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Firefox 3 – Bugs, Tweaks and Opinion

 |  Interwebs

I’ve been using the new browser for nearly 48 hours now, so I thought it about time I share my thoughts.

The Awesome Address Bar

I think the name is somewhat exaggerated, and I hated the look of the new address bar so much that I installed the oldbar extension, nonetheless the new functionality is nifty. It took some getting used to, but is now increasing my efficiency (a teeny tiny bit).

I don’t like, however, the fact that the bar no longer changes colour when you visit a secure website. The critics of the critics point out “it’s spoofable”, but that doesn’t change the fact that I *need* that visual indicator just to make me feel safe. Sure, it’s psychological and means nothing really, and there’s a tiny padlock on the status bar if you care to go looking but that doesn’t matter: if I’m going to part with my hard earned (well, let’s say earned) cash I want to feel safe about doing so. Searching for ways to change it back have returned fruitless.

The “go” button — which doesn’t say Go on it so I’m not sure why I’m referring to it as such — is far too small. Although I am for the most part a keyboard jockey, I do frequently right-click paste URLs into the address bar which means it’s quicker to click -> than hit the enter key. However, I’m now having to mash around with my mouse until I activate the button because the clickthrough area seems ridiculously small.

Increased Speed

Many users are reporting increased speed, both in loading the application and in running websites (particularly JavaScript heavy games and the like). Personally, I’ve not noticed a stunning difference but then I never had problems with Firefox in the first place. I have always found that if you don’t bog it down with 50+ unnecessary extensions and dodgy looking themes, it runs at a more than sufficient speed.

The World Record

Firefox 3 topped over 8 million downloads as the 24 hour period was brought to a close, hitting 14,000 downloads a minute at its peak, with the total still climbing as I write this. Despite a rocky start, I think it’s pretty amazing to be able to clock up that sort of almost instantaneous user-base, and I’m not surprised that the reported market share for FF3 is some 5.8—6% or so. Not bad for a browser that’s been out for about a day.

Facts and figures aside, the cynics are already calling foul. Ryan Stewart, a “Rich Internet Application Evangelist” dismisses the achievement in his entry “Break the Guiness World Record For Downloads? Flash Already Did It” saying “we get 8 million installs of the Flash Player…on an average day“. Personally I think this is an unfair comparison — I download Flash because I have to, not because I want to — so I left a comment summing up my thoughts:

Given that you have little choice whether or not to download Flash — if you don’t, a huge percentage of websites don’t work — it’s hardly a fair comparison to Firefox. I could choose not to download FF and still have a variety of browsers at my disposal.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’d ditch Flash plugins in a heartbeat if only Flash were less commonplace on the web.

Dislike for Flash aside, it sure will be interesting to see companies making and breaking more web-related records now that the Mozilla guys have started on it.

…perhaps I’m a Firefox fangirl at heart.

Tweaking it Up

Once I’d settled into FF3 I set about making customisations that I couldn’t do via the normal Options route (about:config is your friend). Those that come to mind are:

browser.tabs.tabMinWidth — I have a small default Windows font enabled so my tabs didn’t need to be a minimum of 100 pixels. I changed this to 75.

layout.spellcheckDefault — set to 2, the spell-checker also checks single line input fields in addition to textareas, etc.

network.prefetch-next — this option basically makes assumptions about which links you’ll be clicking next and preloads the page to make the page load more quickly. I don’t like the idea of using up bandwidth by loading pages I might not even visit so it’s set to false.

I reset the back button to normal size; to do so, right-click the toolbar somewhere and choose “Customize”, tick “Use Small Icons” and click “Done”.

You can now change the size of the search/address boxes by over the gap between the two. This brings up a slider cursor… and I’m sure this doesn’t need explaining, because y’all know how to resize something. :P

Minor niggles aside, I am quite happy with what FF3 has to offer, and I’m sure that there’s a whole horde of features I’m yet to find. If you’ve not downloaded it yet, why not?

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

43 comments so far

  1. Yvonne Tran said:

    Thanks for that first about:config tweak! I used it on FF2 on my old iBook, then switched to a MacBook and forgot how to do it. I’ve also never heard of the network.prefetch-next tweak, so thank you for that too.

  2. Buzz Meter: Mozilla Firefox 3 » The Buzz Bin said:

    […] Negative: The large number of new features and add-ons could also be seen as a downfall since it’s hard to fully grasp the full potential of the browser. After downloading, you would have to re-download all of your plug-ins and have everything transferred. Since Firefox 3 was just released and apparently not in beta mode, there still may be kinks to be discovered. […]

  3. Hannah said:

    I first installed a beta about a few weeks ago because of the hype I was hearing about FF3. I went from there and installed each release candidate and, finally, on Download Day installed the official release (although I hear it is the same as RC3).

    I’ll have to look for a screenshot of the Windows version because I don’t know what all the complaining is about. The rounded address bar looks fine on a Mac, but then I realize I don’t even have a go button. Every once in a while, my return key will refuse to work in any type of form including the address bar so it forces me to restart Firefox. I’ll have to see if that’s a reported bug.

