Faster! Accelerate Firefox 3.6 page scrolling

Firefox 3.6 has yet another secret feature that could significantly improve your web browsing on Windows: scroll acceleration.

By default, when you scroll the mouse wheel, the web page is scrolled the same number of lines no matter how many times you have already scrolled it. But, if you have scrolled the page a certain number of times in a short period, probably you are looking for something far below or above, and accelerating may be helpful.

Continue reading Faster! Accelerate Firefox 3.6 page scrolling

Firefox 3.6 tips and tweak

Here are five quick tips to enhance your Firefox 3.6 experience.

1. Open links in the tab bar far right

In Firefox 3.6, links opened from a web page (middle-clicking on them or from the context menu) open to the right of the current page to keep related content closer by default. To restore the previous behavior, access the advanced preferences by visiting about:config, then look for preference browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent and set it to false.

2. Enable tab previews

If you prefer to see tabs thumbnails when switching tabs with Ctrl + Tab, set browser.ctrlTab.previews to true via about:config.

Firefox 3.6 - tab switching

3. Enable tab previews menu button

Convert the list all tabs button (far right in the tab bar), set browser.allTabs.previews to true via about:config.

Firefox 3.6 - List all tabs

4. Tab previews hotkey

To quickly access the all tabs preview panel (once enabled) and search press Shift + Ctrl + Tab.

5. Hide the menu bar

On Windows, you can now hide the menu bar to gain a few thousand pixels for the actual content. Right-click on the menu bar and uncheck Menu Bar. To show it temporarily, press the Alt key.

Firefox 3.6 - Hide menu bar

Like Personas? Get Personas Plus for more

Personas is now available for everybody who updated to Firefox 3.6, just released yesterday. However, before been a feature, it was an extension, developed by Mozilla Labs. It’s the first of hopefully a long list of innovations to come to Firefox (and most likely, other web browsers as well). Other Mozilla Labs’ projects including Prism, Weave, and Jetpack are next in line (Ubiquity will come later).

Now that personas are available for Firefox 3.6, the original extension has been rebranded as Personas Plus, as it provides even more functionality. Here are a few reasons you may want to try Personas Plus: Continue reading Like Personas? Get Personas Plus for more

Firefox 3.6 now available for download

Planned as a minor update to Firefox 3.5, released last June, Namoroka (Firefox 3.6’s code name) is not only the quickest Firefox release but the first featuring Mozilla’s new beta approach: a single big beta release that gets frequently revised, and updated, keeping all beta users in the most current test lane.

The result: perhaps the most extensively tested Firefox release, with just above 1 million users by the release candidate stage, which helps Firefox 3.6 be a robust release for an increasingly more competitive, healthier web browser market. Let’s see what’s inside.

Personas

Personsas is definitely the main feature for this release. Also called lightweight themes, unlike full featured themes which allow to change every aspect of the UI (widgets, backgrounds, colors, fonts), personas focus on just changing the status bar and toolbars backgrounds, without requiring an application restart, and making it pretty easy to preview the personas in Mozilla Add-ons.

Firefox 3.6 - Personas

With more than 10 million extension downloads (for Firefox 3.5 and before), and more than 30,000 available, Personas (now Personas Plus) has been a wild success months before becoming a default Firefox feature.  It is still available, and maintained,  and still adds a couple of advanced features that could attract users: the ability to load your own persona by selecting a couple of files from your computer, and an option to browse Mozilla Add-ons’ personas, and create a set of favorites if you create an account.

Firefox 3.6 - manage personas

User Experience

Firefox 3.5 introduced support for native Theora videos in web pages using the HTML5 <video> tag. Now, there’s an option to see videos in full screen mode. Just right-click on the video and select Full Screen.

Firefox 3.6 - Full screen video

Talking about full screen, a new full screen button is available from the Customize Toolbars dialog, available from View menu, Toolbars/Customize, so you don’t have to reach the View menu, or remember the F11 hot key.

A small but significant change: if you attempt to launch Firefox while only non content windows are open (like the Add-ons or Downloads Manager), Firefox won’t create a new window as before but restore the last closed window.

Firefox 3.6 - List all tabsNew is also the tab preview and the ability to search tabs by title and URL, though not enabled by default. You will have to set browser.ctrlTab.previews to true via about:confige. Then, when you press Ctrl + Tab to switch tabs, a tab panel appears. Also the List all tabs button in the the bar far right, now displays a thumbnail of all open tabs, where you can select, close, or search.

