Firefox 3.5 is a pretty substantial update to the popular open-source browser, and it’s just around the corner. See what features, fixes, and clever new tools are worth getting excited about in the next big release.
If you accidentally close a tab you’d meant to keep open, Firefox 3, at least through extensions like Tab Mix Plus. If you accidentally kill a separate window full of tabs, though, you’ve been pretty much out of luck. Firefox 3.5 implements a restore feature for both tabs and windows from the History menu, which would (hopefully) also restore any text you’ve typed into them.
9. Tab tearing
Google Chrome somewhat stole the thunder out from under this feature, but it’s still a nice one: Grab a tab and drag it out a bit to create a new browser window from it. Drag windows into tabs again, and open any tab in a new window from the right-click menu, if clicking and dragging isn’t your style.
Firefox 3’s AwesomeBar/address bar offers a speedy list of suggestions to complete whatever you’re typing. That’s great, but that list comes from your page history, bookmarks, and tags, and can be matched by URL or name, leaving some results almost uselessly cluttered. This gets fixed with special character filters in the next Firefox. Restrict a search by typing “life *” for just your bookmarks with the words “life” in them, or just your tagged “lh” items with “lh +”. Anything that really makes getting back to importantly web destinations quickly is a welcome upgrade.
What good is it to bring back all the tabs you just lost to a crash if the tab that brought everything down comes back too? Firefox’s developers took a cue from the users and turned the session restore feature into more of a crash recovery tool, allowing users to select which tabs should come back. If you don’t know who’s the culprit, here’s a hint: It’s probably the one with Flash on it.
The snarky types (i.e. my editor) can call it “Porn Mode,” but this feature, already in a number of competing browsers, has uses beyond the prurient. Beyond obvious situations, like gift buying and sensitive research, logging onto a friend’s browser for a quick email check or bill pay is made a lot more secure if you can get to the private mode. Likewise, anonymising some of your searches and cookie collection on your own machine isn’t a bad idea, and a private mode can do that too. You don’t need it all the time, but you might be glad it’s available.
Different cameras, monitors and capture devices grab and set colours in different ways. One the web, most colours look the same, though, because they’re filtered and optimised for quick viewing in every browser. Firefox 3.5 introduces dynamic colour profiles for each picture, meaning that whatever the graphic designer or photographer saw when they were doing their work, you’ll see it on their web page.
If you type post office into a maps site, you probably don’t want the headquarters of Australia Post, or post office listings from two towns over. Integrated geo-location, powered by Google’s Wi-Fi triangulation and simple IP address information, looks to know roughly where you are and help you when you’re looking for something local. You can disable it if you’d like, but, realistically, signing on from any IP address reveals a bit about where you are anyways. If a good number of sites pick it up, geo-location could bring to the browser what a lot of people are already enjoying on their phone.
2. Video superpowers with HTML 5
If you’re viewing a page coded in HTML 5 with video in an open-source format like Ogg Vorbis or Theora, Firefox 3.5 treats that video like it’s just part of the page, not a separate little island of Flash content. That means instant commenting on videos. It could also mean offering links from inside a tutorial video that offer more details on what’s being shown—soldering tips on an iPhone repair guide would be keen. In general, it’s just a promising step forward into a seamless melding of video and text on a future web.
Lifehacker’s editors dig Ubiquity, an experimental extension that shortcuts and connects web services together and, through learning, becomes an ultimate Firefox commander. Mozilla isn’t throwing a labs-level project into 3.5 willy-nilly, though; they’re taking the core functionality of it and installing it in the address/”AwesomeBar.” That means getting Google Map directions to the top result on a Yahoo search with one string of text, or quickly emailing a Gmail contact an item from your personal calendar. Keyboard shortcuts? Web connectivity and open APIs? Yeah, we’re on board.
Many thanks to the Mozilla Links blog, which covers Firefox news and updates like a glove. Now that we’ve thrown out the 10 features that are getting us jazzed for a final 3.5 release, let’s hear what you’re most looking forward to, and what remains unrequited among your Firefox desires, in the comments.