Tag Archives: firefox

Firefox 8 Beta: Better Controls For Add-Ons, Tabs

Beta version of Firefox 8 from Mozilla includes new features to better manage Web browser add-ons and handle tabs, as well as under the hood improvements.

Much has been made lately of Mozilla’s decision to move to a rapid six-week upgrade cycle for their flagship Firefox Web browser. But regular users can be forgiven if they’ve wondered about all the fuss, given that the recent new versions of the browser have featured mostly under the hood changes and no new visible features for users.

But that looks to finally change with Firefox 8, which was recently released in beta. While the new features in version 8 of the browser can hardly be considered major or groundbreaking, at least there are some new noticeable capabilities for users.

One of the main complaints of the rapid upgrade cycle of Firefox is the possibility that new versions of the browser will break add-ons and extensions that users rely on. A welcome new feature in Firefox 8 displays a special add-ons window the first time the browser runs after the upgrade.

This window displays the add-ons currently installed in Firefox and gives the user the option to disable or remove unwanted or unused add-ons. I found this to be a nice touch, and useful not just for removing unused add-ons but as a reminder of just which extensions and add-ons other applications had added to your browser. By default, Firefox now disables all of these third-party add-ons at upgrade and in this window, users can choose which ones they want to re-enable.

One of the more noticeable changes in this new version is the addition of Twitter as an option for the default search engine in the browser’s search bar. In tests this worked fine and is nice as another option for integrated search.

Also in this version, Firefox now uses a more visible animated tab action when a user drags and drops tabs to reorder them on the tab bar. This is a feature that Google Chrome has had for a while now and is a case of Firefox catching up with its competitor.

Possibly my favorite new feature in Firefox 8 is the option to set the browser to not immediately load tabs upon startup. This is nice both for users who use a tab group on startup and for recovering from crashes. Now, instead of the browser wasting resources trying to load several websites at once, a tab will only load once it has been selected in the tab bar.

Like most other Firefox upgrades, this version also includes under the hood engine upgrades and improved standards support. Included in this version is support for HTML 5 context menus.

To try out the new beta of Firefox, go to here.

Are You Ready for IE9 and Firefox 4?

I always hold my breath when I install a new web browser, as I never know what might break. New browsers are always a headache for my web development company, but even if you don’t develop sites yourself, I’m sure you have significant web presences.

Last week, Internet Explorer 9 was released, and while Firefox 4 is due to be officially launched today, you can already download it from the Mozilla FTP site. Luckily, so far, we haven’t seen any major issues with the new browsers, but there have been reports that some widely-used tools will need to be updated.

With that in mind, here is a short list of tests you’ll want to make when a new browser becomes available.

  • Test your website(s). Make sure layout and interactive functions operate correctly, including content management systems, contact and feedback forms, styles and links.
  • Test your collaboration tools. Web-based project management, screen sharing, conferencing and collaboration services should be updating themselves continuously, but you should check your intranet and any tools that have been built or are being hosted in-house.
  • Test add-ons and extensions you and your colleagues are using. When you upgrade Firefox, it will check your add-ons and update or disable any that aren’t compatible. But you should also check the add-on developer’s website to see if there are beta versions available. And some add-ons may no longer be needed. After the controversy regarding hacking tool Firesheep a few months ago, I started using a Firefox add-on called Force-TLS that connected me to websites using HTTPS when possible. Firefox 4 has the appropriate technology built in, so Force-TLS is no longer needed.
  • Test social media tools you are using. Especially check custom pages that you have created on sites like Facebook.

You’ll probably want to keep copies of old browser versions handy, since a lot of users don’t upgrade right away. This can be tricky, since some browsers, such as IE, don’t allow you to install two different versions on the same machine; virtual machines and browser testing services can be handy.

How do you test new browsers?

HTML5, Silverlight headed to WP7 browser

Microsoft released on Wednesday a Firefox browser add-on extending HTML5-based video on the company’s Windows 7 OS.

The plugin enables Firefox users to play H.264-encoded video on HTML5 by using built-in capabilities of Windows 7, said Claudio Caldato, principal program manager for Microsoft’s interoperability team, in a blog post. Mozilla Firefox is a principal competitor to Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft has already been offering a Windows Media Player plugin for Firefox, for watching Windows Media content, Caldato said. “This new plugin, known as the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox plugin, is available for download at no cost. It extends the functionality of the earlier plugin for Firefox and enables Web pages that that offer video in the H.264 format using standard W3C HTML5 to work in Firefox on Windows. Because H.264 video on the Web is so prevalent, this interoperability bridge is important for Firefox users who are Windows customers.”

HTML5 is an ongoing update to the HTML specification that adds capabilities for multimedia.

The extension is based on a Firefox add-on that parses HTML5 pages and replaces video tags with a call to the Windows Media Player plugin, enabling content to be played in the browser. Firefox in some cases might fail to play a video even if the add-on is correctly installed, because a page might use a call to canPlayType to determine if the browser can play H.264 content, Microsoft said in release notes for the extension. “Typically the check is done either using createElement(‘video’) or getElementsByTagName(‘video’) and then call canPlayType(‘video’mp4’). In both cases, the call will return empty string even if the Add-on is installed and the browser could play H.264 videos,” Microsoft said.

Also, the current version of the add-on uses Windows Media Player Plugin APis to control video playback, thus creating differences between methods and properties defined in the HTML5 standard and those in the Windows Media Player plugin. The company seeks to fix these limitations in the next limitation of the add-on.