Firefox 3 Alpha 6 now available

Mozilla has released the sixth alpha of Gran Paradiso, Firefox 3 development name. This release comes with a very short delay to the original schedule which is an important achievement considering Alpha 5 was delayed for about a week.

Some minor but nice updates have been added like a cleverer close dialog. In Firefox 2 when you have several tabs opened and have set it to ask for confirmation when closing multiple tabs, it doesn’t make much sense when Firefox asks for confirmation if you have set it to start with the windows and tabs from last time (in Options/General). Now, since it will start with your tabs and windows anyways it just closes. But if you haven’t set it this way it will ask if you want to save the current tabs and windows and have them available the next time it starts. A very nice improvement.

Another enhancement is the addition of a permanent Restart button to the Add-ons manager. Since almost every action in the Add-ons manager requires a restart (like installing, uninstalling, disabling, updating and changing the current theme) I find it a helpful addition.

Another improvement I am not so enthusiast about is the ability to define a keyword for search engines. As you may know, keywords are small words associated to a search engine you can use in the location bar followed by the search terms to perform a search. In the past, there was no obvious way to define new keywords and the process involved bookmarking a search results web page and manually editing the web address. Now it’s just a matter of selecting the search engine you want to add a keyword to in the Search Engine manager and press Edit Keyword…

Since you need the search bar on sight to access the Search Engine Manager and add the keywords I am not sure of how useful it will really be.

Other improvements include the addition of support for site specific preferences as previously reported and the ability to remember a web page text zoom as an example of what this new feature allows.

In the background, SQLite, the database engine that now powers the download manager and Places has been updated to the latest version. The download manager now shows download speeds in MB/s or GB/s as needed instead of KB/s only which could render hard to read numbers.

Other improvements include previously reported XPCOM Cycle Collector that will help reduce Firefox memory consumption and the ability to edit web page contents on the fly.

Current nightlies are being labeled prea7 which would suggest a seventh alpha is expected. This would push Beta 1, originally scheduled for late July, to August’s end. I don’t like delays but if a new alpha is on schedule it is more likely that not many features will be trimmed from the final Firefox 3. I’m still holding to a December Firefox 3 release estimate.
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