Tuesday, April 8, 2008

First Looks - Firefox 3 Beta 5 Review

Firefox 3 Beta 5 screenshot
Firefox 3 Beta 5 download

Well, I resisted the urge to download the Firefox 3 Beta 5 release as long as I could. I downloaded it a few days ago, and have been using it since. Before you jump over to the download link to get it, read the rest of this review - a few things are missing and, despite the fact that the release notes stated that it would not overwrite my existing Firefox 2, it did - well, sort of, more on that later.

Most of the good stuff you've heard about this major update is true. It's very fast, handles memory well, and has a new interface look with lots of screen real estate left over for content. I found it to be considerably faster than Opera, which has been my primary browser for quite some time. The navigation toolbar has been redesigned, and they've left in the essentials while squeezing it down to a slender size.

Rendering was excellent. I saw only a few glitches, mainly some "jumpiness" while loading certain sites. But this only happened during loading, and the rendered pages looked fabulous. And did I mention that it's fast?

Now for the bad news (that's why this is still beta software). There's an import feature to import IE and Opera bookmarks, but it didn't work for me. Both import functions created folders, labeled "From IE" and "From Opera", but both were empty This feature never worked on my Firefox version 2, either. I really hope they fix this, as I would like to migrate from Opera to Firefox 3 when the finished version comes out. The other major bugaboo I found is that bookmark folders can only be created to a depth of one level.

As I mentioned earlier, the release notes state that the Beta will not overwrite your existing Firefox. The installation did install the Beta into a different folder than my existing Firefox 2. But it updated all of my shortcuts (start menu, desktop, task tray) to launch the Beta version. So I was left navigating to the Firefox 2 executable file to run it. In addition to this, if you launch the Firefox 2 executable while the Beta version is running, you get another window with the Beta version, not version 2. Browser schizophrenia!! Needless to say, writing this review was loads of fun, since I could not have both versions running at the same time for comparison.

The Bottom Line...

Not quite ready for Prime Time, but... If Firefox 2 is your primary browser, I would not recommend installing this yet. The missing features plus the hassle over which version is running would leave you worse off than when you started. However, if you just occasionally use Firefox 2, I would go ahead and try it out. It is fast - very fast. And the extra screen real estate is nice, too. You can download it here > Firefox 3 Beta 5 download.

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