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Firefox 2.0 RC2 Review 319

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new dept.
segphault writes "Ars Technica has a comprehensive review of Firefox 2.0 RC2. It includes screenshot comparisons that illuminate the user interface changes that have transpired since the second beta, and it examines the similarities between the browser tab implementation from Internet Explorer 7 and the new tab management features in RC2. From the article: 'If RC2 is any indication, Firefox 2.0 is an incremental improvement of the 1.5.x series with performance improvements and a handful of relatively useful features. Based on my own experience, I consider it stable enough for regular use, but I endorse caution for users that rely on a lot of extensions, as most extensions aren't yet compatible with Firefox 2.0.'"
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Firefox 2.0 RC2 Review

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  • Solid, but no biggie (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:45PM (#16372109) Homepage Journal
    I've been using the Firefox 2 betas and RCs since beta 1. It is, overall, better than 1.5, but there's no "gee whiz!" factor this time through. (Though I'll admit inline spell-checking is quite nice!)

    Of course, as a web developer, I'm really looking forward to Firefox 3, which will be built on Gecko 1.9 and should have some good improvements to the rendering engine. (Firefox 2 jumps from Gecko 1.8 to 1.8.1 -- minor changes only.)

    Oh, yeah, on the extensions issue -- admittedly I don't use very many, but most of the ones I rely on have been updated by now. At this point I'm mainly waiting for the HTML Tidy-based validator.
  • by SilentGhost (964190) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:47PM (#16372131) Journal
    out of ten most popular themes only 3 compatible with coming 2.0.* line, including one claiming up to 3rd version compatibility. of course change of default theme can make a difference for new users, but i bet majority of existing users would prefer they shiny thingy in place.
  • Almost ready.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:48PM (#16372149)
    After upgrading to V2 RC2, its working pretty good so far. Session restore is pretty handy (now I can install new extensions, restart the browser and start from whereever I had left), and tab management is pretty good too.

    Though there are some bugs - esp the toolbar customization needs to be looked at. My V1.5 toolbar customization is not sitting well with RC2 - esp the Search Engine. Its hogging all the screen from left to right, and I had to move it to its own bar (previously, it was sitting with Google Toolbar).

    And of course, better memory management was a welcome change.

    All extensions except on worked fine (had to disable extension compatibility check for Greasemonkey, and it worked perfectly fine).
  • by arielCo (995647) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:53PM (#16372211)
    Well, I use a lot of invasive extensions, and I only lost Session Manager, which is unsurprising since Fx now includes a similar feature and they would probably step on each others' toes. Survivors:
    • Adblock Plus
    • Video Downloader
    • Inspect this
    • IE Tab
    • IE View Lite
    • JS View
    • EditCSS
    • GMarks
    • Google Notebook
    • Sage RSS Reader
    All in all, I agree that this is mostly an incremental upgrade, and it is somewhat faster, but I'm not sure it deserves the new major version. Several tiny UI bugs didn't get fixed.
  • by Black Acid (219707) on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:54PM (#16372233)
    Probably the most interesting features to programmers are the addition of the SQLite engine [mozilla.org], and significant JavaScript enhancements [mozilla.org] heavily borrowed from Perl and Python. You can use generators (yield statement), Pythonic iterators, array comprehensions, and what the Mozilla people call "destructuring assignment". Some examples from the article for the curious:

    /* Destructuring assignment example - swap two values */
    [a, b] = [b, a];
     
    /* You can return multiple values from functions now */
    function f() { return [1, 2, 3]; }
    var [a, , b] = f();
    document.write ("A is " + a + " B is " + b + "<BR>\n");
     
    /* Easier fibonacci sequences with generators */
    function fib() {
      var i = 0, j = 1;
      while (true) {
        yield i;
        var t = i; i = j; j += t;
      }
    }
     
    /* Array comprehensions */
    var evens = [i for (i in range(0, 21)) if (i % 2 == 0)];
     
    /* New scoping semantics with 'let' expression/definition/declaration */
    if (x > y)
    {
      let const k = 37;
      let gamma : int = 12.7 + k;
      let i = 10;
      let function f(n) { return (n/3)+k; }
      return f(gamma) + f(i);
    }

    Good stuff.
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Monday October 09, 2006 @06:57PM (#16372259) Homepage Journal
    Yes and no.

    Because there is no big fat memory leak. There are a whole bunch of little ones that add up. They've fixed a lot of them. They fixed a bunch of 'em in the 1.5.0.x series, and a bunch more in 2.0.

    I doubt they've got everything, but 2.0 should have less of a memory problem than 1.5.
  • Re:Why ActiveX? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:06PM (#16372367) Homepage Journal
    ActiveX is a Microsoft technology. Even Microsoft is trying to get away for the security holes they've created with that.

    ActiveX [wikipedia.org] is just an implementation of OLE and COM via the Internet Explorer browser. Anyone is able to write an interface that supports ActiveX controls. The idea that they are inherently insecure is an oft-proclaimed falsehood on Slashdot. IE's implementation has had problems, but that's not the same thing as the technology behind it.