    Thanks for the spell-check tip :3 That will definitely come in handy.

  4. Paddy said:

    Am I blind or has your comment been deleted off that website? I haven’t noticed any major speed increases either. And twice now all input fields within a page have not worked (ie. not let me enter anything) until I’ve reloaded them. Oddddddddd.

  5. Robbie said:

    I don’t particularly like the new navbar’s assumption of which page I want when I start typing, as it base it more off of the title than the url, but I think this will be less of a problem as I use the browser more and it sees what I visit, and also the more I get used to it.

  6. Arwen said:

    I like the new FF3. My only qualm about it (and maybe I’m just missing it) is that I can’t set the links in my bookmarks bar to automatically open in a separate tab when I click them. This was available in FF2, and now I have to right-click my bookmarks and select “open in a new tab.”

    I never use the go button anyway, so that’s not an issue for me.

    The new address bar does irk me a little bit, but I’m getting used to it.

  7. Sarah said:

    I was pretty fine with all the features. I like the new look but yeah, I see what you’re talking about with the go button. However I never use it, I always just punch in enter into my keyboard.

  8. Jem said:

    Am I blind or has your comment been deleted off that website?

    No – it must be in moderation. There was no note to that effect though so I’d assumed they had moderation disabled.

  9. nerd. said:

    I must disagree. First, I LOVE the new address bar, features and looks. The search is amazing, but I like seeing both the title and URL (and favicon) in the drop-down list.

    And there is visual indication you’ve got a secure site in the address bar – the background to your favicon turns blue (though I don’t know if your oldbar plugin undoes this change).

    See my review for more details.

  10. Hayley said:

    Hey Jem!
    I am so going to download the new FF!
    I don’t use Firefox that often as most of the sites I visit don’t work in FF so it’s just a waste of time but if I’m only coming on the computer to visit my site and a few other sites that do work in FF I use it, oh and if I’m going to submit to get reviewed somewhere I check there site works in it as if they don’t work in FF they can’t really review my site knowing what there talking about and actuall give me constructive critisim (sp?)

  11. Shari said:

    I hated the new look of the address bar too, but I think I’ve gotten comfortable with it so much that I’m already taking advantage of the feature. Major gripe also is, yes, the “Go” button. My first reaction was, “It’s gone!” but then realized that I had to type something up for it to appear…which is pretty much annoying for me because [insert same reason as yours].

    I like the Downloads Manager now that it offers more info (read: one), but I can’t say the same for its new look. Add-ons Manager is pretty nifty too, come to think of it.

    Re: Flash, for the “most” part, is really just a plugin required some websites. Not to have it is “life-threatening” for addicted internet users like myself. I don’t have much choice now, do I?

    And thanks for the 3rd tweak. Didn’t know about that. :)

  12. Mumblies said:

    Well, although all that technical stuff goes way over my head I installed it, and it works fine for my needs :) Besides, Jem says I must use FF.

  13. Jem said:

    @nerd: The favicon part does turn blue even with oldbar installed, but that’s not enough visually to reassure me. It’s unnoticeable.. so much so that if you hadn’t told me about it, I would not had known. The yellow bar on the other hand, I noticed without even having to look up.

  14. Vanesa said:

    Oh my gosh, I didn’t notice the go button was gone. 0_o I’m just so used to pushing “enter” that when it was mentioned, I looked up and it was gone.

    The only bad things I don’t like is that some pretty themes aren’t updated yet for FF3, and how the new address bar works annoys me. In my opinion, there should be some sort of option to turn it off.

  15. Melinda said:

    Thanks for the config stuff! I’ve always been too intimidated by it to play around with it in case my Firefox dies :P.

    IMO I love the new FF, but the look of it I don’t like, especially as my favourite themes haven’t been updated (yet?), so I ended up using the oldbar extension.

  16. Julie said:

    I haven’t even downloaded it…I’ll need to check which extensions work with it!

    And thanks for the about:config stuff, some of it will surely be useful when I come around to installing it.

  17. nerd. said:

    Jem, I think the idea is to push the EV certificates. I’m sure you’ll agree the green bar and company name is quite noticable) possibly moreso than turning the whole address bar yellow?)

    I don’t know how much more secure they are but it seems to be something both IE and Firefox are pushing, although from what I gather this could be to the detriment of smaller companies who can’t afford the extra cost of an EV certificate. Nevertheless I think it’s in the name of security that they want to highlight the EV connections over ‘bog-standard’ SSL.

  18. nerd. said:

    by the way, sorry for going OT but how to I get a funky wee picture beside by name? I don’t see a register link anywhere and am getting a bit jealous (I like your site and can see myself being back on at least a semi-regular basis).

  19. Cel said:

    I was fairly upset at first with FF3 ditching the nice shiny, er, white look for a more grey metally look, but I’m over it now.

    It’s still kind of odd looking at the new top bar, but I love it. ^^ My only issue is that I can’t use the bookmark manager to view the contents of two folders at once (or I haven’t figured out to, yet). But it’s mostly easier to use. ^^ Unsorted bookmark section!

