Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from PCWorld.com.
A couple of months ago, I downloaded a beta version of Firefox 3 just to look at the new ideas Mozilla was working on. My intention was to try it for a couple days, then switch back to Firefox 2. I wasn’t worried about stability (it’s a browser after all—what’s the worst that can happen?). But the beta wasn’t compatible with lots of my favorite extensions and who wants to live without them?
Read Macworld’s first look at Firefox 3
As it turns out, I’m still using a prerelease version of Firefox (they’re at Release Candidate 1 now) and loving it, even without my beloved add-ons. The improvements Mozilla has made to the browser, while subtle, are so helpful that I didn’t want to give them up. Here are five of my favorites.
1. The “Awesome Bar”
Okay, so the official name is the Location Bar, the field where you enter URLs you want to visit. But beta testers have nicknamed it the Awesome Bar and it is, well, pretty awesome. Enter text in the Location Bar and a dropdown list appears of pages from your browsing history that include that text, not just in the URL, but in the page title or the page’s tag (see #4 below). The list even includes Gmail messages that include that word in the subject line. If you’ve already visited a Web page, there’s a good chance it’s useful to you. The Location Bar lets you very quickly search that useful subset of the Web.
2. Can’t miss warnings
Lots of browsers have had phishing warnings before (including Firefox), but they’ve been wimpy. Usually they involve some part of the address bar changing color or some icon popping up near the URL. The problem is they’re too easy to miss. I’m not looking at the address bar when I’m waiting for a page to load. I’m looking at the main well of the browser where the page will display.
But there’s no danger of missing one of Firefox’s new warnings. When you enter the URL of a suspected attack site, Firefox brings up a full-page warning. With a click, you can see a detailed explanation of why the site was blocked. Or you can just click “Get me out of here,” which takes you to Firefox’s start page. If you really want to live dangerously, there’s a small link that lets you ignore the warning and proceed to the suspect site.
3. Better bookmarks
If you like a page, you just click the star in the Location Bar and it’s a favorite. A dropdown box lets you name it, choose a folder to put it in or add a tag to categorize it. Bookmarks (and your browsing history) are now stored in a database, which means you don’t have to spend so much time organizing bookmark folders. You can perform detailed searches of your bookmarks, then save that search as a special folder. Any new bookmarked page that fits the criteria automatically goes in the folder.
4. Whole-page zooming
If your eyes aren’t what they used to be, it’s nice to bump up the size of text on Web pages, as Firefox 2 will do. But it only changes the text size — the other elements remain the same size. That makes for pages that look like The Incredible Hulk, with words bursting through the boxs and tabs that are supposed to contain them.
The new Firefox magnifies everything on the page equally. Everything remains in proportion, but becomes easier to read. And the next time you visit that page, it’ll display at the same level of zoom.