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Mozilla Firefox 3 Review

Published on June 17, 2008 in Browsers

The third major release of Mozilla’s open-source web browser, Firefox, is now available for download on Mozilla’s website. The new version of Firefox is a major improvement over previous versions of the browser. Significant improvements have been made in performance & security and several useful features have been added in many key parts of the browser including the address bar, bookmark manager, and download manager.

The User Interface

Default Theme

One of the first things you will notice when using Firefox 3 is the redesigned interface. One of the main goals for Firefox 3 was to better integrate the browser with each computer platform in order to make Firefox feel more natural. Thus, there are now four different default themes for Firefox 3. One each for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. The biggest change is to the design of the back and forward buttons on the browser tool bar. The new interface combines the two buttons into a single composite button shaped like a keyhole. The back button is the larger portion of the keyhole. The forward button is smaller and to the right of the back button, and a dropdown menu to the right of the forward button lets users view all the pages they have browsed in the current session with the page they are currently on shown in bold type.

Location Bar

In Firefox 3 the Location bar has been completely revamped. The new Smart Location Bar, “AwesomeBar”, allows the URL field in Firefox to be used for keyword searches of its bookmarks and history. The Smart Location Bar will match what is typed in against page titles, URLs, and tags in the browser’s bookmarks and history to return a list of results that show a page’s favicons, title, and URL which you can then choose from. Searches are instantaneous and happen as you type.

Add-on Manager

In Firefox 3 the Add-on manager has been expanded to include a new “Get Add-ons” tab where you can view recommended add-ons, search for new add-ons, and install add-ons with a simple click. The Add-ons manager is now fully integrated with the addons.mozilla.org website. The revamped Add-ons manager is also used to work with any plugins that are installed. As with add-ons in Firefox 3, if a plugin is found to contain a security vulnerability, Firefox will automatically disable it and show where to get an updated version.

Download Manager

The Download manager has received several improvements in Firefox 3. It now includes the ability to pause and resume downloads, both manually and automatically. Other changes include a download status indicator in status bar and the ability to search through files that have been downloaded in the Download manager.

Password Manager

Instead of the password dialog box, Firefox 3 presents the option to store a given password using an information bar that slides down from the top of the browser after the user has logged in. In addition, this information bar is non-modal so you can continue using the browser without being forced to dismiss the message first.

Tabs

Smooth scrolling between tabs has been added to Firefox 3. When you scrolled your tab bar in Firefox 2, the tabs moved back and forth a full tab at a time. Opening a group of tabs now appends them to existing tabs and when shutting down Firefox 3 asks if the user wants to save the open tabs and windows.

Zooming

Page zoom in Firefox 3 now includes both full page and text only zoom. Full page zoom scales the page layout and structure while allowing for complete control over the size of the displayed content. A extremely useful feature of page zoom is that Firefox now automatically remembers the zoom level that is set on a site basis. Text only zoom, operates as before by only zooming the text on a page, leaving the images and page layout untouched.

Bookmarks and History

A major change in Firefox 3 is how bookmarks and history are handled. The new version of the browser introduces ‘Library’, a single window to organize the browser’s bookmarks and history. Firefox 3 introduces three main features: bookmark starts, tags, and ‘smart folders’.

Bookmark stars are designed as a quick and easy way to bookmark a page with a single click. One click on the star icon at the end of the location bar will allow you to bookmark a site. Double clicking on the star icon will allow you to choose where to save it and whether to tag the bookmark or not.

Bookmark tags are a way to add information to a bookmark, allowing you to organize them in a much more flexible manner than old-style Folders would allow (think del.icio.us). Smart folders are “saved searches” that automatically update when you add new items matching that search to your bookmarks.

Firefox 3 has made browser history more useful also. Besides being a major source of information for the Smart Location Bar, History now stores sites’ favicons along with the other location data to make scanning and identifying history entries much easier.

Offline Capabilities

Among the major new features in Firefox 3 are its offline capabilities and its ability to seamlessly interact with Web-based applications and services. The new version of the browser makes it possible for sites to deliver applications that people can use even when they are not connected to the Internet allowing these sites to work with a browser in much the same way that traditional applications work with an operating system.

