Firefox 3

If only for the speed, lightness of being and security alone, Firefox remains our Editors' Choice for best internet browser.

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After months of testing, Firefox 3 (code name Gran Paradiso) is available for download from Mozilla. With its new Gekko 1.9 engine, the browser rocks, rendering pages faster and uses fewer system resources overall. As with any new browser, some add-ons created for Firefox 2 may not work, but give them time. Firefox 3 touts faster rendering, a vastly reduced use of system resources, and clever new data-mining tools for your bookmarks and browser history. Most notable is that Firefox 3 includes many security-related features baked right in, such as the best of breed antiphishing protection, making Firefox the most secure browser on the market today. If you haven't already tried Firefox, what are you waiting for? Firefox 3 remains our Editors' Choice over Microsoft Internet Explorer and Opera.

Firefox 3 is free, and available on a variety of operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are also a wide variety of localized language versions, including Basque and Byelorussian. Unlike IE 7, Firefox 3 does not require a system reboot.

The interface is the same in some places, but different in others. Placement of buttons hasn't changed, but the icons are new. Firefox 3 now provides a native look and feel (for example, the Linux version matches the Linux user interface) and smooth scrolling of open browser tabs. What will draw the eye are more icons near and within the address bar itself. A company logo, if available, will appear before the URL; after the URL there's the new one-click bookmark star and the familiar RSS icon. Other tweaks include those to the Password manager, Add-Ons manager and Download manager.

Returning within Firefox 3 are several core features, such as Sessions Restore, built-in spell checking, integrated search, pop-up blocker, clear private data and automated behind-the-scenes updates.

Most exciting among the brand new features is the improved rendering speed thanks to the new Gekko 1.9 engine. Firefox 3 passes the Acid2 Browser Test, along with Safari 3 and Opera 9. The test, designed by the Web Standards Project, is designed to encourage designers to follow HTML and CSS 2.0 specifications. Currently Internet Explorer 7 does not pass, but Microsoft says Internet Explorer 8 is expected to follow Web specifications.

The Gekko 1.9 rendering engine will, however, introduce some inconveniences. Firefox 3 will no longer support Windows 95, 98 and Me; the same with Mac OS X, versions 10.2 and earlier. There will also be numerous changes made to the Document Object Model (DOM) within Gekko 1.9 that will affect developers more than users. Also, there will be changes in the way Firefox renders frames within its display and the way object tags are handled, as well as changes in event threading.

For a user, the project known as Places is worthy of praise, as it creates a light database of history, bookmarks and tags within the browser that can be searched, sorted and organised. How you access the database gives rise to many new features within Firefox 3.

One obvious change is the Smart Location Bar (aka "Awesome Bar"). As you type in a URL, the Awesome Bar searches through your history and bookmarks and presents a drop-down list of recently accessed pages with that same keyword. It works even if you already know the URL. Some people have found it to be annoying, so there is a way to disable it requiring a small tweak to the about:config file. An Add-On further allows you to learn which of the search results you want to always be on top.

Immediately after the URL and just before the RSS icon is the new Star icon. Click it once to store the page's URL as a bookmark; click it twice to assign the bookmark to a new or existing folder. You can also give it tags: short keywords to help when searching through your bookmarks. Use the new Library feature to create and store searches.

Also new is Full Page Zoom. Unlike Opera, Firefox hides the Zoom feature within the View toolbar option and doesn't increment: just big or small. Hopefully Mozilla will refine this feature in Firefox 4.

Enhancements within Firefox 3 include changes to the Add-Ons manager. Now Firefox presents a list of popular Add-Ons without redirecting your browser to a Web page. From the manager you can install the recommended Add-Ons directly. There is still a link to the page where you can find more than 5,000 add-ons written for Firefox.

Another enhancement is within the Download Manager. Mozilla has added search and improved the ability to start and resume downloads.

There are also numerous security features such as Malware and Phishing protection, Instant Web site ID, support for the Extended Validation Secure Socket Layer (EV SSL), enhancements to the Password manager and greater security for Add-Ons.

For developers there are new Web-based content handlers, greater search engine keyword support, a new password manager, something called Extension Manager (EM), the beginnings of an intentity network, better integration with Mac OS X's look and feel, some offline applications support and site specific preferences. There's also an early look at FUEL (Firefox User Extension Library), a JavaScript library designed to make it easier for extension developers by minimizing XPCOM formality and using more "modern" JavaScript ideas.

As for performance, Firefox 3 does significantly reduce the amount of system resources used when compared with Firefox 2. That alone makes Firefox 3 a worthy upgrade. Throughout our informal testing at CNET, Firefox 3 has been stable enough for day-to-day office use since Beta 5. Although there have been some minor, intermittent glitches when accessing Google-related pages, those problems appear to have been addressed in the final release. The performance, features and security make Firefox 3 stand out as the best internet browser available today.

But wait, there's more. Following Firefox 3 comes early word of Firefox 3.1. Features expected within the next incremental release include tab previews and autocomplete for tagging bookmarks. An Alpha for Firefox 3.1 is expected to be available sometime in July 2008.

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Blue Dragon posted a comment   

The Good:Love the new feature

The Bad:Still RAM heavy

Been using it for at least 7 years, and will use so....
In fact typing this from 3.6.3 :)


ThomasM1 posted a comment   

When are we going to get an updated review and comparison of the web browsers? These things are updated every few months, and I would really like to know what one Cnet thinks is the best...

stealth man

stealth man posted a review   

The Good:highly customizeable

The Bad:crashes alot and slower than Opera,safari,chrome,bad default theme(need time customizing)

I the speed wasn't that slow it would conquer nearly the whole media of web browsers


AdrianC posted a comment   

I recently released a new website and found that I needed to perform some backwards compatibility in Firefox. I found that 80% are currently using Version 7, and the other 20% is between version 6 and 8. I tested my site in firefox until version 3(this product). For future referance, testing until version 6 is sufficient.


PMM posted a review   

The Good:Love the 'awesome bar', when you start typing address, will come up with suggestions from history, favourites etc. Pretty accurate!

The Bad:The full version of Windows live mail (Hotmail) is not yet compatible with FF3, so reverts to classic view which is frustrating!!

Just downloaded, pretty good.


Brian posted a review   

that con at the start should say

'no support for Mac OS X 10.3 and earlier'

It requires 10.4 or newer versions!


blaah posted a review   
New Zealand

The Good:and it supports the scribblies brite theme!!!

The Bad:still waiting for it to crash on me

i've been using it for several hours, and the rendering speeds are pretty much like firefox2, at least for myself

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