More details on Firefox 3 planned features

During this and last week Mozilla developers and drivers had a run of meetings to discuss Product Requirement Document (PRD, a list of what Firefox 3 should include) released some weeks ago.

Requirements have been shuffled, some added, some removed and most, better defined.

Regarding Gecko more tweaks for better standards support have been confirmed. Most notably, the option to save documents as PDFs is still present and even more, it is targeted for Firefox 3 Alpha 3 (expected for March 19). According to the meeting notes this functionality is already available in Macs, though I am not clear if it refers to Mac OS X PDF virtual printer or true Firefox provided PDF export. Windows Vista (Business Edition at least) already includes an XPS (Microsoft’s alternative to PDF) virtual printer, but PDF should remain the main document exchange format for years to come, so I am eagerly looking forward for the progress of this particular feature.

Other enhancements include a more smooth navigation when going back to a web form using the ubicuous POST method, avoiding the annoying warning about resubmitting data.Extensible archiving capabilities are also planned but it won’t be necessarilly based on Microsoft’s MHTML format.

On the add-ons department (extensions and themes), flexibility to install and use them without requiring a restart has been elevated to P2, the second highest priority level. In response to the endemic extensions obtrusiveness some alternatives are being considered including getting add-ons configuration back to the Options window (like in Firefox pre 1.0) as well as publising UI guidelines (best practices) for extensions integration into Firefox. I guess many users will appreciate developers following these. It is annoying to get status bar icons, duplcated UI, toolbar buttons and new Tools menu options for some very simple functions. Adding a new plugins manager is also being considered.

In the security front, support for EV certs (more reliable extended validation certificates) is almost sure, however it may be limited to accepting and displaying them.

Isolating plugins so they don’t crash the browser (Adobe Reader?) has been phased out for Mozilla 2 (read, Firefox 4) as it will require a deep code rewrite that would push Firefox 3 release out of its targeted Q3 2007. Pause/resume downloads stays, and the use of a separate window for Download Manager is being reconsidered (you can move it today with a simple tweak).

Airbag, the new open source crash reporting tool, is in to replace Talkback and so is an MSI version of the installer that will please many system administrators. There could also be two different themes for Windows XP and Vista environments which after the results of the last visual refresh which attempted to blend with Classic and Luna themes in a single shot, seems like a better idea.

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