Security

Ensuring that users are safe and protected on the Web is one of the biggest challenges a browser maker faces. Firefox 3 attempts to keep users away from bad sites by giving them information to help make a decision about the validity of a website. A user is now warned when visiting a site known for serving malware and will have to whitelist a to access it. In addition to the malware protection, Firefox 3 also has improved phishing protection. Reported phishing sites are now blocked up front, before the page is even loaded.

Firefox 3 also introduces a new security feature known as the Site Identification button. This button replaces the padlock icon and attempts to determine as much as it can about the site. It makes this information easily accessible through a button at the left end of the location bar. This button (gray by default) turns blue for encrypted connections (SSL) and green for sites using EV certificates (think eBay or PayPal).

Speed and Performance

Behind the curtains the Mozilla developer team have worked hard to improve the speed, memory usage and reliability of the browser. Firefox 3′s memory footprint has been dramatically reduced. One of the biggest issues with previous versions of Firefox was its performance record. Firefox 3 is the fastest, slimmest version of Firefox yet. Speed tests are showing a 2 to 4 times improvement over Firefox 2 and memory usage tests show that Firefox 3 is 2 times more efficient than Firefox 2.

Conclusion

Mozilla Firefox 3 is a significant improvement over Firefox 2. Overall, the browsing experience feels better. The decreased resource consumption, better security, and little details in areas such as bookmarking and the location bar show that Mozilla took a step in the right direction with the latest version of the Firefox browser. With this release Mozilla Firefox 3 is the fastest and most feature rich Web browser available on any platform.

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43 Comments

  1. alex, June 29, 2008:

    I have had Firefox since its release and it has been pretty good. It’s fast of course, but there have been problems. Sometimes it just closes randomly (sometimes the “crash” box pops up). But the “restore previous session” option keeps this from getting frustrating. Also, upon download I lost quite a few of my passwords (I did have a lot saved) and a few days ago they all were lost for some reason. Fortunately I remember the passwords I need. Overall, it is great, but it still has a few bugs to be fixed.

  2. hank, July 4, 2008:

    So, FF 3.0, both Mac (mine) and Windows (spouse’s) — Ebay no longer recognizes a password, have to recreate one via the lost password route for every single login, since yesterday.

    Is this something to do with the new security feature?

  3. Sumesh, July 6, 2008:

    I like Firefox 3 too, and it has been everything that Firefox 1.5 and below was and Firefox 2 could’ve been (lightweight and innovative features), but I have to debate your claims of “fastest browser on any platform”. Most tests show Opera or Safari to be leading, with Firefox coming first in only a handful of tests. Don’t get me wrong – I’m as much a Firefox fan as the next person, but outrageous claims should be avoided ;)

  4. aqlim, July 6, 2008:

    Hi! i have just installed Firefox 3.For the history, may i know how to group in for eg like yahoo.com in one group, then blogpost in another group? anybody can help? thanks!

  5. prin, July 7, 2008:

    i downloaded m3 a few days age and since then it will not let me have sound on my blues page. the finetune player doesn’t have sound, the youtube vidoes don’t have sound. i have tried everything i can think of, even downloading m3 again and removing some anti-spyware. when i go to the error page it tells me that the site is not a recognizeable site. it is a standard blogger format “minima blue” wtf. i can have sound on the page if i use explorer which i don’t want to do. how do i fix this and make m3 recognize the site as legitimate?

  6. Chris D, July 29, 2008:

    I am liking the mozilla3 except for one MAJOR thing. the green arrow showing history/bookmarks/search options… i hate it!!! i always had my history automatically deleted when you X’d out of the browser. now the history and bookmarks pop up 10 deep. how can i disable this???? i can’t figure it out!!

  7. jk, August 31, 2008:

    I have gone back to r2 after chatroom tabs when you launch a new window kept popping up all over the place, a problem I did not have before. at my peril I guess since it wont be supported after dec 08

  8. Daniel, October 11, 2008:

    Unfortunately, there are bugs on ff3, like weird character. I post it here, unfortunately, it’s in indonesian language, but you can still look the weird character picture there.
    I’m also firefox lover, and i hope firefox team will patch the bugs soon.

