Mozilla's Firefox 10 Muscles Up on Developer Tools

Mozilla's Firefox 10 is relatively light on new user features, but includes a variety of new tools for developers, particularly those creating multimedia experiences.

In keeping with its rapid release cadence, Mozilla has released Firefox 10.0 for Windows, Mac and Linux. While the latest browser version features relatively few cosmetic changes, there are some under-the-hood additions that could prove vital for developers trying to create next-generation Web experiences.

In the desktop version of Firefox 10.0, Mozilla has hidden the forward button until the user navigates back. It has fixed some bugs, including one that sometimes crashed the browser when the user attempted to move bookmarks. But the bigger story here is the new built-in developer tools.

"With Page Inspector, developers can peek into a page's structure and layout without having to leave Firefox," read a Jan. 31 posting on The Mozilla Blog. In addition, a new tool called Style Inspector lets developers more easily edit Websites, and Scratchpad "now uses the Eclipse Orion code editor to provide syntax highlighting and other features that make it easier and simpler to write JavaScript."

A new Full-Screen API lets developers build Web games and other multimedia experiences that utilize the entire PC screen. Mozilla has also introduced support for Anti-Aliasing for WebGL, a Web standard for displaying hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without third-party software, and CSS 3D Transforms, which transforms two-dimensional elements into 3D via HTML5.

For some time, Mozilla has maintained a fast release cycle of new Firefox versions every few weeks or even months. Each successive browser version offered relatively few user-interface tweaks. For consumers, updating Firefox is a relatively simple proposition: click "download" and launch the new version a few minutes later. For larger enterprises, though, Mozilla's speedy release cadence caused much gnashing of teeth in 2011, with IT administrators claiming it snarled their ability to deploy the browser throughout the organization in a timely and consistent way.

In response, Mozilla re-established the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group as a place for enterprise administrators and other IT pros to discuss issues and best practices. Even as it moved to do so, however, rivals such as Microsoft leapt at the chance to make very public cases that their own browsers were the best for businesses.

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