Since the release candidate of Firefox 0.9 is out, I’ll go through what is new in this version. There’s actually quite a bit that has changed, mainly because of the new theme.
The installer hasn’t really changed much, other than it now asks you where you would like icons installed to instead of shoving them on the desktop, quick launch bar and start menu without your permission, and that it takes a little longer to start due to the LZMA compression. But then it does mean that this 0.9 candidate is only a 4.7MB download. And that includes Talkback. Impressive.
When you launch Firefox for the first time, you’ll see something like this. Unless you already had an old version installed but I’ll come to that later. First thing to notice is the new theme, Winstripe. When I first saw the screenshots I turned my nose up at it, but having actually used it I’ve warmed to it a bit. That said, I think djst’s suggestions are worth taking into consideration. You also have to remember that this theme is likely to evolve before version 1.0, which is still at least a couple of months away. There’s also an optional new ‘Mail’ icon for the toolbar that mimics IE’s Mail icon, letting you read new mail and compose messages from Firefox. One bug I noticed is that if you don’t allow the tab bar to be hidden when only one tab is open (not the deafult behaviour) then when you open a second tab the tab bar gets a few pixels larger.
Next is the Bookmark Manager, which also acquires the new theme. Nothing particularly interesting to report here, other than that for some reason the order my bookmarks appear in here was different to their actual order. Probably a bug.
On to the Options dialog, which has had a few changes. Firstly, the new theme, and this is where you can really see Winstripe’s Mac OS X heritage. You’ll also notice that ‘Extensions’ and ‘Themes’ have gone – more on this later, but their absence makes the dialog feel less cluttered as a result. The other tabs have only changed slightly, with a bit of re-ordering on the ‘General’ tab (you can now stop Firefox from being the default browser) and these new options on the ‘Advanced’ tab which work with the new Extension Manager. They should also let you keep Firefox up-to-date more easily.
While we’re on the subject of context menus, you can now right-click on an image and copy it to the clipboard (Windows and Mac). This is another IE feature that Firefox was missing. Previously you would have to save the image, open it in a graphics viewer and then copy it.
The ‘Set As Wallpaper’ function has also been improved – now, instead of instantly setting the image, this dialog is shown which lets you decide whether you want it tiled, centered or stretched. You can also changed the desktop colour, so if you’re centering the image it can have a matching background colour. This dialog also prevents accidental setting of images as your desktop, particularly useful if you browse sites with a lot of risqué images 🙂 .
I mentioned earlier about what would happen if you had an older version of Firefox installed, and here’s what you would get – the Import Wizard. In 0.9, your profile settings are stored in a new location, and the import wizard will appear to allow you to move your settings over to it.
However, if you savaged your old profile before upgrading (like I did) or are new to Firefox, you can still use the Import Wizard to transfer settings from another browser, of which many are supported – it’s on the File menu. I’m unsure if Opera and NS4.x are fully supported yet – I have Opera 7.5 on here and it wasn’t picked up by the wizard. It can import an impressive amount of user data from IE, so you IE users have even more reason to switch.
Over to the Tools menu, which is the only menu to really see a lot of changes. Web Search doesn’t really do that much, other than transfering focus to the search box at the top. Downloads launches the Download Manager that was introduced in 0.8, and Themes and Extensions now get their own dialogs away from the Options dialog.
We’ll look at the Download Manager first. Functionally this is the same as 0.8, but it now has the new theme (and doesn’t have the single fingered salute, sorry, download icon as a background). One other feature worth pointing out are the icons. Once a program has finished downloading, its own icon appears in the dialog, instead of the generic program icon. Secondly, Firefox now includes document icons for files that are associated with it instead of using the program icon.
The Extension Manager is brand new for this release. It allows for all extensions to be uninstalled and updated from a new central repository. The icons let enable or disable extensions, or view more information about them. I haven’t really had chance to test this is the repository isn’t running yet and there aren’t many extensions available – all extensions have to be repackaged for this release otherwise they won’t work (although there is an extension that lets you install legacy extensions).
The Theme Manager is also new, and works in the same way as the Extension manager, except it works with themes instead (as you’d expect). Again, I haven’t had the chance to install any other themes, but you can uninstall and update any you have installed.
And that concludes our tour. Other new features include:
- An installer for the Linux GTK builds
- Talkback, which lets you report crashes (you can disable it if you choose a custom install, but please don’t)
- A warning dialog when closing a window with multiple tabs (Mozilla and Tabbrowser Extensions already had this)
- Deletion of auto-complete results, by pressing Shift+Delete – another feature borrowed from IE
- New ‘Add a keyword for this search’ feature in text-boxes – if a site has a search function, you can use this to allow searches from the address bar
- A 3% increase in general speed
Jesse Ruderman has this full list of new features including those on the technical side. One feature that I was expecting that isn’t here is Help – the only items on the Help menu are ‘About’ and ‘Release Notes’.