Firefox 3 Beta 2 review

Mozilla has released the Firefox 3 Beta 2. As expected, this release is more about polishing the long list of features and improvements introduced during the previous nine milestones (eight alphas and a beta). But, as usual, there’s room for some noticeable changes.

Between Beta 1 and Beta 2, the location bar (informally called the “awesome bar”) became almighty. Where Beta 1 introduced the ability to search the entered terms not only in the history web addresses but anywhere in web addresses and not also in the History but bookmarks and bookmark titles and tags, Beta 2 focuses on how to make this information easier for the user to scan and identify what he’s looking for.

Awesome bar

Results for the location bar autocomplete are shown in two lines: one for the page title and the other for the web address, in different colors so it is easier to isolate one or another depending on what you know you are looking for (a title or an address). Also, matched terms are highlighted to direct attention.

You may also notice that the Go button has changed. While its look is not final, its behavior most surely is: it is only shown when you are entering a web address in the location bar, replacing temporarily the star and web feed icons. During normal browsing the Go button is hidden for a cleaner look.

Now you can change the search engine in the search bar by scrolling over the search engine icon with the mouse wheel. I’ve discovered that it’s not as useful as I thought it would be when I first learned about it. I find it faster to select the search engine from the list.

On Windows, when you drag a text selection, an image, a tab and mostly anything, you get a translucent image attached to the mouse cursor to help you know what you are moving. This change was available for Mac OS X and also Linux in the previous beta if I recall correctly.

Duplicate tab

Places, the integrated history and bookmarks manager keeps getting better.

Beta 2 added much expected full search features. You are now able to search History (added for Beta 2), tags and bookmarks with a fully fledged search interface where you can select where to search (History, Bookmarks Menu, Bookmarks Toolbar, All Bookmarks or the selected folder), and what to search (visited date, web address or title). Plus you can add as many rules as necessary and then save the search as a dynamic folder that updates as your bookmarks and history change.

Places search

Unfortunately, the page preview was removed from the properties pane.

For a complete list of features in Firefox 3, add the following list with links to details as they’ve been covered here in Mozilla Links:

  • Color management support: Firefox 3 uses color profiles embedded on pictures and images some cameras and other devices include for better replication of environment conditions as light and focus.
  • The Page Info dialog has been revamped for clearer details of the current web page
  • Web protocol/content handling allow Firefox to open certain protocols and document types directly with web services like Yahoo Mail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and may others.
  • Offline web applications support. Web developers can mark certain web page components such as images and scripts to be available while offline. In practice you could be able to compose emails or write documents though a web service while disconnected from the Internet.
  • You can makediscontinuous selections for better control on what you copy or print from a web page.
  • The search engine manager allows to set and change keywords for search engines. With keywords you could enter w hawaii in the locationbar and search Wikipedia for Hawaii if the w keyword has been associated for the Wikipedia search engine.
  • Added support for Camellia encryption.
  • Some interesting tricks for JavaScript: ability to load local files for local use, cross site AJAX (XMLHttpRequest) and most notably, FUEL, a library of Firefox programming interfaces that will ease the development of new extensions and ensure better practices (such as memory management) for common Firefox tasks.
  • Among minor tweaks: Firefox will always prompt if you want to save the currently open tab set, tabs scroll smoothly, better styling for local file, FTP and gopher listings and a warning when accessing advanced preferences (about:config).
  • A new plugin manager has been added to the add-ons manager. Now it is easy to disable specific plugins for troubleshooting or for enhancing performance.
  • Firefox can save site specific preferences. For example you could allow just some pages to use AJAX, set a specific spell checker language, images, etc. Firefox 3 will remember the zoom level you have applied for a certain site and will zoom automatically the next time you visit it.
  • A much needed memory cycle collector is now in place and it should take care of freeing memory no longer used by modules that requested them and didn’t released it properly.
  • Firefox 3 passes the Acid2 test, a popular test of a browser styling standard compatibility.
  • Support for editable content. Web page contents marked as editable can be customized by the user.
  • Switch to open source Cairo rendering engine for better performance. The change also enables easy PDF printing capabilities. So far it is only possible through an extension though.
  • More beautiful animated images are possible with animated PNGs (APNG): a full 16 million color palette and partial transparency will hopefully sweep GIF images in the future.
  • Sites known for serving spyware, rootkits, viruses, dialers and other kinds of malware will trigger an antimalware alert. The list of known malware sites is provided by and served by Google.
  • Better OS integration. For Mac users: native Cocoa widgets and Growl (the popular integrated notification app). For Vista users, native Vista menus.
  • Proprietary TalkBack, the tool for reporting crashes to Mozilla, has been replaced with open source Breakpad.
  • The password manager now prompts to store an entered password so you can decide after knowing the password is correct or not and avoid cluttering autocomplete lists.
  • The Download Manager has been revamped with an easier to track download list, support for Windows Vista parental controls. Downloaded files are passed to the installed antivirus if present.
  • The spell checker is now based on Hunspell which delivers better suggestions and support for more complex grammars.
  • Download resuming across sessions.
  • The Site Button provides details on the currently visited site identity based on its certificates.