    ActiveX : Internet Explorer :: Extensions : Firefox

    It all comes down to implementation of the interactive extension to the browser.

    Sometimes, security means not implementing something if it cannot be implemented securely.

    That is true enough, although the problem is usually between the chair and keyboard. The biggest problem with ActiveX, and the way it got it's bad reputation is users who click 'Yes' to everything. Give Firefox enough market share and it will become profitable for these malware authors to write extensions that screw a computer/browser the same way ActiveX can.
  • useful tip (Score:5, Informative)

    by vivek7006 (585218) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:08PM (#16372387) Homepage
    I found a really useful tip from the article

    Unfortunately, the green arrow button is difficult to remove from URL bar, but it can be accomplished by hitting about:config and tweaking the browser.urlbar.hideGoButton, changing it to "true."
  • by J053 (673094) <J053&shangri-la,cx> on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:15PM (#16372427) Homepage Journal
    To make your 1.5 extensions and themes work:

    1. Download the .xpi file
    2. Unpack it (it's a ZIP file, really) into a directory
    3. Edit the install.rdf file - find the line with "maxVersion:" and change it to (for example) "3.*"
    4. Replace the install.rdf in the .xpi ZIPfile with your modified one
    5. Install the extension/theme: in Firefox, browse to "file:///wherever-you-put-it/whatever.xpi"
                                                                    in Thunderbird, use the Installer

    I have yet to see an extension for 1.5.x that didn't work with 2.x after doing this
     
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:16PM (#16372441)

    I reported this bug years ago and was told "probably won't happen until 2.0" and the bug was promptly closed/ignored:

    In most modern operating systems, lists in dialog boxes can have a range of items selected by holding down shift, and individual items flipped on/off with a modifier key that varies slightly; in OS X, it's the apple/command key. Open up the cookies box, a place where selecting lots of items would be REALLY handy (ie, deleting all the crap cookies that will expire in "2046"), and try selecting multiple cookies. Bzzzzt, no go. And guess what? In pre-1.5 versions, you COULD do this, so it really WAS a bug/feature delete with 1.5. Now, select one cookie and hit the delete key. NOTHING HAPPENS. Why the hell not?

    If you have partially typed anything in the URL bar and hit tab, half the time you aren't taken to the next text box in the browser window. Similar behavior happens elsewhere, only on a page.

    It gets worse: just like older versions of 1.0/1.5, the current release candidate suffers from "keyboard-go-dead-itis." I've had to close Firefox FOUR times today because I could no longer enter text ANYWHERE. Not in forms, not in the URL bar, not in the search bar. Command keys (ie, apple-T for new tab) stopped working as well (1.5 still does this, though now usually only when Flash is on the page. Why Firefox allows flash to intercept command keystrokes is beyond me.)

    Oh, and I still haven't figured out how to do the resume-where-you-left-off bit, despite having poured through the prefs pages several times.

  • by Noksagt (69097) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:20PM (#16372495) Homepage
    One of my favorite aspects of Firefox 2 is the new features for developers [mozilla.org], including storage with SQLite [mozilla.org]. This enables neat things like the new Zotero [zotero.org] extension, which stores bibliographic data (a'la Endnote, but with automatic recognition of metadata by programs like refbase [sourceforge.net] and on sites like google scholar).
  • Re:Tab changes suck! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dr.Syshalt (702491) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:32PM (#16372611)
    You can disable close widgets. I've figured out there should be the way to do that, checked and here you go

    Go to about:config

    Change the value of browser.tabs.closeButtons

    1 - the usual look
    0 - only the active tab has the close widget
    2 - no close widgets.

    Have fun
  • Nightly Tester Tools (Score:5, Informative)

    by Noksagt (69097) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:32PM (#16372615) Homepage
    If you're too lazy to bump the maxversion of your favorite extensions, you can use the Nightly Tester Tools [blueprintit.co.uk] to fore the app into thinking an extension is compatible.
  • Re:useful tip (Score:3, Informative)

    by hdparm (575302) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:34PM (#16372645) Homepage
    Not sure about 2.0 (I suppose it's the same) but you could always do it by opening View-->Toolbars-->Customize window and dragging 'Go' button back into it.
  • Re:Extensions (Score:4, Informative)

    by saridder (103936) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:44PM (#16372765) Homepage
    Less than half of my extensions worked, but even worse was that my theme didn't work. That made me go back to 1.5. And none of the spell check features in the forms worked either. Loved the "tab remember" feature where you can close the browser and it will remember all the pages you had open in the previous session.
  • by bunratty (545641) on Monday October 09, 2006 @07:56PM (#16372873)
    I'm really tired of leaving up a browser up overnight, and coming in in the morning to find my machine all jammed up because Firefox is sitting on 200+ Meg of memory for a single web page.
    When I leave Firefox overnight, I come back the next day and it's using the same amount of memory as the night before. Even after days of continuous use, it's using only about 100 MB of memory, as all browsers seem to do when I use them for days at a time. If you can show how to reproduce over 200 MB of memory use by having Firefox have a single web page open overnight, please do so. Is it some particular page that causes that memory use?
  • by bunratty (545641) on Monday October 09, 2006 @08:01PM (#16372909)
    It appears that the more common leaks are fixed in Firefox 2 [mozillazine.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @08:08PM (#16372979)
    If you know a priori the full list of ActiveX-dependant websites your users rely on, you could use the IETab extension to solve your ActiveX problem.

