6/20/08
6:43 am

MacMost Now 96: FireFox 3 Review

Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at the FireFox 3 browser for Mac. New features include smooth zoom, better bookmarking and site identification.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hello everybody, this is Gary with MacMost Now, the show for Apple enthusiasts. Today I'll look at FireFox 3. FireFox is the "other' browser. For most people, "other" means other instead of Internet Explorer. But for us Mac users, it means other instead of Safari. So let's go take a look at the new release of FireFox: FireFox 3. How does it measure up to Safari and how does it measure up to the old FireFox 2?
Let me start off by saying that I generally love FireFox. I mean, for a while it even supplanted Safari as my primary browser, and I still use FireFox all the time side-by-side with Safari. It's a great product and it's great that we have a really good viable alternative on the Mac, and a browser that works cross-platform, Windows and Mac, and looks virtually the same. So I heartily recommend that everybody with a Mac also have FireFox installed. I insist that people I know have FireFox installed on Windows because of some of the advantages it has over Internet Explorer in preventing viruses and other unwanted things in your computer.
But for Mac users, how does FireFox 3 measure up? Well, I'm a little disappointed in FireFox 3. First of all, I don't think it looks very good -- doesn't look very Mac-like and doesn't show a significant interface improvement over FireFox 2. The second thing I don't like about it is there aren't really very many new features. Let's go and take a look at what is new in FireFox 3.
Okay so FireFox does look a little bit different, but it still has the general FireFox interface. It's got tabs at the top. It's got the general address bar, search bar, all that. You can see the buttons look a little bit different as well. I'm not sure uh, if this is better; I don't really think it's better than the old FireFox, and I don't like it as much as how Safari looks, which is extremely well-fitting with the rest of the Mac interface.
There are a couple of things you can find here in the FireFox window that you couldn't find before. One of them is a really easy way to add bookmarks with one click. There's a little star that appears and you can click on it to bookmark the page. Uh, another thing this does is if it's already bookmarked you can click on it and it will edit that bookmark, which is really nice because you can remember if you've had a site bookmarked already and quickly edit it.
One other feature that's supposed to be in Firefox that's really disappointing is the ability to move your cursor over the little icon here, and a little pop-up will come up and tell you something about the website. But unfortunately, it usually just says something like "This website does not supply identity information." It's supposed to protect you. It's supposed to tell you who the website is and whether or not they're legitimate. But in fact it doesn't. Not even from Mozilla, the company that makes FireFox, or for any website I could find. I mean we're talking Yahoo, Google, Amazon. None of them came up with any information here. Some research shows that you have to go through quite a few hoops to actually set up information to go here. So I'm not sure how useful this is going to be.
One of the things I do like about Firefox, FireFox 2 and Firefox 3, is the bookmarking ability. The organize function is a lot better than what they have in Safari. You can organize your bookmarks in all sorts of different ways. So, for instance, we can go ahead and look at these bookmarks here. Select one and you can add something called tags to your bookmarks. So you can decide to tag something with several keywords and then search through your bookmarks for bookmarks that have that tag. So this is really useful when a site serves more than one purpose. For instance you may go to a site that has both news and weather on it, and do you file that in a folder called 'Weather Sites' or under 'News Sites'? With this you can just tag it with both and any time you want to actually find a weather site, you can just look for all the sites with weather in them. And the little library interface here is a lot better than what Safari has. So Firefox definitely wins over Safari for bookmarking ability.
Another cool thing is the zooming ability inside of FireFox. Now, if you try to do this with Internet Explorer or Safari, you basically get enlarged fonts. But by pressing command + or command - you can enlarge the page and it will enlarge the entire page, re-rendering it, so all the graphics and everything as it's laid out stays the same, you can just read it a little bit better. And it's easy to snap back to the original size.
That's really all I could find that I liked about FireFox 3. Granted, I still like a lot of features that are there that were there in FireFox 2 but they don't count. That being said you should still get FireFox. I mean after all, it is free. Just go to getfirefox.com to download the Mac version.
Here's 3 quick reasons why you should have FireFox on your computer:
Number one: Add-ons. You can add extensions; some great developer extensions that help you quickly develop websites.
Number two: Toolbars. Now I hate most toolbars, but there are a couple like StumbleUpon that are useful and you just can't do them in Safari.
Number three: There are just some sites out there that just don't work in Safari for whatever reason, and having a second browser like FireFox on your machine will allow you to get to these sites without having to find a friend with Windows.
So that's a quick look at FireFox 3. I'd like to hear what you think. If you've downloaded Firefox 3 and played with it a little bit, leave a comment to this post at MacMost.com and let's have a discussion about it. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 5 Responses to “MacMost Now 96: FireFox 3 Review”

    Daniel
    6/20/08 @ 12:15 pm

    I’m glad you reviewed this as I was wondering if I should download it.
    Off the bat, when I open the Firefox 3 browser my Cam comes on, why?
    I’m trying to find out how to disable that. That could be a security issue.

    John
    6/21/08 @ 8:28 am

    I like firefox 3 and use it daily, but there are still bugs. Sometimes when I enter a URL and hit ‘return’ on my keyboard nothing happens.

    Sam
    6/23/08 @ 8:16 pm

    Hey Gary! You seemed pretty frickin’ chipper in the ol’ podcast, nice work! Does firefox do private browsing like Safari?

    heronstalker
    6/25/08 @ 2:03 am

    There are a few critical pieces missing in your review.

    * The awesome bar. I find that it is pretty awesome. You showed that you can add tags to the bookmarks, yet you overlook the fact that those tags will also aid you in completing website urls visited frequently. This is especially useful when working with URLs that Firefox doesn’t have an auto-completion shortcut for. For example, to get to http://www.youtube.com/login I simply type in login after that site’s been bookmarked in tagged and it shows up as the first site in list of URLs.

    * Memory management is a *vast* improvement over FF2 and Safari. Tons of memory leaks have been plugged and now you can leave Firefox open for hours on end without it draining your system of RAM.

    * Javascript sped shows dramatic speed increases as well. Just as fast or if not faster than Safari in my experience. If you want to see what I’m talking about try loading a story from digg.com with a large number of comments and Firefox will be able to keep up and process your request much more quickly than FF 2.x.

    * Native Mac OS X widgets. One of the reasons why I stuck with Camino for such a long time is because of it’s Gecko back end and because the widgets on web pages had the native OS X aqua look and feel. Try going to Google’s home page and look at how ugly the Google Search and I’m Feeling Lucky buttons look in FireFox 2. It looks like a bastard port from Windows and it’s looked downright awful! At least in Firefox 3 web forms and widgets adopt the OS X look and feel so I would have to disagree with your point that the interface isn’t much more improved compared to Firefox 2.

    * Speaking of general UI, if you right-click the toolbar and choose Customize you can enable Use Small Icons and get the size of the back button down to a more reasonable size.

    I think your podcasts are great and one of the more finely polished shows I see on YouTube, but I think you missed the mark on this one and you should give Firefox 3 a second look before dismissing it as being something of a disappointment for you.

    Zul
    6/26/08 @ 11:43 am

    Love Firefox 3.
    But I’m a Windows user.. So…

Comments Closed.