Bleeding edge browsers and web developers take note, for the latest Firefox 3.5 (previously 3.1) beta is in the wild. There doesn't seem to be much that's entirely whole-cloth new to this release, except perhaps the undo closed window feature. The release notes have more detail on the latest test release, and users, as always, shouldn't expect all their extensions to work in this version. Trying it out already and liking what you see? Were you expecting more? Tell us how 3.5b4 comes across in the comments.
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Windows and now Mac OS X only: The beta NY Times reader application which Adam gave the full screenshot walk-through treatment is now available for your Mac. The application definitely provides a better reading experience than the web site only; there are fewer ads, more ways to customise the page's layout (headlines only, headlines with excerpts, different photo sizes), and it helpfully grays out articles you've already read. (Click the image to see a full-size screenshot, where the American Idol article I read is grayed out.) The NY Times beta reader is a free download, and it requires (ugh) Silverlight to run on your Mac, as well as login details to NYTimes.com (free registration).Times Reader Beta for the Mac Now Available
Now that Mozilla's locked down Firefox 3's final feature set with Friday's push of release candidate 1, it's official: while Firefox 3 boasts some great new features like a smart address bar and better bookmarks manager, the best reason to upgrade will be for the performance improvements. Firefox 3 is noticeably faster and more stable than Firefox 2 to the casual user and Mozilla engineers have numbers that show it will be the fastest browser on the market. Tech site TechWeb reports:
Mozilla pushed out the first release candidate of Firefox 3 early this evening, so if you're already field testing Firefox 3, now's the time to go to Help -> Check for Updates to download the latest and greatest build. If you're wondering what to expect, check out the RC1 release notes. Looks like we're getting close! Thanks Owen!
Windows only: Adam already walked you through how to download music from your friends' iTunes libraries over the internet using Mojo on the Mac, and now Windows users can get in on the fun. Install the Mojo 2.0 beta for Windows, set up an account, and swap Mojo usernames with your friends to populate your buddy list. From there you can browse their playlists, search their libraries, play and download any songs to your computer. The Mojo Windows beta is a free download; upgrade to Mojo Pro to get an unlimited buddy list. Thanks Matt and Jack!Mojo 2.0 Beta for Windows
A steady stream of preview releases have kept our typing fingers especially busy covering the beta beat the last several weeks. From Mac virtualization software to Microsoft Office add-ons to iTunes sharing apps, there are lots of new features for eager testers to preview and try out. Beyond the most obvious best public preview out there right now—Firefox 3—which beta has your heart? Cast your vote, after the jump. Photo by arriba.
The busy folks working on XBMC for OS X just dropped beta 2, which fixes several bugs I listed in yesterday's feature story, XBMC Turns Your Mac into the Ultimate Media Center. Most notably, scripts and live weather forecasts now work.
Yahoo's testing out a new kind of search page layout: when you search for broad-reaching terms (like Einstein, and happily, Lifehacker), you may arrive on their beta "Glue Page," which groups web page results, images, Wikipedia, news, blogs, and video clips into separate areas on the page. See it for yourself.
Windows/Mac/Linux (all platforms): OpenOffice.org, the free office application suite, has released a beta of its 3.0 version to the public with a few key features rolled in. The biggest update is native support for Mac OS X platforms, meaning no need to install X11 packages on older Macs or switch to NeoOffice for a smoother experience (although NeoOffice plans to release a 3.0 of its own, so stay tuned). OpenOffice also adds built-in conversion filters for Office 2007/Mac Office 2008 files, a new "solver" function for spreadsheets, enhanced notes and viewing options in Writer, and other enticements for those willing to risk a few bugs. OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta is a free download for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux systems.OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta
Mac OS X only: VMware's brand new beta 1 of Fusion 2.0, virtualisation software for Mac OS X, promises to make you feel like you're running Windows or Linux natively from your Mac desktop. From multiple monitor support, 3-D graphics support for games, smoother USB device detection, folder sharing, and printing, Fusion 2.0 is a tempting piece of software already, even in only as a first beta. Problem is, if you already use Fusion, the beta will replace your existing installation. To spare you possible bugginess on your desktop, have a look at some screenshots of Fusion 2.0 in action on my Mac.
