The first month with Firefox 3.0 – a hands on review
written by craig, 20 July 2008
Firefox 3.0 has been out for around a month, and 3.0.1 has already been released. Many existing users have already made the upgrade, and I’m sure some die-hard IE users have switched following all the hype. But does Firefox 3 live up to expectations? Is it a worthy successor to the excellent Firefox 2?
Firefox downloads and installs just as quickly as before. I choose the uninstall Firefox 2 first, but I’m sure that I’d have had no problems had I not done so.
My first installation was not a resounding success. I suffered several crashes and slow operation (20-30 seconds to close a tab). I’m not totally sure what the problem was, but I suspect it was a weird conflict caused by installing several extensions at once. Anyway, a full reinstall did resolve the issue.
I can’t claim to have run accurate benchmarks, but Firefox 3 certainly feels more responsive. Pages are rendered quickly and I rarely experience slow operation. It definitely starts quicker too: perhaps not as fast as IE or Opera, but a cold start is not as slow as Firefox 2. Warm starts are almost instantaneous, so no complaints there.
Despite Mozilla’s claims, Firefox 3 still uses a fair amount of memory. But, it’s less than Firefox 2, and you can see memory reducing after closing tabs.
Firefox 3 has been improved in most areas. Many of them are unlikely to be noticed by the majority of users, but it all adds up to a better overall experience.
Probably the biggest new feature is the ‘awesome bar’. It’s a little difficult to explain unless you’ve seen it but, in a nutshell, typing in the main address bar shows appropriate bookmarks and history items. It hasn’t changed my browsing life, but it is useful.
I especially like the bookmark star icon in the address bar. It allows you to bookmark a site in a single-click and shows whether it’s already bookmarked. That saves me having to wade through the thousands of sites I’ve collated during the past 12 years.
Bookmarks organisation has been tidied up. Searching is fast, but I wish it showed which folder a bookmark was saved in or offered a shortcut to it. I used to use the ‘Locate in bookmarks’ extension, but it’s not available in Firefox 3. A couple of alternatives exist, but they’re not stable and I couldn’t install them. Even so, it’s something that should be in the main application.
It’s faster, no question. However, there are a few quirks I’ve noticed…
- Under certain conditions (which I’ve yet to work out) floating an item without setting a width will make that element use the minimum space possible – even if the parent has plenty of space available. It can cause text to wrap after the first word, which is not helpful. It could be that Mozilla are following strict W3C rules, but it didn’t occur in Firefox 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 and nor does it happen in IE or Opera.
- Making a text item transparent appears to remove the anti-aliasing. It only seems to be noticeable on Windows with standard font smoothing (not ClearType), but you can see it occurring on the quote text next to my logo at the top of this page. Refresh the page, and the text looks smooth until the first fade out. Again, this didn’t seem to occur in previous versions of Firefox?
Is it worth the upgrade?
Unless there’s an essential Firefox 2-only extension you need, there’s no doubt you should upgrade to Firefox 3. It may not be as compelling an upgrade as previous versions and few users will notice many improvements; however, that’s primarily because Firefox is already the best browser available.