I’m testing out Bon Echo Alpha 3 on my laptop. It’s an alpha build of what will eventually make up Firefox 2.0, and is essentially feature-complete.
I’m not going to do an in-depth review (I might do when the beta builds come out, but not yet), but the progress that has been made over Firefox 1.5 is noticeable and welcome. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
- In-line spell-checking – this will be familiar to those of you who have used Spellbound Development. Firefox will now highlight mis-spelled words in textboxes, so you can spell-check your blog entries or emails.
- Tab improvements – all tabs now have a close button in them, which makes them a lot easier to use.
- Add-ons Manager – the Extensions and Themes managers have been merged into a single dialogue with tabs, and the layout has been changed a bit to make it easier to use. After installing an extension a ‘Restart Firefox’ button appears to aid restarts of the browser, and there’s an ‘Install’ button to install extensions from XPI files that have already been downloaded (at long last).
- Search improvements – the search box now displays in grey text the name of the selected search engine when you haven’t typed anything in, and the icon to click to change the provider has been separated. There’s also a ‘manage search engine’ dialogue for changing their order or deleting unwanted search engines.
- Feed improvements – clicking the orange Feed icon now displays the feed (all nicely-formatted, no raw XML) and allows you to add it to services outside of Firefox, so you’re no longer limited to using its Live Bookmarks feature. It supported both online services like Bloglines and Google Reader as well as desktop applications – it found SharpReader automatically on my machine.
- Anti-Phishing Filter – Firefox now pops up a prominent warning if the site is a known phishing site.
There’s more to it than what I’ve written here, and some of the new features are hidden away or can only be taken advantage of by extensions. Talking of which, if you were to try this alpha build you would find that most of your extensions would be incompatible – on my machine, only BugMeNot, SiteAdvisor and Nightly Tester Tools worked, however the latter can be used to make other extensions work.
That said, I was also able to uninstall four extensions – Search Engine Ordering, Spellbound, FeedView and LiveLines – since their functionality is now included in the core build. As for my other extensions, after using Nightly Tester Tools they all seem to work again correctly.