Last December, Mozilla released their second beta of Firefox 3 for public testing. This version fixed over 900 bugs over the previous version and included many new features. I took the opportunity to download it and test it on my Windows VM.
Once the beta version is downloaded and installed in my Windows, I launched it from my Start menu, expecting to see a complete difference in the interface. I were disappointed, because the beta 2 interface looks actually like Firefox 2, and I have to double check that I did install the Firefox 3 beta version.
Luckily, that is the only disappointment I have. Once I started using the browser, I am more than impressed.
A noticeable difference between Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 beta 2 is the difference in loading speed. Firefox 2 has been always been criticized as a bloated, slow browser. To some extent, I do agree with it. It usually take about 10 seconds just to initialize and launch the browser, and checking Gmail on Firefox 2 is definitely a test of your patience.
In Firefox 3 Beta 2, Mozilla cleaned up over 300 memory leaks, which resulted in a faster fox. The browser now launches in less than 5 seconds. The loading time is also much faster and checking Gmail suddenly becomes an enjoyable thing to do. I can only say that Gmail has never loaded so fast in my Firefox before.
Improved Location Bar
It is not hard to notice the star icon on the right of the location bar. This is a new feature in Firefox 3. Press the star icon and the current URL will be stored to your bookmark. Press it for the second time and it pops up a mini window to allow you to edit the meta data (title, folder and tags) of the bookmarked URL.
Other than the star icon, the Location Bar has also become smarter. When you type into the location bar, it searches your history for page titles, URLs and any user-specified tags within your bookmarks simultaneously and displays the results in a dropdown list. This makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for, even if you have forgotten the URL of the site.
The next change in the location bar is the padlock symbol for secure sites. You don’t see the padlock symbol there anymore. Instead, it is replaced by a clickable favicon where you can click to find out the site security status. An additional link will also appear to allow you to view your history of the site.
Better Bookmark management
A noticeable change is the “smart bookmark” on the bookmark bar. It stores your most visited site, recently bookmarked page and recent tag.
The Download Manager now comes with two extra icons beside the downloading file and a search bar at the bottom of the window. The two icons allow you to open the downloaded files and to view information of the file respectively. If you have forgotten where you have downloaded the file, just do a search in the download manager and you will be able to access it from there.
That is not all. The download manager is able to resume your download in the event that Firefox crashes. When half way through downloading an 8.5MB file, I deliberately killed the process from my System Monitor. At the relaunch of the browser, the download manager picked up where it has stopped and continues downloading as if nothing has happened.
Saving/Restoring Tab Session
In Firefox 3 Beta 2, Mozilla integrate the function of TabMixPlus into its session manager. When you close the browser, it gives you an option to save/do not save the current session. In the next browser launch, it asks if you want to restore the previous session or start with new session.
Overall, Firefox 3 Beta 2 is a great improvement over Firefox 2 with tons of useful features integrated into it. If there are any reasons for you not to use Firefox 2 now, then I am sure that this Firefox 3 is going to change your mind.