    The little favicon area is nice. But I can’t find the ‘Go’ button…I mean, I know it’s not labeled anymore, but where is it? That star thing?…nope.

  20. Phil said:

    I do frequently right-click paste URLs into the address bar

    :-o The cracks start to show, Jem isn’t as 1337 as we all think!

    I myself haven’t used right-click paste since 2004.

    I haven’t downloaded FF3 yet, I need FF2 for testing. Of course, with this quick update, I’ll need FF3 for testing too, so I’ll have to figure out a way of dealing with it.

  21. Jeremy G. said:

    I tried the beta of Firefox 3, and the speed increase alone is worth the upgrade! Thanks for review of some of the more in-depth features, will definitely be checking them out.

  22. Jem said:

    @Kaia: thanks for the link, I’ll get right on that one :D

    @nerd: I’ve got no problem with them pushing the new security certificates, but I can’t think of any technical reason why they’d have to turn off the yellow bar to do it.

    Oh, and the little pictures are courtesy of gravatar.com – you plug in the email address that you use to comment and the picture of your choice and it automatically adds it to gravatar enabled sites. :)

    @Phil: the majority of the time I CTRL+V but I still click in the address bar so my mouse is up there waiting for the click. Thinking about it, Firefox is probably the only program in which I don’t tab around/use the keyboard solely like I would normally.. I wonder why that is!

  23. Vera said:

    There’s an extension for the old webbar? Great! As soon as I get home I’m installing it! I hate this new bar. :(

    Aside that, I have noticed a slight increase, on Youtube especially… the rest of the sites load the same.

  24. Ashley said:

    @Jem: You can use Ctrl + L by default to go up to the address bar without having to click up there :)

    Ctrl + K takes you to the search engine bar also :D

  25. Jem said:

    Thanks Ashley – I already know *how* to get around though, I just don’t tend to. Like I said above, I don’t know why :|

  26. Jenny said:

    I’m gonna wait until my FF tells me to update and all that jazz. I’m picky and anal and paranoid all at the same time when it comes to upgrading or updating anything.

  27. Chans said:

    I only got it today, after reading some posts about it (including yours). Not because I wanted to wait until I found out what others think of it. But because I have been hiding under a rock lately and didn’t even know it was about.

    So far so good, although I have to get used to it a bit. I particularly love the easy way to add bookmarks.

  28. Shelley said:

    I have downloaded the new firefox and it seems really great. But I am annoyed that I still can’t get rid of the bug I have that causes firefox to not be able to use the copy-and-paste function. It doesn’t work with any version I have.
    I searched google and a lot of other people seem to have the problem but can’t fix it =/

  29. Nick Barrett said:

    I love Firefox3, and have been using it since the first Beta. When I was using FF2, it crashed quite often (I have a minimum of 20 tabs, up to about 100 at times 0_o), but FF3 has yet to fail! I also love the new address bar, very useful once you’re used to it!

  30. Julie said:

    Do you have any kind of fix for the problem where I have to actually right click on the backpage arrow and select the page I want to go to because hitting the back arrow and also hitting backspace no longer takes me back to the previous page???

    It’s very frustrating.

  31. Mari said:

    Now if only I could remember my old tweaks like “GET RID OF THAT GODAWFUL POPUP ON DOWNLOAD COMPLETE!” and such. Thank you for posting your chosen tweaks, because the huge tabs were annoying the crap out of me.

  32. Nancy Eddy said:

    Has anyone else found that you’re getting a little white box beneath your mouse cursor when you’re on a FF page – and that if you mouse over a link with text or a photo that has information, that little box expands to show you the text. That’s all good — *but* whatever is in that little box *stays* there until you close Firefox, no matter what page I go to! It’s very annoying.

    Other than that, except for a few add ons and themes that haven’t been updated for 3 (and I think some of those might be in the queue to be looked at and vetted), I like 3. And I wasn’t sure that I would.

  33. Dever said:

    Thanks for the reminder (had the prefetch switched off in FF2 but forgot about it in FF3).
    I like the new zoom (CTRL + +) feature that zooms the entire page (not just the text).

  34. Jodi Cheselka said:

    Hannah, I have experienced the same location bar bug twice now. The return key doesn’t work and there’s no go button. In order to get where I want to go I have to save it as a bookmark. The first time it happened I had to reinstall FF. Hmmm.

  35. Tyrus said:

    It seems to be getting faster because it does not have a memory. Partially good partially not. I mean I used to manualy change tabs but would use CTRL-Tab when the graphical interface was not responding. 5-10 minutes later it would jump to where I have clicked…. and go through the alt tabs that I had done.

    And it does not seem so stuck anymore……

    Those were the good improvements.
    The negative ones (are there tweeks to bring back this functionality

    1. Hitting the backspace 5 times used to take me back 5 pages. Now I must reload each page before I can hit the back button again. Ok it works again once the page starts to load.
    2. Recent dropdown. By combining the two they have reduced how many I can go back at once. :(
    3. it’ll come to me again when I hit submit

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