First step to Firefox 3.1: Alpha 1 is here

Firefox 3.1, codenamed Shiretoko, has reached its first milestone, Alpha 1 pretty much on track for a targeted final release late this year, despite a short delay due to a nasty crash bug with Java on Mac OS X.

Perhaps the most notable improvement with this release is an option to restrict the location bar autocomplete suggestions to either history, tags or bookmarks only as well as an option to tell Firefox to search just for page titles or addresses when looking for a match.

To restrict to history, bookmarks or tags only, enter ^, * or + respectively somewhere between your terms. To include titles or addresses only, you enter # or @, and you can combine them with the previous operators to refine your suggestions.

New advanced settings (accessible entering about:config in the location bar) let you customize all the default characters and set your own character or group of characters to apply restrictions.

Even further, you can set any of the related preferences (browser.urlbar.restrict.history, browser.urlbar.restrict.bookmark, browser.urlbar.restrict.tag, browser.urlbar.match.title, browser.urlbar.match.url) to blank values to apply the restrictions by default (without entering any special character).

This location bar restrictions were considered for Firefox 3 but the performance hit along with time constraints had it postponed for the next iteration. It’s still to be decided if there will be any user interface (possibly in Options(Preferences)/Privacy) to make these options discoverable.

For more details you can check this Edward Lee’s post on the matter. He is the developer largely responsible for this implementation.

Another visible enhancement is the new behavior for the Ctrl + Tab hotkey: instead of switching to the next tab to the right as before, it raises a small overlay with tab thumbnails. Since they are ordered with the most recently viewed first, you can press Ctrl + Tab successively to switch between the current and previous tabs, a handy shortcut for accessing a reference page while composing in another.

By default, only three thumbnails are shown but you can customize it by setting browser.ctrlTab.previewsCount (via about:config) to the desired value and restarting Firefox. I found 5 to be a more useful value.

You can disable the feature altogether setting browser.ctrlTab.mostRecentlyUsed to false and get the old Ctrl+Tab behavior. Ctrl + PgUp and Ctrl + PgDown still provide the classic tab navigation.

Alpha 1 gets much better results in the Acid3 test, a benchmark of web standards support that, as opposed to previous acid test versions, not only assesses CSS compliance but also DOM capabilities and performance. As of this release, Shiretoko scores an 84, an 18% gain compared to Firefox 3′s but still behind WebKit nightlies that already score a perfect 100.

There’s still plenty to come including native audio and video support, possibly font download, one click autologin option for sites where a single set of credentials is available, private browsing, cross site AJAX requests (pulled back from Firefox 3 after late changes to the specification), bulk tagging, tag autocomplete, the possibility to enable color management support (introduced with Firefox 3) by default.

Let’s wait and see what gets in by the next milestone, which according to an early schedule draft, should be a first beta sometime in August.

More details Mozilla Developer News.

19 Comments

  1. Soum July 29, 2008 3:51 am 

    Isn’t the tab-thumbnails-while-tab-switching feature available in Minefield Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.1a2pre) Gecko/2008072803 Minefield/3.1a2pre ? Toggling browser.ctrlTab.mostRecentlyUsed doesn’t have any effect whatsoever. I’m still getting the old behavior.

    • Percy Cabello July 29, 2008 3:58 am 

      Haven’t tried a nightly in the last couple of days or so, but I would expect it to be there. Alpha 1 definitely does as told.

  2. Firefox 3.1. Alpha-Version veröffentlicht - WinSupportForum July 29, 2008 4:12 am 

    [...] Firefox 3.1. Alpha-Version veröffentlicht Eine Vorschau darauf, was den Nutzer mit Firefox 3.1 erwartet, kann man sich nun in der Alpha-Version des Browsers ansehen. Hierbei sollte man natürlich bedenken, dass sich eine Alpha-Version keinesfalls für den alltäglichen bzw. produktiven Gebrauch eignet. “Shiretoko” ist der Codename der neuen Version, die sich für Windows, Mac OS und Linux herunterladen lässt. Weiterführende Informationen zum neuen Firefox gibt es unter mozillalinks.org. [...]

  3. Shakaran July 29, 2008 4:13 am 

    Firefox 3.1 Alpha 1 pasa el Acid 3 al 84%…

    Firefox 3.1, cuyo nombre de codígo es Shiretoko, ha alcanzado su primera milestone, Alpha 1 en buen camino para una versión final dirigida a fines de este año, a pesar de un breve retraso debido a un error desagradable con Java en Mac OS X.
    Quizás ……

  4. Доступна первая тестовая версия Firefox 3.1 | Записки старого сис-админа :) July 29, 2008 9:54 am 

    [...] Вышла первая альфа версия Firefox 3.1 в которой представлены следующие новшества: [...]

  5. Enabling tab preview in Opera | www.Rarst.net July 29, 2008 10:49 am 

    [...] Upcoming Firefox 3.1 starts to get its usual share of hype press. Martin of gHacks made a post on it today starting with new tab preview feature (following chain his source was mozillalinks.org). [...]

  6. Mirek2 July 29, 2008 11:40 am 

    Thanks so much for the option of using the old tab-switching behavior…

  7. Все возможно. » Архив блога » Доступна первая тестовая версия Firefox 3.1 July 29, 2008 1:28 pm 

    [...] Вышла первая альфа версия Firefox 3.1 в которой представлены следующие новшества: [...]

  8. Firefox 3.1 Alpha July 29, 2008 1:40 pm 

    [...] Mozilla Links Tags: Firefox Otras entradas que te pueden interesar…:Firefox 3 Alpha 8Thunderbird 3 Alpha 1 [...]

  9. Firefox 3.1 Alpha 1 - (Shiretoko) | power.org.mx July 29, 2008 11:56 pm 

    [...] ↔ The Inquirer ES – Firefox 3.1 en camino: ya tenemos la primera versión alpha referencia ↔ Mozilla Links – First step to Firefox 3.1: Alpha 1 is here Descargar ↓ Firefox 3.1 Alpha 1 Disponible para Windows, Mac OS X y [...]

  10. steveballmer July 30, 2008 6:13 pm 

    This stuff is just plain dangerous people! Do not load this unless you are willing to fry your genuine Windows Vista installation!

    • Dean August 21, 2008 5:32 am 

      Can you be more specific? How/why will this “fry” Vista?

  11. Andrew July 31, 2008 3:41 pm 

    Downloading an alpha is not dangerous at all…

    Anyways, I couldn’t get the ctrl-tab thinger to work properly, however, I strongly dislike the behavior.

  12. Does the awesome bar awe you? - Mozilla Links August 13, 2008 3:44 pm 

    [...] confusing the change of behavior. There are some workarounds available and Firefox 3.1 will provide more customization, but still this could be not [...]

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