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Firefox 3, day 3: first impressions

Fri, 20 Jun 2008 14:24:30 +0100

Previously, I wrote:

Seriously: the browser looks like a big improvement from Firefox 2, but there are so many niggles with this download day idea...

In reply to Open Sesame ยป Did you download Firefox 3?, I answer "Yes". It was a major upgrade for me, requiring new versions of Cairo and GTK+2, and installation of DBus-GLib on my GoboLinux computer, which brought in new versions of Xorg and so required a recompile of my GNUstep desktop applications.

Once that was done, Firefox compiled unattended. As noted by Adam Sampson in the comments on my last post, even after building from source, you still get all the obnoxious click-through EULA and when you type about:config into the address bar, you get a "no user-servicable parts" sort of notice, which really sucks. I notice that MozCorp don't call it "100% Open Source", preferring instead Firefox: 100% Organic Software (because we need another marketing campaign for free software, right?), so I expect I need to winkle out the restrictively-licensed parts again - GNUzilla, there's still demand for your good work!

After day 3 with Firefox 3, what do I think of it? Well, it seems a lot faster and a lot less RAM-hungry, and I'm quite impressed that all of the fancier bits of Koha and Wordpress seem to be working nicely but while I'm not annoyed enough to switch browsers yet (unlike FF3 and Safari - DrBacchus' Journal), there are still a hell of a lot of niggles and interface bugs. Some of the problems may have been introduced in Firefox 2, but I didn't actually use that enough to notice. My day-to-day browsing for the last year or so has been on a customised Firefox 1.5.

The FF3 user interface has some big steps backwards from FF1.5: in particular, I've lost the "force pages that try to open new windows into the same window" option (or whatever it was called... I can't find the FF1.5 manual online anymore); some keyboard shortcuts have changed - for no good reason that I can see (JavaScript has switched from Alt-E n Alt-S to Alt-E n Alt-J, for example); what on earth is the history drop down doing next to the "Go Forward" arrow?; and the button to close a tab is on each tab, so I need to be careful to miss it when trying to switch to a tab and my pointer makes a pointless detour to the top-right when I want to close a tab.

It's not all bad on the interface. The new RSS feed and bookmark links in the location bar are much better than in previous versions. The bookmark tagging and auto-generated folders could be a great idea once I've used it for a while.

I'm pretty annoyed that Firefox 3 seems to come with some spyware enabled as default. I usually have cookies either switched off or set to "ask me every time" so I was surprised to be offered a cookie from safebrowsing.google.com! I know it's for a noble goal, but what's this doing enabled without asking first? Untick the "tell me if the site I'm visiting is ..." options in Edit: Preferences: Security if you don't want details of your browsing to be sent to the USA. Another thing which really annoys me is that the Firefox support site requires javascript and seems unhappy with my cookie settings. Not cool.

Other than that, the main problems with Firefox 3 are omissions rather than bugs. For example, Microformats [Alex Faaborg] support was one of the long-trumpeted new features in Firefox 3, but they're really not obviously included, as noted by others in posts like Firefox 3 is here - where's the microformats?

And finally, searching mozilla.com for firefox returns 0 hits, which is a bit strange... are they ashamed of it?

Tags: cooperatives, koha, software, spi, web.

Comments On This Entry

Submitted at 1542 on 20 Jun by EspeonEefi

If you accidentally close a tab, you can get that tab back by right-clicking in the tab bar and selecting Undo Close Tab. You can also get a whole list of recently closed tabs from the History menu. Also, Ctrl+Shift+T is a keyboard shortcut to Undo Close Tab.

This feature arrived in Firefox 2 along with the migration of the tab close buttons to the tabs themselves.

Submitted at 1551 on 20 Jun by Matt Wheeler

According to the mozilla support website (this page in particular) the anti-malware and anti-phising features ("Tell me if the site I'm visiting is as suspected...") rely on a list that is downloaded periodically rather than checking per site you visit.

Submitted at 1559 on 20 Jun by anonymous

http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/search/?query=firefox&hits_per_page=10&hits_per_site=0 Results 1 to 9 of 130

Submitted at 1652 on 20 Jun by MJ Ray

EspeonEefi - thanks for that. It'll help, but why don't they undo the UI-FU instead?

Matt Wheeler - it seems to be downloaded pretty frequently and why are they tracking downloads with cookies?

anonymous - yes, it's surprising how quickly these things get fixed... that's partly why it was an And Finally item. Update: Curiously, I'm still seeing 0 hits on that URL...

Submitted at 1859 on 20 Jun by Chris

Would it be an option for Debian to turn the "Tell me if the site..."s off by default? Debian's not even shipping Firefox, but Iceweasel, so that might be an argument in not having to have the same default settings.

Submitted at 2202 on 20 Jun by Sven Joachim

The stupid close buttons on each tab can be avoided by setting browser.tabs.closeButtons to 2. I find it really easier to close tabs with the middle mouse button (or Ctrl-W for the active tab).

Submitted at 2100 on 21 Jun by Patrik Fimml

The close buttons change was introduced already in 2.0, and it immediately annoyed me. But luckily enough, you can still get the old behaviour -- have a look at these about:config options:

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.tabs.closeButtons http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.link.open_newwindow

(not tested with 3.0 though, I take my time and wait for the Debian iceweasel package...)

Submitted at 1127 on 23 Jun by MJ Ray

(1 anonymous comment saying the same deleted - sorry)

I got my old behaviours back by following Patrik Fimml's links: 3 for the tabs and 1 for the open_newwindow - why did they break these? I'm too stupid to work it out from the bugzilla bugs that introduce them as "improvements" without explanation and links to wiki pages that introduce them as "improvements" without justification and suggests there's research yet to be done.

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