Firefox 3: Impressions, Issues, and Verdict

Software / Open Source Tech News Tech Reviews Web 2.0

It’s been nearly a week since I installed Firefox 3. And though the end result is largely positive, the process wasn’t free of complications. As I’ve discussed before, sure enough, my major issues revolved around the Firefox catch-22: extensions.

The first issue is that Firefox 3 doesn’t check to see if your existing extensions (from Firefox 2) are compatible until after it’s installed. It installs itself, replaces your working copy of Firefox 2, and then basically says, “oh, by the way, here’s a list of extensions you were using that won’t work now.” How hard would it be for Firefox to give you that list before it’s overwritten your working copy of Firefox 2?

In my case, my favorite theme was not compatible (Blue Ice) along with half a dozen extensions I use daily: copy plain text, delicious complete, dictionary tooltip (this is the extension I found so useful, I paid for it), AVG safe search, and Google pagerank status, to name a few.

Leaving that problem aside for a moment, I also realized that my bookmarks did not transfer properly. How frustrating. After some searching, I found the problem to be that Firefox 3 does not import your bookmarks from Firefox 2 if, at anytime in the past, you used the Firefox 3 beta. So since I tried the Firefox 3 beta back in January for two days, it meant a big headache for me now.

For a moment, I was frustrated enough to go back to Firefox 2. But once I found the fix for my bookmarks problem, I decided to look through the available extensions for Firefox 3 in hopes to find some that might be able to replace the ones I was used to having in Firefox 2. This is where the good news finally came.

I was able to find extensions that had the same or better functionality than all but two of my previous extensions. The two in question are copy plain text (makes it so that any text copied from within Firefox is stripped of its formatting) and dictionary tooltip. Luckily dictionary tooltip released a new version a few days after I installed Firefox 3. So that leaves me, as of now, with only one piece of missing functionality.

As for not having my favorite theme, I’m actually impressed enough with the default Firefox 3 theme that it doesn’t bother me. As I’ve said before, Firefox is my browser of choice mostly via its extensions. But when I have to take two steps backward (broken extensions) before taking one step forward (new features), I’m disappointed. Luckily, this time around it feels its only one step backward and dozens of steps forward.

This version of Firefox is much faster. While Firefox 2 would lock up on me a couple times a week with even more occurrences of slow downs, Firefox 3 has not locked up or slowed down on me once! And that’s even with instances of 30+ tabs open and the browser not being closed for days at a time. In fact, new benchmarks out today confirm that Firefox 3’s performance is better than pretty much all other popular browsers.

Huge improvements were also made to the address bar (now called the “awesome” bar), which allow you to type in practically anything (not just an official web address) while it tries to read your mind based on your recent browsing activity and bookmarks. Speaking of bookmarks, the system is much more easy to use and organize.

Other little improvements are nice too, like the way you can browse for new extensions from within the browser itself. And when the browser asks if you want to save a password, it’s not obtrusive like it used to be (used to be a popup you had to answer before you could do anything, now it’s an out of the way drop down question that doesn’t get in the way of browsing).

Overall, I’m hooked. This is the best browser I’ve used to date. If only the initial upgrade process were better…

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