Mozilla has released a third beta version of Firefox 3, bringing about 1,300 changes to the widely used open-source Web browser.
Firefox 3 Beta 3 should be more stable, perform faster, use memory more efficiently, and fit in better on various operating systems than its predecessors, Mozilla said.
Having tried the new version out for a while this morning, my top impression hasn't changed since beta 2: the best thing about the new version is faster performance. Pages load faster.
Other improvements, according to the Firefox 3 release notes, include a better tool for seeing who owns a Web site; better protection against sites known to install viruses, spyware, or other malicious software; the plugging of 350 memory leaks that previously could waste more and more computer memory; the ability to locate downloaded files; a better tool to find and install plug-ins; and
The new Firefox beta can be downloaded from the Mozilla Web site, including versions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux localized for several languages.
The new--the latter having been a point of some contention earlier given some technical difficulties. Also interesting from an interface standpoint and giving the beta a new look is the use of vector graphics for elements such as the back arrow and reload button.
I like Firefox 3's new location bar drop-down feature, in which Firefox presents various sites I've visited or bookmarked. For example, typing "can" retrieves a list that includes various Canon Web sites I've visited as well as Icanhascheezburger.com. (Alas, though, everyone's favorite LOLcats site seems to have a rendering problem with the new browser in the form of 10 "favorite" buttons.)
Beta 3 apparently improves the "frecency" formula that selects what to display in the drop-down list based on how frequently and recently you visited the sites. My only beef with the location bar drop-down so far is that it's a visually chaotic jumble of URLs, favicons, and titles in different fonts and colors.
Coincidentally, I was able to give the new Firefox 3 beta a short stress test, and it fared much better than its predecessor.
I found a misbehaving Flash ad Tuesday that made Firefox 2 chew up about 98 percent of my CPU power and thereby caused my system--especially Firefox--to slow to a crawl. Today, I found that same ad on another Web site while trying the Firefox 3 beta, and although it, too, maxed out my CPU, Firefox now was usable, though sluggish.
There are some reasons I won't be moving full time to the new beta, though.
Unsurprisingly, given warnings in the release notes, several plug-ins I use still aren't compatible: Foxmarks, del.icio.us, Fotofox, and FireFTP. And Yahoo Mail only can be used in its older classic mode for me.
For the Yahoo Mail problem, there's some hope: Mozilla is waiting on Yahoo for a bug fix for the mail site, and the Firefox release notes now offer a less pessimistic warning that the newer Yahoo Mail interface "may not work for all users right away."
The release notes also warn that Windows Live Mail doesn't work; a plug-in must be installed to play Windows Media Player content on Windows; Firefox often will stop responding to keystrokes when using Google Documents on Mac OS X; and printing is broken on many versions of Linux.