As long as the list is, there’s still some interesting stuff to come. Most notably the visual refresh that will make Firefox 3 look better integrated with the officially supported operating systems.

Places will include the complete download history and benefit of all search and organization capabilities. Web developers will be glad to know that native support for JSON, a JavaScript oriented data interchange format, is in line for entering Firefox 3 code.

I must mention that while this beta feels very stable and speedy in general, some times it just seems to hang up for a few seconds. This may be an atypical case though. For me, there’s still plenty of time for memory and other resources usage optimization so hopefully this will get ironed on time.

Code freeze for Beta 3 is expected for the end of January, so Beta 3 should be around by early February and followed by a few release candidates. It is less clear if there will be a fourth beta but depending on this Firefox 3 final should be here on early March or April.

Beta 2 is not recommended for general consumption but for developers and enthusiasts. If you want to try it, I’d suggest backing up your profile folder before installing it just to be 100% safe.

Get Firefox 3 Beta 2 from Mozilla web site. Available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in more than 25 languages (with more to come as final approaches).

51 thoughts on “Firefox 3 Beta 2 review”

  1. Thanks a lot.

    I used Firefox3a1 till now 3b3pre.
    In first versions, it passes ACID2 test, but after beta1, it didn’t pass it completely, and now, beta2 and beta3pre (*last* night release) are same, and don’t pass it.


  2. Omid: Actually, it’s been reported that the Acid2 test page is broken, which causes the page to render incorrectly. That same breakage appears in almost all otherwise Acid2-certified browsers, not just Firefox 3. See here for more details.

  3. First of all…love the browser am using beta 2 rite now

    My only problem is the auto complete address bar thing, it runs a little slow.

    Other than that i would love for you guys to keep the go button being hidden i love the idea and also the scrolling to select search engines is an awesome feature please don’t remove it.

    Keep up the good work and looking forward to the final release of Firefox.

  4. I really like this version. It seems faster and I love the bigger print pulldown screen. I’m a woman in my, ahem, early 50’s and it works out great. I love trying new things on the computer

  5. I am very interested in this webmailer-as-handler-for-mailto thingie. So I finally got F3.0b2 to open mailto:-links in the compose window of google mail; however the handler gets the whole link, not just the email adress: that is “” instead of “”.

    Google Mail does not accept this as a valid email address, and I have to correct this by hand. How do I send only the email address, but not the whole link to the handler?

  6. Pingback: FIREFOX 3 BETA 2
  7. Thanks a lot.

    I used Firefox3 beta2
    please can u help me where is that feature (check spell)
    and how can i edit it ??
    the Arabic dictionary not supported by that Firefox3 beta2..why

  8. Would you guys please return the Go button, or at least let me set an option to keep it visible! For example if the page is opened after sending the form with POST data, it is wrong to refresh the page with the Refresh button, because form data will be sent again and I don’t want that. The only way to refresh the page without resending the form was Go button and now you have removed it! :((((((

  9. I like your new ideas you have on the table for FireFox. But there are some old issue you need to address here. As for me, I have a problem with Firfox holding web pages as I use it. Maybe you can look in to that for me, and get back to me. If your going to say it is my computer, don’t bought answering this e-mail.

