Ever since Firefox was known as Phoenix, I’ve used it as my default web browser. There are so many reasons to use it if you’re still using Internet Explorer. For several months before Firefox 1.0 was released, I upgraded to the newest build several times a week. It’s kind of sad when you think about it, but I was excited about even the smallest of bugfixes when it related to something I was interested in.
Since Firefox 1.0 was released, I’ve typically stayed with the most recent stable release, but this week I decided to install Firefox 2.0 Beta 1, if only to see what kind of new features I would be seeing with the 2.0 release. So far, I’m pretty excited. Some of my favorite features from other browsers are here, and one of my favorite extensions (Session Restore) is now included into the browser. Here are some of my favorite new features in Firefox 2.0:
- Spellcheck support. Since I spend a fair amount of time using web forms, I’m pretty excited about this feature. Basically, when you start typing in a text box, words that are misspelled are underlined in red. A very handy feature, but it’s kind of strange to think that it thinks I misspelled “Firefox”. It also doesn’t understand that “i” is misspelled, but it’s still very handy.
- Status: Overall, it works quite nicely in beta 1. However, I have seen a few problems already: it doesn’t always highlight misspelled words that aren’t in the same paragraph as what you’re writing. When I tried to go back to the previous paragraph with a misspelled word, it crashed the browser.
- Session Restore. This is one of my favorite new features. As far as I can tell, it’s not enabled by default, but there is a good description of how to enable session restore. This is a great feature, especially when you have to restart your web browser after installing new extensions.
- Status: I haven’t seen any problems with this yet, even after crashes. I really like that after a browser crash it asks you if you want to restore your previous session- something that prevents you from needing to use the browser’s safe mode so often.
- Undo close tab. Whenever I start closing tabs, I quote often end up accidentally deleting one of them. It’s easy to get them back now, either through the History menu or by right-clicking on another tab.
- Status: This feature works nicely, but it’s not very obvious unless you know where to find it. It would be nice if you could ‘Edit->Undo Close Tab’ instead of whatever ‘Edit->Undo’ does now.
- Close buttons on each tab. This is something that I really liked on Safari, if only because I’ve never used it on a Mac with three buttons (middle click in Firefox closes tabs, even inactive ones). I got used to closing tabs with middle-click on most computers, but sometimes it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.
- Status: I really like this feature, but some people don’t prefer to have the button on each tab. Again, you have a few options for what kind of close buttons you want (on every tab, only on the active tab, none at all, or one button on the right like Firefox 1.0). These options aren’t yet in the menus, but can be easily edited. (Look for it in the menus by Beta 2).
- Formatting for Feeds. You can even specify your favorite feed readers. I really like this because I’ve had to deal with feeds a lot in my job. As much as I enjoyed reading all the XML formatting of the feed in Firefox, it looks much better now.
- Status: It should be a lot easier to add a different feed reader for those who don’t like Bloglines, Google Homepage, or My Yahoo!. This might be changed by Beta 2.
- Control your search engines. Some extensions like to add search engines to the top of your search box, but I like to control just about everything about my browser. You can now remove search engines and change their order easily.
- Status: This feature looks pretty polished. My only wish is that it was easier to add your own search engine (like a site-specific Google search, for example).
Overall, Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 looks great. I’m happy about the new features, even if some of them were implemented first by other browsers. For the time being, it looks like I’ll continue to use it as my default browser, especially after getting my favorite extensions to work using Nightly Tester Tools. If you plan on using this beta release, You should definitely read up on how to tweak Firefox 2.0 Beta 1.