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Firefox Turns 3

It wasn't until I'd finished today's review of Mozilla Firefox 3 that I realized one of my favorite features could help me not just personally, but professionally.

That would be its smart auto-complete function, which remembers not just pages' addresses but also their titles. As the author of a blog that shares a blog.washingtonpost.com address with dozens of other blogs--and therefore can be difficult to reach with traditional address auto-complete features--my stuff will be much easier to read when people can start to type "Faster Forward" and have Firefox 3 whisk them here.

That same feature might also let people get to my print stories quicker by typing my last name... except that, as a look at my junk mail confirms, nobody knows how to spell it.

Today's column goes into plenty of detail about what I like, and the few things I don't like, in the new browser, as well as how it compares to earlier Firefox releases. (For your reference, here's my review of Firefox 1.0, which features what's still one of my favorite lead sentences ever.) But here are some details that I couldn't fit into the print edition:

* Firefox 3's password manager is much more polite about offering to remember Web passwords. It doesn't ask you if you'd like to save your password until after you've logged into a site, and then does so in an unobtrusive strip atop the browser window, not a pop-up dialog.

* It lets you register Web services as helper applications--in other words, you can tell it hand an e-mail link off to Yahoo Mail, not just a separate mail program like Outlook or Thunderbird. (Setting Firefox 3 to use Gmail takes some extra work.)

* Its interface for adding extensions is much simpler to navigate than in earlier releases; you can search for and install new ones without leaving its Add-ons window.

To answer the perhaps-inevitable "But this other browser is better" replies:

* I couldn't rank Safari 3.1 for Windows over Firefox because it doesn't offer a safeguard against hostile sites to compare with Firefox's blacklist (it doesn't on a Mac either, but the risk is so much lower there). Safari for Windows also continues to fit extremely poorly with Windows itself--while on a Mac, of course, it pairs up perfectly and offers some convenient OS X-only features, such as the ability to generatee a "Web clip" Dashboard widget from part of any Web page.

* As for Opera, the new Opera 9.5 release does bring further, welcome simplifications to its user interface--this browser has made immense advances over the last five years. But its interface designers still have editing left to do. For example, when you right-click on a link, you get "Open in new tab" and "Open in background tab" commands--other browsers only provide one "open in new tab" command, which sensibly opens that new tab in the background instead of shifting your focus to it immediately.

* If you're wondering what I think of Internet Explorer 7, have a look at the comparison of that browser and Firefox 2 I wrote in October of 2006.

How's Firefox 3 working out for you? Share your experiences in the comments...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 19, 2008; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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