  10. beta came out of the gate flying, loving it! its rounding turn 3 and turning into the laggy beat down browser i had to delete in your last version. I clear info often. Hard drive struggles, cookies are not working right and YES i read and have them set properly, i have older windows that are not “genuine” and have little options, this browser is starting to run “SO BAD” that even in my situation, im thinking of deleting… sorry for being so blunt but i must be honest, very open to suggestions to fix as i don’t have many options…


  12. It’s not integrated enough with gnome to be called native yet…
    But you can tell it’s getting closer. You can’t fake being native. Be looking out for people like me doing the following things:
    -using the mac menu hack with gnome
    -changing icon themes
    -using SCIM
    …for a truly integrated app, none of that will be a problem. We will see. For now, I’m excited that they’re giving it a shot. The performance and stability is already way better than FF2.

  13. Why the home page icon is removed from the navigation toolbar? It seems a link has been added to the bookmarks toolbar, which is ok. But I just keep the navigation toolbar and I use homepage navigation pretty often :(

  14. How do I turn the address autocomplete off? I have history off yet when I type anything in the web address bar it offers suggestions, showing web sites I’ve visited recently. I may not want people who are looking over my shoulder to see I’ve been researching childhood sex abuse the minute I type a letter into the address bar, but that comes up anyway. I realize this may be the wrong forum but I can’t find any info on this. Thanks.

    1. in the url bar, type about:config, then you want to change 2 values. in the filter field, type browser.urlbar.maxRichResults and modify the value to 0. then in the filter field, type and modify that value to 0 as well.

  15. Seems great his new Browser but some stuff must be fixed yet.
    In OSX Firefox isnt able to Drag to desktop the pictures as it used to do. Now it creats astrange files that means nothing.
    Also the are some incompatibilities with Flash.

    But the new Address bar is very nice.
    The new layout is ok too.

    Lets wait for those changes!

    Die I.E. !!!

  16. Thanks Rajesh, but I’ve done that, and I’ve left my history blank/cleared, nothing stops the address bar from making completions on my Mac.

  17. Hi,
    I am a proud user of Mozilla for the past 3years. I love the way it works but in the recent past, i have faced a lot of crash issues. Also, this is addressed after i installed the beta 3.2. I have few concern the Bookmarks must have an option to disable when you type in the address bar. Some sites should not be listed when you type in the URL. So please provide the option.The download options are sexy to core. Also, i would suggest you to take steps in minimizing the RAM usage this is really a huge concern. So, Please work on it and bring down the CPU usage. I would love to get feedback on this….


  18. I too want the return of the GO BUTTON!!!

    I want to be able to duplicate the current page just by using the middle click over the GO BUTTON…


    This is my opinion…


  19. I downloaded Firefox 3 the latest version and for the most, am quite happy with it. Every now and then I would like to clear the navigation drop-down history. However, as I understand it, in common with a lot of other users it is something which appears to be either very obscure or non existent. Now I fully appreciate by the very nature of software, that his simple request might be a tall order. Without wishing to add to what appears to be a growing complaints list, is it some that can be done?? A simple “YES” or “NO” answer would do. If the answer is “YES” please give an example, otherwise the answer is in the word “NO”.

  20. This policing website stuff is BS. My site was blocked for supposedly having malware, which it absolutely does NOT, and I’ve lost a large percentage of regular traffic over it. On top of that, the assholes at Google/ are very slow getting back to me on the review of my site. I’m not paying for domain registration and storage just so I can have my site sit there, virtually inaccessible, because a huge corporation and some brainless little startup don’t have their shit together.

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