With the release this week of the second beta version of Firefox 3, one thing is certain: We definitely won’t see an official release of the latest version of the open-source browser from Mozilla in 2007.
But from my tests of this second beta, it does look like we are getting awfully close to a final version of Firefox 3. In my tests the beta has been very stable so far and has been fast, and hasn’t been as much of a memory hog as past versions of Firefox.
As far as new features go, most of the improvements in this beta release are under the covers and those who have already tested out the previous beta won’t see many differences except for in a few areas. (Click here to see my previous review of Firefox 3 Beta 1)
The most obvious of these (outside of the robot launch page) is in the address bar in the browser. Now in Firefox 3 when you begin to type a URL or even a search term, the drop down menu in the address bar will show sites that have the same term not only in the URL but also in the Web page titles and headlines, automatically pulling information from the browser’s history. This feature, which is also found in the latest version of the Opera browser, is a real time saver when looking for specific Web sites and pages that you may have visited previously.
Also, in this release I was finally able to test out one of the more intriguing features of Firefox 3, namely the ability to use Web based applications as helper applications within the browser. In tests I was able to define Google’s Gmail as my main e-mail application and have Firefox automatically launch Gmail and create a new message when I clicked on mailto links in Web pages.
After these features most of the other usability improvements in beta 2 of Firefox 3 are mainly minor tweaks, such as to bookmark management and the Download Manager.
To download and test out beta 2 of Firefox 3, go to developer.mozilla.org.