Firefox 3.1 beta 1 released and reviewed

Mozilla has released Firefox 3.1 Beta 1, the first official development release of the next update to Firefox 3 just about four months after its release past June.

Firefox 3.1 is basically meant to be a completion release to get some features and enhancements that didn’t make it on time for the Firefox 3 final release. An example of this is the new tab switching behavior when pressing Ctrl + Tab (Cmd + Tab on Mac) which instead of moving to the next open tab, alternates between the current and previously viewed one. Keep Ctrl pressed while tabbing and a small dark window is overlaid  with thumbnails of the most recently used tabs. You can also click on the thumbnail to select it or, press W while holding the Ctrl key to close it.

While, after a few months of using it, I’ve come to rely on the new tab alternating behavior, I still can’t get used to the tab preview dialog and I don’t feel it helps me reach the desired tab any faster. Setting browser.ctrlTab.mostRecentlyUsed (via about:config) to false, and restarting Firefox, disables both the alternation and the thumbnails. I would prefer to have separate hidden options for each of the features.

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Finer session restore for Firefox 3.1

Back from a totally offline, sweet 7-day cruise with great times at Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Saint Thomas. Aruba and Curaçao: overrated. Sint Maarten: the winner hands down. If you can, jump on one now!

Seems like not much happened last week besides the release of Geode, a Firefox 3 extension developed by Mozilla Labs that adds geolocation abilities similar to the ones incorporated to the current Firefox 3.1 development.

On the Firefox 3.1 development department, the latest nightlies feature an improved non-modal session restore dialog displayed whenever your previous session crashes.

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Overhauled tabbed browsing for Firefox 3.1

Firefox 3.1 may well be remembered as the “tab release”, as tabbed browsing will be the most noticeable updated area users will face when it comes out in final form.

The latest Firefox 3.1 nightly (code named Shiretoko) features a new tab button in the tab bar, making the addition of a tab fully discoverable for the first time as it is now part of the primary UI.

A previous change, added a few days ago, made the tab bar always visible by default which allows the new tab button to be present at all times. In the past, the tab bar was hidden when there was only one page opened. A preference in Options/Tabs allowed to make it visible at all times.

The old New Tab button which was present in the Customize Toolbar dialog and could be added to the toolbars is gone at this time.

Yet another change in behavior now makes the current window go away when its last tab is closed. There is already a number of users complaining about this behavior and I also at first thought it would be annoying, but I still haven’t been in the situation of closing all tabs, yet wanting to keep Firefox open.

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Firefox 3.1 gets cool web page transformations support

Today’s Shiretoko (Firefox 3.1 codename) nightly introduces support for simple web elements transformations as CSS extensions originally proposed and implemented by the WebKit project.

The extensions include move, rotate, skew, scale and matrix operations for almost every web page element except plugins and popup menus among others. In the example below, Google’s main page and Wikipedia English home page have been embedded in transformed internal frames: moved, rotated and skewed. I also added some experimental transparency in the mix for a better effect.

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Two betas in the road to Firefox 3.1

In a post to the Firefox planning newsgroup, Mozilla Corp’s Mike Shaver, announced that there will be at least two betas for Shiretoko, Firefox 3.1 code name.

The main reason is to allow enough time to bake a high quality private mode as announced earlier this week but some other minor but sensible changes will take place as well.

We’re still hammering out the details, but we know that there is a core list of features that we’ll be looking to land between beta 1 and beta 2, likely:

  • extending TraceMonkey‘s capabilities into the DOM and other parts of our system
  • completing private browsing
  • a bunch of UI cleanups and improvements building on FF3’s success, and incorporating things we’ve learned from other browsers and add-ons
  • some core improvements to systems like PFS [Plugin Finder System] and our security UI

Though there’s no official schedule, code freeze for Beta 1 is targeted for September’s end, so it should be around by mid-October. If Beta 2 gets to close to December, it will probably push release candidates and final release to early 2009.