For all of the past Firefox 2.0 builds I have not written a review so I have figured it is time to do so. This review will cover all of the new features that have been implemented since Alpha 3 but it will also cover older features for those people that are starting with Beta 1 as their first Firefox 2.0 build.
You can also download Firefox 2 Beta 1 and test it for yourself. If you are a little weary of testing a Beta build then you can download the portable version which leaves your current profile and settings untouched.
I will be referencing my guide several times throughout this article. It covers some tweaks for many of the features I will mention here. Okay, so why don’t we go ahead and get started.
The first thing that you may have noticed when running the new Beta 1 is that everything has now been branded as Firefox. Each release up to this point had the Bon Echo logo which can be seen here. This will hopefully help Mozilla get more testers by providing a familiar icon and name. Think about it, how many people that you talk to actually know that Bon Echo is the codename for Firefox 2?
–Suggestive Search Box–
The new search box has become more useful and a little more sleek. You can see here a comparison of the old search box to the new search box. The old search box doesn’t have the nice magnifying glass that is used to process your search when clicked. The down arrow next to the magnifying glass is used to select which search engine you would like to use with Google being the default of course.
You will also notice that when you are typing in a search you will see search suggestions. These suggestions work for the Google and Yahoo search engines. If you have enabled Firefox to remember items in the search box you will see recently searched for items above the "Suggestions" divider.
Some sites that you visit may support the OpenSearch which will make future searches a breeze. An example of a site that supports the OpenSearch is Technorati. When you visit Technorati the drop-down search box will display an an option so that you can add it to your list of search engines.
–Search Engine Manager–
The Search Engine Manager is a great addition to the browser. It allows you to easily add, remove, and reorder your search engines in just a few clicks.
If you are looking for more search engines then you just have to click the "Get more search engines…" link.
Click on an image to enlarge it
The new Add-ons Manager has two different "tabs", one is for managing extensions and the other is for themes. The extension manager reveals three buttons once you have selected an extension: Options, Disable, and Uninstall. This makes it easier for the user to see which extension they are currently dealing with and prevents them from accidentally uninstalling the wrong extension. The disable feature is especially nice because some extensions you only need once in awhile and now you don’t have to constantly install/uninstall them!
There is now a built-in anti-phishing feature that will check to make sure the site you are visiting is not fraudulent. This was in previous builds but they have changed the wording now. Before the title read "Web Forgery" and the body said "This page is very likely to have been designed to trick users into sharing personal or financial information. Entering any personal information on this page may result in identity theft or other fraud." The new text isn’t that much different but they tried to make it read a little easier.
If you go to the Options-> Advanced-> Anti-Phishing you will notice a few options that you can select. By default Firefox will only check to see if the site is a scam by using a locally stored list. That means that the list may not be completely up-to-date so I would recommend using the option "By asking Google". That way it will check Google each time to see if the site is a forgery.
The new Feed Subscriber is one of my favorite features in Firefox 2. I am constantly adding new feeds that I find to my Google Reader and the Feed Subscriber makes it a quick process. When you try and subscribe to a feed Firefox will use the Live Bookmarks by default. If you select the "Change Reader" option located near the top of the Web page you can customize how you want to subscribe to feeds. You can either use an external application, Google Reader, Bloglines, My Yahoo, or the classic Live Bookmarks. If you want to add NetVibes or another Web site to the list you will find the step-by-step process in my guide.
Also note that you can have Firefox automatically open a feed in your chosen reader by selecting the checkbox at the bottom in the options. This will completely bypass the preview screen that you see in the image above.
–Inline Spell Checker–
Now this is my favorite feature by far. I do so much posting and commenting on sites that it is always good to have something check my spelling while I type. If it finds a misspelled word it will underline it in red so that you can fix it right away. You can always add a word to the dictionary if it is something that you frequently type but it marks as misspelled, like the word Firefox as seen above :D . I have noticed that some smaller fields, like a text box for your name, are not checked for spelling by default. You can always right-click anywhere in the text field and select "Spell check this field".
Microsummaries are the bookmarks of the future. Instead of assigning your own title to a bookmark you can choose to assign a "Live" title. The live title will update itself with information as it becomes available.
To get Microsummaries to work you need to go to this site and install a generator by clicking on it. I chose the eBay Auction Item generator and after I installed it I went to ebay.com to find an item. Once I found an item I selected "Bookmark This" and selected the name dropdown menu. As pictured above you can see that I can choose the static bookmark name that will never change or I can select the "Live Title". The Live Title, for eBay auctions, will update information like the current price so that you can easily keep a watch on it.
Make sure you check out the Microsummaries site above because they have cool generators for tracking your FedEx and UPS packages, too! Heck, you can even track your stock quotes using Yahoo Finance.
The Firefox Session Restore is also among my favorite features. By default your session will be restored if you install an extension or upgrade Firefox and choose the option to restart the browser. After either of those two things occur your session will automatically be restored for you upon a restart of the system.
If the system crashes you will be prompted with a message when you try to restart Firefox. It will give you the option to either restore your session with all the tabs and windows that were open before the crash or you can just start with a new session.
I decided that I wanted to make full use of the Session Restore feature so I found out how I could make Firefox restore my session every time I restarted it.
–Undo Close Tab–
The Undo Close Tab is a feature that I didn’t expect to see Mozilla put in Firefox. This helps make up for all those times you accidentally close a site and you can’t remember what it was. There is actually more to the undo function than you think: what do you do if you close 3 tabs and realize that you need to get all 3 of those tabs back but you only have the Undo Close Tab feature to use? Well, if you select the Undo Close Tab option 3 times it will restore all three tabs! Some people think that it just remembers your last tab and nothing more, but that is completely wrong. Also, the History Menu (discussed below ) has a type of "trash bin" for your closed tabs.
The scrolling tab-bar is probably my least favorite feature that has been implemented in Firefox 2. It may not be such a bad idea but the default settings only let me have 10 tabs open on my 1280×800 widescreen monitor before they start to scroll. Luckily I was able to find a way to adjust the settings using the about:config screen so that Firefox will not scroll the tabs so frequently.
–Red X (Close Button)–
Ahhh, that pesky little Red X that Mozilla placed on each tab which upset many people. I actually liked (note the past tense) having the close button on the tabs until I accidentally started closing windows all the time. The Undo Close Tab works nice to recover those pages but eventually it gets frustrating having to constantly undo a closing of the tab. I found some information on how to configure the close button in a few different ways: display a close button on the active tab only, display close buttons on all tabs, don’t display any close buttons, or display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior). If you go here I will show you the quick process to change the settings yourself.
There is no longer a "Go" Menu and now it has been replaced by a "History" menu. the primary difference is the new "Recently Closed Tabs" option that will show you a listing of tabs you have recently closed. This feature coincides with the Undo Close Tab that was mentioned above. I guess naming it "History" makes a little more sense because everything in this menu has to do with the past. It might also be a little easier for people transitioning from Internet Explorer because in IE there is a History sidebar.
I have been extremely happy with the progress Mozilla has been making on Firefox 2. I am a little disappointed that they couldn’t get the new preferences screen into Beta 1 but they have said that it should be ready by Beta 2. Hopefully by that time we will also be able to play with the new look that Firefox 2 is supposed to have. Keep up the good work Mozilla!