Mac software: Hands on with Firefox 3.6, tips and tricks

February 17, 2010

Over the last year or so, some Firefox users have complained (guilty as charged) about nagging performance and stability issues with the popular open source browser. The recent release of Firefox 3.6, however, addresses these issues and brings some nifty new features to the table, as well.

People love Firefox. In fact, the world’s most popular open-source browser now accounts for 30-plus percent (over 50 percent in many European countries) of the market overall compared Safari’s 5-plus percent share, and it’s believed that about 25 percent of Mac users use Firefox as their primary client.

Go faster

The arrival of Firefox 3.6 (release notes, 19MB) should help drive further growth with improved performance and slick new features.

On the performance front, an updated version of Mozilla’s TraceMonkey JavaScript engine promises 20 percent better performance. One of the ways it delivers this is asynchronous script loading, which means that script-heavy pages should load faster.

Firefox 3.6 also brings improved HTML5 support, including improved support for < video > tag functionality (i.e. poster frames and full-screen viewing), is now baked in. The bad news here is that because Firefox doesn’t natively support H.264 video, the new YouTube and Vimeo HTML5 video player trials can’t be used to show off these new features, bummer.

Another useful if less dramatic feature that’s been a longtime coming is fullscreen viewing. That is, selecting “Full Screen” from the View menu (⌘ + Shift + F) will remove the tool, address and status bars, leaving you with a full, unobstructed view of the page you’re looking at.

Make it yours

In terms of visual impact, the biggest feature change in Firefox 3.6 is Personas, which integrates browser skinning directly into Firefox and no longer requires the installation and activation of an add-on. There are quite literally thousands of ready-to-use Personas available and Mozilla has posted an easy-to-follow create a Persona tutorial, as well.

To check out and use Personas, navigate to Tools > Add-ons > Themes > Get Themes (bottom of the Add-ons window). Once this feature is activated, you can simply mouse over a theme to see how it will look in Firefox “” sweet. That said, I really wish there was keyboard shortcut for this feature, though you can easily can create your own keyboard shortcuts for any menu item in any app.

On the subject of add-ons, Firefox 3.6 now detects outdated plugins and will notify you when fresh versions are available. This isn’t a huge feature update, but one that’s most welcome given all of new and devious ways hackers are finding to exploit Adobe PDF files and Adobe Flash.

Recently, I had been toying with the idea of replacing Firefox with Chrome because of the performance and stability issues I was experiencing. However, after installing FlashBlock and updating to version 3.6, Firefox has held onto its spot as my go-to browser for social media sites.

What are you liking most about Firefox 3.6?

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2 Responses to “Mac software: Hands on with Firefox 3.6, tips and tricks”

  1. Aaron:

    It’s a bit much to say “full screen” is a new feature, don’t you think? Every browser has had that going back to, what, Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 2 or so?

  2. Abhinav:

    Aaron…You know what..Chrome got extension support in Version 4. Firefox has its extension ecosystem since a 0.x release…

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