Firefox 3 Beta 5 for Mac OS X Review

By Mike on 9:34 am

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There's a lot of buzz over Mozilla's latest web browser, Firefox 3. Chances are that you've used Firefox in the past. I first started using it around 2003 as an alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer and I now use it exclusively on all my systems. Firefox is an open source browser that came out of the ashes of the old Netscape browser. If you had the internet before 1998, you probably used Netscape too. A lot of people adopted Firefox, mostly out of spite for Microsoft's IE6, which was infamous for it's swiss cheese security. Aside from being more secure, Firefox also introduced some features like tabbed browsing, which is now common. It currently has just under 18% market share for internet browsers, which is a considerable feat for an open source product.

Firefox 3.0 is currently in beta stage. The current version is 3.0 Beta 5. As it stands, the beta is pretty much finished and ready to be released as is. Firefox is cross platfrom and there have already been reviews of 3.0 for Windows and Linux, but not to many for OS X. First note is that Firefox 3.0 will only run on OS X 10.4 Tiger or higher. For this review, I'm running OS X 10.5 Leopard. One of the first things you notices is that the interface has been completely redesigned and is now more modern looking on all versions. The OS X version sports a full Aqua interface similar to the one used on Safari. It simply looks a whole lot nicer. When entering web addresses, it will now make fill in addresses of sites you visited in the past, as well as from your book marks. The latter being new. The search tool and RSS interfaces have remained the same. One problem I noticed with the Beta interface was that the forward/back buttons weren't on the tool bar by default. Being frequently used, they should have been. The book marks menu has essentially stayed the same though the way it organizes them is a little different. It used hierarchical folders similar to Safari, but I found the design here to be rather clumsy.

Performance has also improved. Firefox 2 was infamous for memory leaks. That's when a program uses memory inefficiently and starts consuming more RAM than it should. This has been tightened up. Firefox is currently using 76mb with three tabs open to Blogger, Wikipedia, and Macworld. This still seems like a lot but it's better than it was, and it will not start consuming more the longer the program runs. These performance improvements also resulted in lower rendering times for web pages, so pages will seem to load faster. Despite performance improvements, I've had the browser crash on me a couple of times. I'm running an older Mac with a PowerPC processor but I'm not sure if it runs better on Intel ones. The Windows version is more stable.

Overall, Firefox 3.0 Beta 5 offers a few nice improvements and the performance increase is nice. There still are some lingering problems though. We have to remember that this is a Beta version so hopefully these will be fixed when the final version is released in June.

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