Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Firefox 2 review (so far)

I've been testing Firefox 2 for about two weeks now with no major problems except one crash. That crash was just the browser (thanks to rock-solid OS X multi-threading), and wasn't at all disastrous like it used to be when Firefox 1 used to crash and take down all 30–40 tabs I'd usually have open. Firefox 2 can restore your last session when you start up after a crash, asking you if you want to reload all the tabs you had open when the app died. Worked like a charm (although I assume at some point in the future I'll fall victim to a truly catastrophic crash.

Otherwise FF 2 seems to be pretty stable and appears to be using a lot less virtual memory than FF 1. I need to confirm that. (On OS X you can have any number of instances of a program open at the same time, as long as the browser's not using the same User Profile. So I can run Firefox 2 and Firefox 1 at the same time and compare memory usage using the Activity Monitor, normally found in Applications > Utilities.)

I recommend people use extensions and add-ons pretty sparingly, since some third party add-ons cause problems like intense memory leaks or huge RAM usage. But there are a lot of great add-ons, and you can try them out and disable them a lot easier now with FF 2's improved Add-ons manager window (under "Tools" > "Add-ons"). You can also install themes via this window. I'm using a cool one called Opaque + Clear Tabs, which I prefer over the new default Firefox 2 theme. Even if it looks a little more PC than Mac, I think it's better.

If you're on a Mac, I suggest trying Firefox 2 today, but I recommend keeping your old installation of FF 1x around just for a month or two.

Also important for Mac users: I highly recommend turning off Firefox's auto-update feature, and changing it to "ask me what to do when there's an update." This can be found under "Firefox" menu > "Preferences" > "Advanced" icon > "Update" tab > "When updates to Firefox are found:" > [check] Ask me what to do.

You can keep the first three checkboxes on ("Automatically check for updates to:"...), just as long as you switch to "Ask me what to do."

Why do I recommend this? With FF 1x I had several problematic instances of auto-upgrades being buggy, and being followed up quickly by release fixes. This is not that bad in and of itself, except when it wipes out all your saved passwords, which it did once. So I turn off the auto-update feature. I usually wait a week or so after I see the notice that there's an update available, then I update. I figure that if other people were experiencing a buggy update, I'd get another new FF notice withing a week or so. If there's no follow-up, it seems like it's a safe update to use.

tags: tech, Mac, Firefox, Firefox add-ons, browsers


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