First Look: Firefox 3 review

We take a look at what's new in Firefox 3 to help you get the most from the new browser.

Firefox has taken the browser market by storm since its introduction in 2004, and here at IT PRO, we wouldn't dream of using anything else. Well, most of us that is.

Read our full Firefox 3.5 review here.

Firefox cleverly decided to drum up some noise by attempting a world record, and aside from the inevitable glitch of its server falling over it succeeding admirably, hitting 8.3 million downloads in the first 24 hours.

So what's actually new? We take a quick look.

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AppearanceFirefox 3 now integrates into the desktop theme of the OS, so it will match the look-and-feel of the platform that you're running it on. The more frequently used back button is now larger too.

Features

One-Click Bookmarking Once you're fired up you'll notice that at the end of the URL there's a star icon press this once and the site is added to your bookmark menu. Press it twice and it opens a menu that lets you place the bookmark where you want it.

This is quicker and easier than having to open the separate bookmarks folder that was in Firefox 2, and all part of the strategy to let you do this housekeeping stuff without interrupting the ebb and flow of browsing.

You can also now tag your bookmarks, so that even if you can't remember the exact name of the site, or want to choose from similar sites that you've tagged, such as IT' or News', you can do so at a glance.

Smart Location BarClick the drop menu arrow on the far right of the menu bar and you'll find that the list of previous pages now includes the title tags as well as the URL, which makes it easier to see what you've visited.

Even better, start typing in the address bar and it now autocompletes, by offering matches to anything in its bookmark history. Mozilla claims this feature will learn your preferences for better matches and ranking over time.

Password ManagerOne of the slightly annoying aspects of the password manager in Firefox 2 was that it got in the way now the password remember' prompt appears in a menu at the top, and let's you move onto the next page so it doesn't hold you up, and gives you some thinking time to decide whether to store the password. It also avoids wasting time storing incorrectly entered passwords.

Download ManagerRejoice! The download manager now has a pause and resume feature so you don't have to start all over again if the system falls over or if you have to restart for any reason.

Other highlights include a built-in spell checker, so you don't even have to go and manually get on as an add-on, though you might want to make sure you're running a localised language version.

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Add-on ManagerAdd-ons have always been one of the biggest attractions of using Firefox over IE, providing the ability to add specific functions that really enhance the browser to meet individuals needs. The Add-on manager has been expanded in Firefox 3, and now has a Get-Add-ons tab that features Recommendations which lets you know about cool new additions you might not otherwise known about and has a link to the add-ons page. It also now has a Plugins tab and when Firefox detects updates to your tabs an updates Tab appears there as well.

One issue is that some updates haven't yet been updated to work with Firefox 3, and Google has announced that its Google Sync plugin will not work with Firefox 3 and it will not be updating it to do so.

Security

Instant Web Site ID Certain sites will offer up security information to prove its legitimacy. This information is available by clicking in the site Favicon' on the left of the address bar. To test this yourself, go to paypal.com to try it out.

Mozilla has also beefed up the anti-Malware and anti-phishing protection and will present you with full size warnings when there's a problem.

PerformanceOne of the problems with the previous versions of Firefox was that they had a tendency to eat memory. Mozilla claims that it has tackled this issue and that a new memory management functions keep usage under control and that it has a smaller memory footprint.

The browser also now uses the Gecko 1.9 engine, which is designed for standards compliance and speed so pages should load faster.

Have you moved to Firefox 3.0 or are you still stuck with IE due to company policy? Let us know at itpro@dennis.co.uk, or leave a comment at the end of this article.

Verdict

Firefox 3 represents a comprehensive upgrade to version 2 and from our initial experiences it’s a noticeable improvement with useful new features that make it that bit more friendly to use. The security enhancements are also welcome as are the speed improvements further cementing its place as our desktop browser of choice.

OS: Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 and later, Linux 2.2.14 glibc 2.3.2 or higher, XFree86-3.3.6 or higher, gtk+2.0 or higher, fontconfig (also known as xft), libstdc++5 Minimum Hardware: PC: Pentium 233 MHz (Recommended: Pentium 500MHz or greater), 64 MB RAM (Recommended: 128 MB RAM or greater), 52MB PC Mac: Intel x86, PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor, 128 MB RAM (Recommended: 256 MB RAM or greater), 200MB hard disk Linux: Intel Pentium II or AMD K6-III+ 233 MHz CPU (Recommended: 500MHz or greater), 64 MB RAM (Recommended: 128 MB RAM or greater), 52 MB hard drive space

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