Tomorrow, Mozilla will release Firefox 3 Beta 3, the eleventh milestone in the longest development time for a Firefox revision since the initial Firefox 1.0 on 2004. The eight alphas and trio of betas (so far), if anything, are a reflection of the long list of enhancements it (Firefox) and the underlying Gecko rendering engine, are bringing along.
Without a doubt the most visible change introduced in this beta are the theme updates in all platforms. On Windows XP and Vista, a large part of the planned new XP icons has been added to the main toolbar, the Options window, the Download Manager, here and there.
Reception hasn’t been warm precisely as was to be expected: just the same happened when Firefox dropped the Qute theme for Winstripe around version 0.9, again with the updates just before 1.0 and yet again when Radiant Core updated Firefox 2.0 icons to its current washed out aspect.
I haven’t been a big fan of any Firefox default theme so far and it doesn’t seem Firefox 3′s will be an exception. But we’ll see. There are still theme updates pending, as well as small icons, and Vista icons.
The Options window on Windows XP with the new icons.
On the other hand, Mac OS X users seem to be more satisfied with the landing of Proto, a Safari-like theme introduced along with Beta 2. Linux users also get a very well integrated theme that uses native icons.
The back and forward buttons have been combined in a single keyhole-shaped widget featuring a single history menu. So far just Windows XP and Vista feature it but Mac OS X versions are ready and waiting to get in. An option to split the combined icons in the customize toolbar dialog is being considered.
We can also expect a revised throbber (the connection activity indicator) coming soon.
The Home button has been moved to the Bookmarks toolbar by default (but can be easily moved back) and the splitter that allows to resize the search and location bars when placed next to each other has become invisible.
Developers are aiming to deliver better operating system integration in Firefox 3. This will be most notorious for Mac OS X and Linux users who will now get native widgets like text boxes, menus, check boxes, icons, button order and orientation following each OS guidelines.
On Linux, Beta 3 adds native file open and print dialogs that provide image thumbnails and more printing options.
Mac OS X users get integration with Growl, a popular centralized notification system, while Windows Vista gets native looking menus and new icons that should be added for the next beta.
The Page Information dialog has been reviewed to become more organized and informative and allows to set all site specific preference from a single location.