VMware makes the first beta of Fusion 2.0 available to download and try for free. The next generation Windows-on-Mac virtualization software includes support for multiple displays (up to 10!), better printer drivers, networking, and USB support, and improvements to Unity (which runs Windows applications integrated within OS X). The beta is a free download for brave testers only—here are the release notes.
Windows only: Previously mentioned Microsoft Outlook plug-in Xobni (pronounced "zob-nee") is now available to the public for immediate download. Previously in invite-only beta, Xobni adds email analytics, better contact cards, fast search, threaded conversations, and more to your Outlook inbox. The NY Times explains one way Xobni makes your inbox more of a social network of connected contacts:
Xobni recognises that if an executive sends a copy to someone else on each message he or she sends, it might be to an assistant or another colleague. When someone using Xobni searches for that executive in Outlook, the second person is listed as well.
Huh-wha, you ask? Here, have a video demonstration of Xobni in action.
Windows only: If you still have trouble getting to the functions you need in Office 2007's Ribbon interface, give Microsoft's new experimental Search Commands add-in a try. Search Commands adds a tab and search box to the ribbon that finds buttons as you type into it. After the jump, see a screenshot of Search Commands in action.
If you're sick of Firefox 2 eating up over a gigabyte of memory only to freeze up and crash, it may be time to move onto Firefox 3. The new version of our favourite browser has seen its fifth and final beta release, and Mozilla says its for testing purposes only. However, the Firefox 3 beta is leaner, meaner, faster, and just plain better than Firefox 2—and don't tell Daddy Mozilla, but even at this early stage, we've found it to be stable enough for full-time use. There are a few ways you can start using Firefox 3 without blowing your browser setup to hell or losing your most important extensions. Here's how.
Mac OS X only: Freeware Mail.app plug-in Mail.appetizer notifies you of incoming messages by displaying a preview of their contents. Growl users may wonder why you'd choose Mail.appetizer instead of the GrowlMail plug-in, which offers the same functionality. Well, GrowlMail has a buggy history, especially with Leopard. (In fact, I suspect it's the reason why Growl's currently broken for me). The Mail.appetizer plug-in is freeware, Mac OS X only. The current version is a beta, so be prepared to run into a few bugs.Mail.appetizer
Mac OS X only: The latest beta 3 release of Yahoo Messenger for Mac adds voice and voicemail capabilities a la Skype. Using Yahoo Messenger, computer to computer voice calls are free, and you can purchase a PhoneOut and/or PhoneIn account to call land line or cell phones, or receive calls on your computer, or even set up call forwarding to land lines or mobile phones. (Rates start at 1 cent/minute in the U.S.) You can also send SMS messages with Yahoo Messenger, and get free voicemail; Yahoo Messenger delivers voicemail as an email attachment to the address you specify. Skype's had all these features for Mac and PC for some time now, so Yahoo's pretty late to the game—but it's still good to have options.Mac Version - Yahoo! Messenger
Every six months when a new version of Ubuntu Linux gets released, long-time users and curious toe-dippers ask the same questions: "What's new?"; "Is it worth upgrading?"; and, "Will my wireless card finally work with this version?" Having grabbed the newest beta release of Ubuntu and spent a few hours looking around, I can answer, "A few great things," "Yes, once it's officially released," and, well, "Hopefully." Version 8.04, or "Hardy Heron," is more a compilation of stable-ish features and proven apps than a showcase for the latest and greatest in Linux technology. But for those seeking a usable, steady system in which to get things done, that's a real killer app in itself. Follow through the jump to see what's new, and what just works (and doesn't) in Hardy Heron.