    The IETab extension allows Firefox to switch between Gecko and the embedded IE rendering engine for any given tab, which naturally enough has full ActiveX support. The extension also allows you to define a filter of pages that are rendered using embedded IE by default - if you preconfigure filters so that all crucial ActiveX-dependant pages are automatically rendered using embedded IE, your users may never notice.

    The main problem for casual users would likely be the changes in interface (especially right-click menus) between Gecko-rendered tabs and IE-rendered tabs. They might find this quite confusing.
  • Re:Tab changes suck! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MacJedi (173) on Monday October 09, 2006 @08:17PM (#16373041) Homepage
    What about one global close widget?
    You can do it. The parent poster had an incomplete list:

    0 - only the active tab has the close widget
    1 - the usual look (close widgets on each tab)
    2 - no close widgets.
    3 - global close widget (at far right)
  • by mrawl (124150) on Monday October 09, 2006 @08:23PM (#16373089)
    To restore your sanity go to about:config and set browser.tabs.tabMinWidth to 50. The default value of 100 is a disaster and just about guarantees that awful scrolling behaviour.
  • by Augustus De Morgan (619095) on Monday October 09, 2006 @08:58PM (#16373373)
    Firefox 2 includes a critical new underlying database engine--SQLite [sqlite.org]--which enables new kinds of extensions, such as the free, open-source citation manager and digital research tool Zotero [zotero.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @09:13PM (#16373491)
    Umm...you know that the Firefox UI is programmed in XUL+JavaScript, right?
  • by Bob54321 (911744) on Monday October 09, 2006 @10:10PM (#16373843)
    Look for an extension called "Nightly Tester Tools" or something like that (too lazy to google for you). It has a feature alloing you to "force" extensions to install in any version.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @10:48PM (#16374051)
    Are you saying that it's impossible for your browser to grow to more than 100MB? Or that your pattern of usage typically causes the browser to grow only that large?

    Imagine a web page that refreshes itself periodically and uses any of the examples in this bug -- https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=21339 1 [mozilla.org] (Necko/Gecko needs to enforce a maximum for total size of image/memory cache). One of the sample pages can use almost 1GB on its own!
  • by Paradise Pete (33184) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:35PM (#16374315) Journal
    It was using 237MB of memory, but when I closed my other tabs it dropped down to 193MB. Obviously if I closed it and relaunched it on this page it would only be using a fraction of that ram.

    Just because it hasn't released it to the system doesn't mean it won't reuse it internally.

  • by mattcoz (856085) on Monday October 09, 2006 @11:48PM (#16374371)
    From TFA: "The extremely useful Nightly Tester Tools [mozilla.org] extension has an excellent little feature that enables users to circumvent the version checks typically performed during extension installation." It's a great extension that any nightly user could never live without. I've already got a few other people to user it that were hesitant about upgrading to 2.0.
  • Re:RC2 woes (Score:2, Informative)

    by GooberToo (74388) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @01:28AM (#16374881)
    Sounds like you don't have the required plugins installed. Yahoo mail works without problem with FF and has for years. If you're having problems, it is not a FF issue.

  • by deppe (27130) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @03:53AM (#16375497)
    The finally got around to fixing the bug where FF would consume 100% CPU on Mac OS X when you press and hold the left mouse button. This was a major issue for everyone with a laptop (it goes through battery much faster) and also annoying on the Mac Pros (the CPU fans spin up when you select text).

    See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=14171 0 [mozilla.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:25AM (#16375829)
    No, Bad stuff. Are these new features part of the ECMAScript standard? If not, then wtf are they doing in the browser?

    Gecko Javascript 1.7 == ECMA-262, revision 3, with some bits from E4X.

    Hope that helps.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @06:59AM (#16376271)

    I'm saying I don't see the memory leak that others are reporting. Most other Firefox users never see it either. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. However, people who complain about the problem need to explain in detail what the problem is so we have an idea what they're referring to. Remember that even if only 0.1% of the tens of millions of Firefox users see a problem, that's still tens of thousands of people seeing the problem. Just because many people are complaining about the problem, that doesn't mean that we have any clue what they're referring to.

    Bug 213391 [mozilla.org] does have some example pages that use lots of memory in Firefox. This is because Firefox stores all images on the page uncompressed in memory. For pages that have lots of large images, that can take quite a bit of memory. But when you leave the page, the memory is released. If you can demonstrate a way in which the memory is not released, causing a large memory leak, be sure to describe step-by-step how to see the problem, and it can be fixed.

  • Re:Extensions (Score:2, Informative)

    by h2g2bob (948006) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @08:36AM (#16377013) Homepage
    Or you could just create a different profile in Firefox. Open with "firefox -ProfileManager".

    For added security, you can make the icon you open firefox with as the "safe" "firefox -P default".

    It also makes it marginally safer too as cookies and stuff are seperated for different profiles.

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