Thursday, April 24, 2008

Firefox 3 Beta

I've been holding off on trying the Firefox 3 beta. I used to be an earlier adopter but now that so much of my computing life goes through my Firefox browser I'm a little more reluctant to live on the bleeding edge.

But beta 5 is supposed to be the final beta before the release candidate so I thought I'd give it a try - as long as I could install it alongside my current Firefox. On Windows I used Portable Firefox but I couldn't find anything similar for the Mac. Instead I created a second profile and have Firefox prompt for the profile when it starts up. This works but is a bit of a hassle and I'm afraid I'll choose the wrong profile at some point.

A pleasant surprise on the Mac is that it finally has a more Mac-like theme. e.g. buttons on web pages are rounded instead of ugly rectangles.

Unfortunately, it still doesn't show the favicons on the bookmark bar. I guess this is to be compatible with Safari, but that seems pretty silly to me. But I found the Mac bookmark toolbar favicons style for Stylish which solved this issue.

If you asked me if I needed a customizable browser my first response would be "no". But when I go back to a "bare" browser I realize how much I depend on the add-ons I use. Of course, not all the add-ons have Firefox 3 versions yet. dragdropupload (which I use all the time for email attachments) was available.

But the Google Firefox Browser Sync isn't, which was a real hassle because it meant I didn't have any of my bookmarks or passwords. I don't have many bookmarks since I keep the bulk of them on so it was easy to export from Firefox 2 and import into Firefox 3 (once on Windows and once on Mac). I haven't found a way to export and import my passwords.

Passwords was another pleasant change in Firefox 3. I have a hard time remembering all my passwords for all the web sites I use, especially since I try not to use the same password for all of them. On Firefox 2 after you enter a password a dialog pops up asking if you want to remember it. But at this point you don't know if it's right or not. Either you say "remember" and then if it's wrong end up storing a bad password. Or you say "don't remember", in which case, if it works, if you want to remember it, you have to log out and log back in. Either way it's not ideal. But in Firefox 3, the "remember" prompt is inserted in a bar at the top of the screen mode-lessly - meaning you can wait to see if the password is accepted before choosing to remember it or not. Great improvement.

The Delicious Bookmarks add-on for Firefox 3 is a beta version that requires you to join the Yahoo group before you can download it. No big deal, but more hassle than necessary.

Firefox 3 is supposed to be a lot faster than Firefox 2. I can't say I've really noticed a big difference, but I haven't timed anything.

I haven't had any real problems with the beta so far. I crashed once in a couple of days, which isn't any worse than Firefox 2. I'll continue testing for a bit longer, but it seems good enough to switch over.

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