Color profiles turned on for Firefox 3.1

The latest Firefox 3.1 (codenamed Shiretoko) nightlies, now come with color management support enabled by default.

When a capture device (like a scanner or camera) produces a digital image it may be able to include as part of the image metadata, a definition of how its color codes correspond to a standardized colors definition. This mapping is called a color profile and contains valuable information on how to exactly replicate the colors as “seen”by the capture device.

Output devices like computer screens and printers, may also provide their own color profile, telling the computer how the colors it shows correspond, again, to the standardized color definition.

When a color management enabled application opens an image, it tries to get the color profile of the output device and use it to display the best image possible. If the image includes a color profile, then it has the complete information and can do the best job.

With color management disabled and enabled
With color management disabled and enabled (courtesy of Deb Richardson)

Due to performance issues and the possibility to break some websites’ designs if they were not tested in a color management enabled browser, it is turned off by default in Firefox 3. Instead, you have to manually turn it on by setting gfx.color_management.enabled to true via about:config.

As some of the performance issues have been resolved now, developers have opted to turn it on for tagged images (those that contain a color profile and makes the most sense). The advanced preference is now gfx.color_management.mode which supports three possible values: 0 disabled, 1 enabled for all, 2 (the new default) enabled for tagged images only.

Work continues to eliminate the remaining performance penalties and enable the feature for all images, but at least we should get partial support for Beta 1, due in a few weeks.

More details at Bobby Holley’s blog.

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