Firefox 3 Beta 1 Preview

Firefox 3 Beta 1 Preview

FirefoxThe new Firefox 3 Beta 1 was released today to the public. I instantly downloaded and spent a little time looking at the changes they’ve made in this long awaited version. Let’s take a look at a few first impressions of the Mac version.

  • Inheritance of the standard Apple window style
    The moment you start Firefox 3 on the Mac you will notice that they’ve dropped the Firefox window style of versions past and have adopted a more Safari-like window style. It’s amazing how much lighter and sleeker the browser feels instantly because of this change alone. It’s also nice for Firefox to look consistent with other windows in the Mac OS. A great improvement in my book, though I suspect some will dislike the seemingly smaller window header.
  • Aqua form elements
    Though not a major change, the adoption of the Aqua style form elements is worth noting. Though I initially disliked the fact that Firefox ignored the Aqua stylings of OS X I’ve come to appreciate it, as it allowed me to restyle form elements on my web design projects to match the style of the website. Initially I was expecting that, like Safari, Firefox was now going to usurp my styles, replacing them with the bulbous aqua buttons that Apple is so well known for today. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that Firefox DOES NOT ignore CSS-styled form elements! If you’ve applied a style, they leave it, if you haven’t, they make it aqua. Thank you Firefox!
  • Improved Javascript-based animation
    Those of you who use Javascript-based animation (ala Scriptaculous) will enjoy the improved animation smoothness in Firefox 3. Whereas before I would experience jumps in Effect.Appear and the like, I’m now seeing wonderfully smooth animation without any lost “frames”. So far the jumpy rendering seems to be gone. Hopefully this wonderful improvement will make it through to the final release.
  • Improved font smoothing/anti-aliasing and font style rendering
    Firefox has always been pretty good about smoothing fonts on the Mac but it appears that they’ve made some subtle improvements. They also appear to have improved the rendering of CSS-styled fonts that make use of such attribtues as word-spacing and letter-spacing. In the past fonts altered with those styles wouldn’t have quite the same smoothness of the non-styled fonts.
  • Bookmark Manager updates
    I actually don’t use the Firefox bookmarking system very much, I prefer more mobile solutions like del.icio.us where I can access my bookmarks from any computer. I took a look at the bookmark manager to see if there had ban any changes, and though it will be mostly the same as Firefox users are used to, there are some changes happening. For one it appears that you’ll have quicker access to the details of your bookmarks without having to hit Command+i. They now have a nice paned interface that gives you quick access to those details as well as a preview of the page. That being said, the bookmark manager, or “Places Organizer” as it’s called now, appears to still be a work in progress.

Since this is the first beta it doesn’t even seem worthwhile to mention any issues (of which I only encountered one, related to CSS rendering). As the betas progress I’ll be sure to point out any issues that I can find. Overall, even this first beta appears to be the same great Firefox with some great improvements.

Some imagery provided by Unsplash.
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