Firefox Rocket In Your Pocket

Firefox 2 features close button on tabsI have been hiding something from my readers: my default Firefox build is no longer the production Firefox 1.5.2. Instead I increasingly use Portable Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1. That forms part of the set of portable versions of well known productivity tools. Re-engineered to work with portable devices on Windows. You can store the applications, with your customized settings, on a USB thumb drive, portable hard drive, iPod/MP3 and even a CD-RW (packet reading). Or store it on your hard disk like I do. The software available are email (Mozilla Thunderbird), image editing (GIMP), FTP (FileZilla), chat (Gaim, Miranda). As well as word processing (AbiWord), calendar (Mozilla Sunbird), HTML editor (NVU) and a media player (
VLC). And even an anti-virus (Clamwin) and office suite (OpenOffice.org).

FireFox 2 is such an improvement on previous versions. That I now get by with just 3 extensions installed. The first, Nightly Tester Tools, is mandatory because it’s what allows lets me to install extensions not rated for this build version. The second is the incomparable SessionSaver that restores open tabs when you next start the application. And then there is ScrapBook to save pages or selected text for later reading. I have now leveraged on ScrapBook’s features to setup multiple storage folders. And plan to offer a centralized store for my development team. ScrapBook recently won Most Useful Upgraded Extension in the Extend Firefox Contest.

Firefox 2 Content ControlsFirefox 2 introduces a close button direct on every tab. It also adds the tabbed browsing behaviour that forces new windows executed by scripts to open in a new tab instead of a new window. However to really protect yourself against pop-up and -under advertising. You have to customize the Tools > Options > Content > Enable JavaScript > Advanced settings. And uncheck all boxes. You may want to check the Change Status bar text option to get in-site scrolling messages so common to too many web sites.

New Places dialog combines Bookmarks and HistoryThe entire Bookmark and History module has undergone a critical change. And although the default toolbar menu says Organize Bookmarks, but the window is titled Places. The latter provides easy access to your Bookmarks, (browsing) History and RSS Feeds. Data is now stored in an SQLlite database.

There are other changes under the hood. Including improved SVG (scalable vector graphics) text support using svg:textPat. As well as updated extension system that offers better security, extension blocking and easier localization. Another significant update is an enhanced search plugin. This searches on Google to find the most appropriate return on keywords entered directly in to the Address Bar.

However whan the browser is unable to find a web site, instead of displaying an error dialog, it now uses the Netster search service to find the most appropriate link. And have I found some interesting links. But more about those in a future column.

New Add Bookmark dialog glitchThis is a Beta that suffers an interface glitch. Adding a Bookmark in FFox2 only part-opens the dialog box hiding the Add Bookmark button. You need to use the mouse cursor to drag the window to reveal the hidden button. I also found you have to first select the folder to save the bookmark in to before adding the new Bookmark. And you can’t always get the Bookmark dialog to reveal the button. As I found on two separate office computers: one running Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 and the other a 120-day Windows XP trial with Service Pack 2 applied. But then again its early days.

Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 also includes crash recovery to restore open sessions after a forced shutdown. I haven’t had a chance to test out the feature. And instead prefer to fall back on the SessionSaver extension that can not only restore open tabs after a crash. But can also recall (snap-back) tabs and windows closed during the current session. Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 includes an improved cache that doesn’t lose content. Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 now works more like Opera and you can go backwards through your History from within the browser.

RSS support is now built into the browser. Just click the icon to view in-feed titles as a drop-down menu. RSS Feeds are now added quite like site Bookmarks. To stay abreast of updates to Firefox 2 features, do visit the Bon Echo Alpha wiki.

I highly recommend upgrading to Firefox 2; especially the Portable Firefox version. That’s it for this week. More next time. Stay Safe!

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