Most of the other new features in Firefox 3.5 are simply the browser catching up to capabilities that are already found in competing browsers.
From a visual standpoint, one of the only new things that users will notice in the new version is the inclusion of a new tab button in the tabs bar. Tab management has seen some minor improvements, though Firefox still lacks new tab features akin to Safari's Top Sites or Opera's Speed Dial (though it is possible to add similar capabilities through extensions).
With Version 3.5, Firefox joins most other modern browsers with the ability to run in a private browsing mode (often euphemistically knows as "porn mode"). When in this mode, the browser does not save data from the browsing session.
The privacy mode in Firefox 3.5 is fairly well-implemented. While other browsers use some form of icon to show that the browser is in privacy mode, Firefox simply displays the words "Private Browsing" within the browser's top title bar.
Private Browsing is launched either from the Tools menu or by hitting Ctrl-Shift-P. Launching the mode immediately starts a fresh browsing session, and when you turn it off, you are immediately returned to whatever pages you were viewing before launching the privacy mode. This model works well, though it is a little jarring. I would have liked the option to launch a separate private browsing window and keep a regular window open, as well.
It is possible within Firefox 3.5 to do some fine-grain post-session editing of a browser session. For example, when in the browser history, users can choose a site they've visited and select "Forget about this site" to remove all traces of having ever visited the Web site.
Another new feature in Firefox 3.5 is Location Aware browsing, which utilizes the Geolocation API. With this capability, a user can choose to share (or not share) his or her location with a Website to gain information, such as businesses in a certain area. This works through a number of methods, including IP address, Wi-Fi nodes and GPS systems. This feature will be less accurate for a desktop-bound system and more accurate for a mobile device or laptop. (And, of course, a Website can always learn your IP address and gain some location information, no matter what the browser does.)
As is typical when new versions of Firefox are released, not all extensions will work upon upgrading. In my tests, only a third of my extensions worked immediately after upgrading, but I expect that most extensions will be updated to work with Firefox 3.5 in the near future.
Firefox 3.5 is available for most operating systems, including Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. To download Firefox 3.5, go to www.mozilla.com.
Chief Technology Analyst Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.