Firefox 3.6 - Filter all tabs

Firefox 3.6 - tab switching

There is also a couple of new tabbed browsing behaviors. First, tabs opened from a web page (like when you middle-click or select Open Link in New Tab from the link’s context menu), are opened to the right of the current tab instead of the last one’s.  The second change is disabled by default and makes single Ctrl + Tab key presses switch between the current and the previous tab, instead of moving through all the tabs. To enable it, set browser.ctrlTab.mostRecentlyUsed to true.

Autocomplete suggestions in previously filled web forms are now sorted by frecency, a combined indicator that tells how frequently and how recently an option was used. A nice addition for users who frequently fill out web forms.

On Windows, there’s a new option to hide the menu bar and gain a few thousand pixels for web pages. Right click on the navigation or menu bar and uncheck the Menu Bar item to have it gone for good.

Firefox 3.6 - Hide menu bar

When you need support, there is a way to easily get and share most details about your Firefox setup. In the Help menu, select Troubleshooting Information… to open about:support, a page that summarizes your installed extensions, customized preferences, links to your plugins, and build details, and allows you to quickly copy everything to the clipboard so you can paste it in a support forum post or email.

Firefox 3.6 - about:troublehoot

Not as helpful, about:memory is a first approach to providing details about web pages and tabs resources usage, similar to Chrome’s task manager. Right now it basically only shows Firefox total memory usage. It should make much more sense once multi-process architecture starts landing in coming versions.

What’s not here is support for some of Windows 7’s most useful features: there are no jump lists, no tab preview, and no download status in the taskbar either. However, now that Mozilla is open to including new features in maintenance releases, I really hope this lands in some of the early next updates.

Actually, taskbar preview is available in Firefox 3.6, but it is buggy and not really worth enabling. If you still want to try it, access about:config and set browser.taskbar.previews.enable to true.

Also available is accelerometer support which allows web applications know the current mobile device orientation to react accordingly.

Web Enhancement

Mozilla is now supporting the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) for embedded fonts which has several advantages over TrueType and OpenType, like smaller size thanks to compression, and the ability to trace the source of a specific font without the burden of DRM.

With multiple file input, you can select several files for a single file input area, so it is easier to upload. Now, web developers, please use it! It’s always been a pain to upload photos to any photo sharing or printing service unless you use a proprietary plugin or a Java applet.

A new API will now allow add-on developers access Firefox’s geolocation features, and better standard interfaces for easier drag and drop in web pages should make web developers’ lives easier.

It scores 94 in Acid3 (the web standards compliance test), one point more than Firefox 3.5.

Security and Stability

The Firefox components directory is now locked down, which means no third party provider will be able to write to Firefox’s components folder. More details in Mozilla Developer Center.

The extensions.checkCompatibility preference is now less relaxed. In the past, it has been abused by users as a way to force incompatible extensions to work with newer Firefox versions. The preference is still there but it will have to be more explicit. For example to force them to work with Firefox 3.6, you will have to add extensions.checkCompatibility.3.6 and set it to  false. For future versions you will need to set extensions.checkCompatibility.3.7 to false and so on. See Dave Townsend’s post for more details.

Another important addition is an option to check for plugin updates. To do so, just press Find Updates in the Plugins page in the Add-ons Manager. The Plugin Check page will test your browser, report on what plugins are outdated, and provide links to where you can find the latest versions.

Firefox 3.6 - Plugin check

Performance

TraceMonkey, the JavaScript optimizer has been futher improved. In my tests, it took about 15% less time than Firefox 3.5 to complete the SunSpider test suite (from 1775ms to 1254ms in my Thinkpad T400). Thanks to stability gains, it is also enabled for improving chrome code as well. Remember the whole Firefox user interface runs on JavaScript.

Per tab network prioritization makes Firefox allocate more bandwidth for the currently viewed tab, less for other tabs in the current window and even less for other windows, enhancing the perceived responsiveness.

What’s Next

Lorentz. The next major update will run plugins (or at least Flash) on their own processes to improve overall stability. It, however, won’t come as a major update but as an update to Firefox 3.6 (around 3.6.2), marking a change in Mozilla approach to minor updates. There are a few other updates that may be included, but nothing is clear right now.

Download Firefox 3.6 now. Release Notes.