One obvious change is the Smart Location Bar (aka "awesome bar"). As you type in a URL, the awesome bar searches through your history and bookmarks and presents a drop-down list of recently accessed pages with that same keyword. It works even if you already know the URL. Some people have found it to be annoying, so there is a way to disable it requiring a small tweak to the about:config file. An Add-On further allows you to learn which of the search results you want to always be on top.
Immediately after the URL and just before the RSS icon is the new Star icon. Click it once to store the page's URL as a bookmark; click it twice to assign the bookmark to a new or existing folder. You can also give it tags: short keywords to help when searching through your bookmarks. Use the new Library feature to create and store searches.
Also new is Full Page Zoom. Unlike Opera, Firefox hides the Zoom feature within the View toolbar option and doesn't increment: just big or small. Hopefully Mozilla will refine this feature in Firefox 4.
Enhancements within Firefox 3 include changes to the Add-Ons manager. Now Firefox presents a list of popular Add-Ons without redirecting your browser to a Web page. From the manager you can install the recommended Add-Ons directly. There is still a link to the addons.mozilla.org page where you can find more than 5,000 add-ons written for Firefox.
Another enhancement is within the Download Manager. Mozilla has added search and improved the ability to start and resume downloads.
There are also numerous security features such as Malware and Phishing protection, Instant Web site ID, support for the Extended Validation Secure Socket Layer (EV SSL), enhancements to the Password manager, and greater security for Add-Ons.
As for performance, Firefox 3 does significantly reduce the amount of system resources used when compared with Firefox 2. That alone makes Firefox 3 a worthy upgrade. Throughout our informal testing at CNET, Firefox 3 has been stable enough for day-to-day office use since Beta 5. Although there have been some minor, intermittent glitches when accessing Google-related pages, those problems appear to have been addressed in the final release. The performance, features, and security make Firefox 3 stand out as the best Internet browser available today.
But wait, there's more. Following Firefox 3 comes early word of Firefox 3.1. Features expected within the next incremental release include tab previews and autocomplete for tagging bookmarks. An Alpha for Firefox 3.1 is expected to be available sometime in July 2008.