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13 July 2006
The latest beta version for Mozilla Firefox web browser has been released. This is version 2, beta 1.
As this is beta it should not be used on mission critical systems, but it appears to be stable. It's perhaps a little slower than the last version, but that is expected as there may still be some debug code in it, although I'm not sure if it's just an illusion, it may be as responsive as the old version.
Versions are available for Linux, Mac and Windows as well as the source code. The beta version can be downloaded from: ftp://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/2.0b1/
One of the most obvious changes is that when you have multiple tabs open, the close option is now on the actual tab, rather than at the right of all the tabs. This is much more logical and something I definately prefer. When you have only a few tabs open (up to 5 on my system - 1024x768, but with a sidebar), then the close button is on all the tabs, but when you go beyond that it is only on the active tab.
One feature I thought that was going to be added to the new browser is automatic spell checking when you are filling out forms. Spell checking is already included in the Konqueror browser, as detailed in my blog on installing Fedora FC5. It appears that this is not the case, or at least I haven't found it yet. It may be available using an extension, and that was how I was using it before, with the Google Firefox bar, but that has been disabled as it is not yet tested at the current version (a common problem if testing beta releases of Firefox).
A few things have been moved around, for example the extensions and themes are now included in an "Add-ons" menu option.
The search bar is improved. It looks better, and scales to fit the available space. It also prompts for commonly searched terms as you type (again like the google toolbar).
There is now an anti-phishing feature, and the ability to restore the browser to it's previous state if the system crashes (complete with sites in the tabs). I haven't seen either in action yet, but they sound like promising features.
There is now a History menu, which shows the sites visited recently, and in particularly any tabs you've closed recently. That will be useful as I often close a tab, and then think of something else that I wanted to do on that site, and have to try and remember it's name or search for it again. For those worried about it giving away too much, then there is an option to clear it at the end of each session, or to remove entries manually, and it will also be cleared using the easily accessible "Clear Private Data" menu option that was added in an earlier version. Just remember to clear the history if you don't want your partner to find out where you've just been to buy their birthday present.
All in all the browser is just a little better. Nothing groundbreakingly new, but it is such a good browser and way ahead of most of the competition (except for the spell check feature in Konqueror). It looks like it's set to remain as my preferred browser, and it still keeps edging ahead of the IE browsers with IE 7, still behind on features.
I suggest that most people should wait for the full version when the bugs have been ironed out (not that I've found any yet) and the extensions have been updated. If you can't wait that long then give it a go and have a look for yourself, just remember it's still beta code, although that might be easy to forget.