  9. Abril "curtain fabrics" Ward, December 7, 2008:

    I’m a Firefox fanatic. I tried using Firefox 3 but go back to Firefox 2 because I was unable to use some of the add ons. I guess some of it are not compatible yet.

  10. Jane "quick cash advance" Aidan, December 23, 2008:

    Already downloaded Mozilla Firefox 3… No complaints on this. Works well

  11. John, March 3, 2009:

    As much as I love Firefox I am always a bit hesitant to upgrade to newer versions because I hate the thought of losing some of my add-ons; I am very reliant on the usefulness of my add-ons.

  12. Nits, August 23, 2009:

    Great article, new firfox 3 is better then the previous versions, its quick ,fast doesn’t hang up.

  13. Legal Marketing, November 20, 2009:

    I have been a fan of firefox since the beginning. I spend time on both Windows and Mac and its flawless working on it between the two systems. Great program

  14. High school online, January 8, 2010:

    I’m using 3.5.6 and liking it. I wonder if/when they will provide a button or an auto facility to clean up some of whatever it is that is sometimes slowing my machine down. I wonder if it’s detritus from earlier versions or removed plugins and the like (not sure).

    It’s nice how the plugins are auto-updated. It’d be nice if WordPress figured out how to do that too but that’s a different topic… sorry.

    Gary

  15. Samantha Grove, January 9, 2010:

    I was never a big fan of FF until recently.

    I just went along with the whole IE thing then I realized all that I was missing in FF.

    It just keeps getting better and better in my opinion

  16. High School Online, January 11, 2010:

    Thank you for giving us a review on the latest Firefox 3. I have been waiting to download the new version until I had read a view reviews on the pro’s and con’s. I like how they finally decided to fix their speed and performance, that was a major issue for me. My computer is already slow!

    Sabrina

  17. Carpet Cleaning Sydney, January 15, 2010:

    I have an old, outdated version of Mozilla and I was just waiting for a good reason to upgrade it…you’ve given me several reasons. Thank you for taking the time and effort to ride an easy-to-read guide for Mozilla 3!

    Sabrina

  18. Hypnosis MP3, February 7, 2010:

    I’ve been wrestling these last few hours with trying to fix Microsoft DotNet 3.5 on two of my computers. Phew. No success either.

    And that makes me thankful for my Firefox. Favorite browser indeed.

  19. nitin, February 28, 2010:

    No one can beat firefox goole tried with chrome and fail.

  20. Community Fundraising, July 26, 2010:

    Thanks for the info. Firefox has always been my favourite browser. Keeping Internet Explorer honest! AwesomeBar is great :)

  21. sibel, January 9, 2012:

    yes, i think firefox is better than other browser with its applications

  22. pinar, January 9, 2012:

    firefox is really very good browser

  23. Pranie wyk?adzin Warszawa, January 11, 2012:

    kiepski soft Mozilla Firefox 3. I like tis Pranie dywanów Warszawa

  24. log cabins, February 10, 2012:

    I love the redesign of Firefox 3, but then again I love using firefox :D

  25. FranMartinez, June 28, 2012:

    I love firefox, it will be because I’ve used for many years

  26. CARLES, June 29, 2012:

    thanks a lot for sharing, i love ff!

  27. Tienda fitness, July 3, 2012:

    Currently we are on 13.0.1 Firefox

    Dropping this much since firefox 3 you say, and to me, is one of the best browsers with its addons

  28. tarot, July 3, 2012:

    i preffer google chrome, but, firefox its not bad

  29. La tecnologia, July 11, 2012:

    option keeps this from getting frustrating. Also, upon download I lost quite a few of my passwords (I did have a lot saved) and a few days ago they all were lost for some reason

  30. Ciencia, July 11, 2012:

    Mozilla is one of the navegarpor mejoresplataformas for internet, I love the fact depoder use your plugin for different functions.

  31. rafa, August 13, 2012:

    thanks a lot for sharing, i love ff!

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Leslie Franke:[les-lee fran-key]; 1. Husband and proud dogowner; 2. Seventh-day Adventist; 3. Web Designer; 4. Atlanta Braves Fan; 5. Northeast Ohio Native; 6. Bottle Caps Lover; 7. Certified 'Freakonomic';