From time to time, I like to download the latest and greatest version of Firefox and other software, which allows me to get a sneak peek at some of the new features. I was very happy to see that Mozilla has decided to pursue development of Firefox specifically for 64-bit Windows-based systems. To my knowledge, 64-bit Firefox has been available for Linux and Mac for some time, but not Windows.
Almost immediately upon loading the nightly build of Firefox 3.7, I noticed that developers had given the web browser a much needed facelift. The facelift includes integration with Windows Aero which gives us a translucent glassy effect, and the ability to move tabs above the location bar, similar to Google Chrome. This is a huge step forward from being forced to utilize Glasser, among other plugins.
I absolutely love the Add-ons Manager, which a huge step up from the tiny dialog given in FF 3.6 and earlier versions. The intuitive Add-ons Manager is the central location for controlling languages, search engines, extensions, themes, and plugins. Much like the Programs and Features (Add/Remove Programs) section of Control Panel in Windows, the user can sort by name, size, and last updated, as well complete a custom search using keywords. Visual indicators make life easier by singling out add-ons marked for removal, and those to be disabled. From the Add-On Manager interface, users can also rate extensions, contribute to development, check for updates, or even stop automatic updates from occurring.
I was impressed with some of the improvements made in the Firefox 3.7a5 release, but it is obvious that they have a long road ahead before this is ready for release. I’m hoping that Mozilla can add some of the polish that will thrust this browser to the #1 spot, and into the 21st century. The Browser Wars have only just begun. The newest version of Opera offers some of the smoothest browsing I’ve ever experienced with an excellently-designed user interface. Google Chrome offers simplicity, but with speed unmatched by any other browser. Chrome also offers seamless integration into most Google services. I am a loyal Mozilla Firefox user, but a user with a wish list. My only hope is that Mozilla never stops pursuing the #1 spot, as I believe they have the best browser platform on the market, and an unmatched arsenal of extensions.
Last night, I took a chance and downloaded the nightly build of Firefox 3.7 Alpha 4 Preview. I was impressed with the UI enhancements, and also with what was under the hood. Please know that this version is not recommended for daily use, but only for previewing the new features, as there are still many bugs that need to be worked out.
DirectWrite hardware acceleration is not enabled out of the box at this point in the release process, but can be enabled by navigating to about:config, and changing the gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled setting to true.
I don’t have a screenshot for this, but you can see an example of Aero Glass above. Apparently, the glass-like effect provided by Windows Aero was turned off in the latest builds due to a few bugs, but to my knowledge, future versions of Firefox will support Aero-based themes.
Projected release date for Firefox 3.7: May/June 2010
Projected release date for Firefox 4.0: October/November 2010, early 2011?
As far as I’m concerned, the sooner they release these new features, the better. These features represent major productivity enhancements, and I want to use them!