Review and thoughts on Mozilla Firefox 3

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Review of Mozilla Firefox 3 Now that the much awaited Mozilla Firefox 3 has been released, it is time for a review. I am sure others will have reviewed Firefox already, but I felt that I needed to spend more time with the ‘fox before writing a review.

Let me just start off by saying that I am totally loving Firefox 3. It is, in many ways, what Firefox 2 was meant to be but wasn’t – quicker response times, lower memory usage and fewer crashes (I have not had any). Of course, there still remains work to do, and Firefox 3 hasn’t improved much by way of startup times. Of course, blasting an otherwise useful software for startup times would be like ditching Adobe Photoshop just because it takes a lot of time to load up.

Firefox 3 default setup

Firefox Themes

The default theme has been an eyesore in Firefox, but the default theme for Firefox 3 is much improved. I would have liked the default theme for Vista to be more professional looking, but since I will not be using Windows Vista for my regular work, it does not really matter. Having said that, I am currently trying out Mac-like themes (like Mac OSX theme).

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Mozilla Firefox default theme One gripe that I have about themes is that most of the better themes are incompatible with Firefox 3. You can use this Mozilla Addons search trick to filter your results and get only Firefox 3-compatible results, though.

If you are wondering why the theme from the above screenshot looks slightly different from the default theme on Windows XP (which I’m using), read this post about getting Windows Vista’s theme on XP and vice-versa.

Extensions

Remarkably for a major new version, most extensions are compatible with Firefox 3. Out of my arsenal of ~15 extensions (many of which are disabled usually), only Permatabs, Digg This, FEBE(a backup extension) and Tabgroups do not work. I could disable addon compatibility checking and use them, but I have decided to wait until they are updated.

Firefox extensions screen
Firefox 3 recommended extensions tab

One eye-catching feature is the “Get Addons” tab in Extensions menu (pictured above), which shows recommended addons. The recommendations were quite accurate, and my guess is that Firefox looks at other installed addons to determine what are relevant.

Location bar

Mozilla Firefox AwesomeBar
Firefox 3’s all new “AwesomeBar”. Yuck, phoey.

The new URL bar is unofficially nicknamed “AwesomeBar”, but I would like to call it the “IrritationBar”. I like the fact that it is a mini search engine of your history, but when you have been using your browser for 2-3 months, the history can add up. I would often end up typing entire URLs by hand, because it would take less time than picking the correct URL from the dropdown. I would have liked it to look at only the titles and URLs of pages that were accessed previously. If you know of a hack to do so, please let me know via a comment on this post.

One-click bookmarks

Being the lazy person that I am, I prefer using clicks over typing and cursor-pointing wherever possible. A little white star in the location bar rids me of the need to press Control+D for bookmarks. Simply clicking on the star bookmarks the page, while one more click brings up a small drop-down window with options to edit the bookmark or remove it.

Improving JavaScript rendering

Improved JavaScript rendering speed is a much-fancied improvement of Firefox 3. If you use JavaScript-heavy webpages like GMail, Google Reader and Twitter etc., improvements will be very noticeable.

Bye-bye https-highlight, hello security icon

Firefox 2 highlighted the address bar yellow whenever a secure (https) page was accessed. With Firefox 3, that feature is gone. Now, you have a small icon to the left of the address bar, clicking on which brings up a small popup showing secure connection (if any). You can also click on a “More information” button to bring up more information like saved passwords and cookies for the site.

Disappointments with Firefox 3

The only disappointment I found when using Firefox 3 is that bug fixes relating to its memory management is over-hyped. When Mozilla talked of “15,000” bug fixes, one would have expected Firefox to be the lean, optimized browser that Opera is (and Firefox 1.5 was). Fewer crashes and hangups aside, Firefox3 still consumes 130 MB of memory on average (I am using only 6 addons and default theme).

One other problem that previous versions of Firefox had was that memory usage would shoot up after leaving it open for a few hours. I have not yet tested memory usage after leaving Firefox 3 on an all-nighter, ie. leaving Firefox open all night. It would be interesting to see if there is any improvement on that front. An all-nighter is a test to see how well Firefox holds up after running continuously for several hours.

There are lots more when it comes to Firefox 3, but this review only has features and problems that I thought were the most important. Over to you, what are your opinions with regard to the improvements in Firefox 3? Have you noticed any improvements in memory usage after an all-nighter with Firefox?

Discussion

  1. Hi! i have just installed Firefox 3.For the history, may i know how to group in for eg like yahoo.com in one group, then blogpost in another group? anybody can help? thanks!

  2. @Madhur: Firefox 3 isn’t exactly a finished product – it is still a little rough around the edges. However, you might find it useful to clear settings, or better still, create a new profile and start over. I used MozBackup to backup my extensions, bookmarks and settings.

  3. Yep, I like the AwesomeBar too :) That seems like an amazing improvement from Firefox version 2

  4. Sumesh,
    Firefox improving. I never really used FF2 because of its many problems. FF3 is a real winner here. Good UI also.

    Binny,
    The problem with the address bar is that after using it for a long time, an irrelevant long list of URLs appear when you start typing an address. This in effect forces you to type the complete URL yourself.

  5. You did not like the new address bar? Hmm – I liked it very much – its a real time saver for me.

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