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Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 1 Web Browser

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At a Glance
  • Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 1

The first beta release of the much-anticipated Firefox 3 Web browser offers some nice enhancements over the previous version, such as additional security and new tools for storing and accessing bookmarks and browsing history, but it doesn't differ much from Firefox 2 in looks or functionality.

Most of the changes expected in version 3 (due for final release in early 2008), such as stability and performance enhancements for the Gecko 1.9 rendering engine, will be under the hood and weren't apparent in the beta we tested. Most of the work for the new Places feature, which stores bookmarks and history in a database instead of in regular HTML files, is likewise invisible.

A few nice, though not earth-shattering, additions do reveal themselves. A new star icon next to the site URL allows for quickly adding new bookmarks; click it once to add a bookmark to the default folder or twice to choose the destination. You can also add tags to your bookmarks and then view them by those tags, or easily create bookmark backups that you can copy to other computers.

Mozilla is also working on a number of security enhancements, which again were not all available in this beta. I was able to test a revamp of the saved-password feature, which lets you postpone saving site credentials until after you've successfully logged in. The final release will block known malicious sites that attempt to install Trojan horses or other malware (the blacklist of such sites isn't yet in place). Overall the extra security should help make for safer browsing, but none of the upgrades will prove a major deterrent for malware pushers.

Other updates include a new downloads manager that allows for resuming downloads after browser restarts, a full-page zoom, and security and usage improvements for handling browser add-ons. Be sure to see the full list of changes in Firefox 3.

If you're interested in trying out version 3's new features, keep in mind that this beta release has known bugs. You can't log in to Yahoo Mail's slick new interface, for instance, though you can read Yahoo Mail via the old interface. Also, many popular add-ons, including Foxmarks (for bookmark syncing) and SiteAdvisor (for Web surfing security), don't yet work with the new Firefox. You can install and uninstall Beta 1 alongside Firefox 2, and in our tests the old version--including­ bookmarks, add-ons, and settings--was unharmed.

This beta, because of its bugs, is not well suited for everyday browsing. Using it, however, makes clear that the final Firefox 3 will include some nice extras but won't push the boundaries for browser upgrades.

--Erik Larkin

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At a Glance
  • Offers a glimpse of coming attractions, but not yet suited for everyday browsing.


    • New bookmark and browser history tools
    • Added security features


    • Not suitable for everyday use
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