would make things easier and faster for me to have the scrollbar on the left side, since that’s where most of my mouse work takes place.

    Just a plug in or a hack is all I want, not to change the way the world works.

  6. I’ve been using Firefox since version, it is my everyday browser. I’ve used IE7,opera 9 but like FF because of it’s simple design, easier to use and as of ff3 beta 4 there are lot of improvements… but certain things that i wish could be better is that 1.the location bar in xp (as of beta 4) does not look good, the Go button is always not available, so i have to click the reload button, this makes confusion, it would be better if the Go button like of ff 2 would always be available on the location bar. 2. It would be better if the drop down menu bar on the location bar would look more visible. 3. the stop button does not look good, the previous one as of ff 2 was nice. 4. the home button with red roof looks distracting. 5. it would be better if i do not loose my cache due to browser crash or sudden power failure which happens in ff 2 6. why can’t we view the cache in firefox like of IE or opera (where we could view the jpeg or videos etc clearly from Temporary Internet Files in IE and cache in opera) 7. the most useful addon that i use is the real player browser record plugin but it is not compatible with ff 3 beta 4… I hope it will work with ff 3. 8. In ff 2 when i used to open new tab, it opens smoothly but in beta 4, i experienced blinking while opening new tab. 9. the save page as feature from right click within the browser window does not work on beta4, i had to save pages using ctrl+s and the download completed notification slide always pop up after i save pages.
    when i had 10 tabs open and using DTA downloading a file, the task manager showed beta 4 using 61,504k memory – Is this normal?
    Hope someone will reply here…

  7. I can’t access Project Web Access webpage can you please include the use of active x controls until then I will never be able to utilize firefox as my main browser of choice.

    I hope that Firefox 3.0 will have active x installation capabilities.


  8. There will never be any Active X support within Firefox. Active X is proprietary to Microsoft and it is a Windows only technology. Mozilla supports open standards and is cross-platform (Mac, Linux, Windows).

  9. When moving the “HOME” button to the Navigation bar (or any other button for that matter), then the whole of Navigation bar
    goes INactive, meaning that No “File”, “Edit”, or any other navigation button is clickable after the move.
    please advise…

  10. The incompatibility of Realplayer Download plugin in FF3 is more than a minor annoyance- first time I believe a new Firefox release has actually delivered less functionality. Though the Firefox Download Helper extension is a viable alternative for most downloads, the convenience and simplicity of the Realplayer plugin (single click) was preferable in most instances. Until such time that Mozilla or Realplayer (I don’t really care who provides the update) provides a FF3 compatible plugin, I’m reverting back to FF2 with its’ Realplayer download support, and also have increasingly been using IE7, where it is still supported; Don’t feel there’s sufficient increased functionality or security value in FF3 to overcome this omission.

    1. I’ve got the same situation. Looks like I need to do the same. Reverting back to FF2 or forget FF, just use IE.

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