The Firefox 1.5 beta is out, and at a first glance, it looks pretty darn good.
But, and this is a big but, this is a beta build, so there is no guarantee that it will work. It worked with every Web site I tried, but it also will not work with the vast majority of extension programs.
One of my colleagues found that five out of seven of her extensions, including several that were indispensable to her daily work, no longer functioned.
This is by design. Firefoxs Extension System for 1.0x and below was broken. For example, the installation, upgrade and uninstall subsystems were not very robust at all.
When installing a new version of an extension, files from older versions would be left behind, and this could lead to incompatibilities and mysterious crashes.
The fix was to completely revamp the Extension System. Unfortunately for users who want to use the beta as their main browser today, that means theyll have to do without their favorite extensions.
Extension developers are aware of these changes, so new, 1.5-compatible extensions should be in place well before the final version of 1.5 hits the street some time in November or December. Mozilla will be releasing a list of 1.5-compatible extensions within the week.
With the extension problem out of the way, though, no matter whether you run Firefox 1.5 on a Windows, Linux or Mac OS system, you wont be able to tell the difference between this beta and the currently shipping Firefox 1.06.
This is a far cry from Microsofts Internet Explorer 7 beta, which will only be available in its fully secured version on the forthcoming Vista operating system. IE 7s improvements are largely surface features such as tabbed browsing.
If you take a deeper look at Firefox 1.5, however, youll find that besides continuing to incorporate features that Microsoft is still adding in IE 7, there are many improvements that the Mozilla Foundation must hope will make Firefox the browser of choice on all platforms.
This means that when you use the back and forward arrows, youll see your pages much faster.
That may sound small, but when viewing message boards and online forums, it can give a much smoother reading experience.