Hot on the heels of last week's IE7 release, today the next major version of Firefox (2.0) was officially released to the public. Get it from http://www.getfirefox.com.
Although there are a few very useful and logical updates and additions, I am a little underwhelmed by this new version. Don't get me wrong, Firefox is still my preferred browser by a long shot, but I guess i just don't see how the changes in 2.0 merit a step-up in the versions. But also, i can't help but feel the lack of major change is a good thing: if it ain't broke don't fix it!
I'll start with the good new things. The big major addition in this version is automatic inline spell checking for typing text into forms. This is really useful, and for all the Australians out there you'll definitely need to add and change to the Australian dictionary when using this feature.
Unfortunately, this new addition more than likely spells (hehe 'spells') the end of the Spellbound extension that I have used very happily in the past. Spellbound is marked as incompatible with the new version of Firefox, and I'm not totally sure whether I like the new built-in spell checking over Spellbound.
For all those who hate the new built-in inline spelling checker, and prefer the separate window functionality of Spellbound, some other guys have developed a dodgy 'Spellbound II' extension which replaces the inline stuff with a separate window thing. I'm still not sure which one I prefer, so I think i'll hold off on deciding on that till later.
Other new features include built-in phishing protection, tab/window recovery (e.g. after accidentally closing one), and updates to a few other things. See the release notes for all the new stuff.
One thing which has irritated me about the new version is the theme. I really don't like it. It looks bland, washed out, and i think that they've overdone the whole glassy-buttons look. In my opinion the 1.5 theme was almost perfect. See here for a good comparison of the 1.5 theme to the new theme from one of the 2.0 betas (though a few things have changed in the new theme since that beta, e.g. the refresh button). Luckily someone has already developed an add-on theme which allows you to revert the look of Firefox 2.0 back to the old 1.5 theme. Go to this add-on page to get it.
Other than that, I think the new version is a logical progression for the browser, as I can't really think of any new things that I would really like that aren't already in it anyway. i think most people will be happy with this new release, at least until their incompatible extensions get updated!
Speaking of extensions and add-ons, I think now would be a good time to again list the ones that I am currently using, but also describe why:
- BBCode: I'm currently waiting for this one to be updated for the new version. This extension makes it much quicker for me to add the various tags of HTML/BBCode to my blog and forum posts. Very useful, especially for the longer tags.
- Clone Window: This replicates the behaviour that i was used to in Internet Explorer when opening a new window: it would basically duplicate/clone the one that you were in. This extension does the same for Firefox with new windows as well as new tabs.
- English (Australian) Dictionary: as mentioned above, this adds an Australian dictionary for the built-in spell checker.
- Firefox Showcase: This extension allows you to survey, and quickly switch between, all open Firefox windows and tabs. Interestingly, a similar functionality is built into Internet Explorer 7 (as well as Mac OSX of course).
- IETab and IEView: Both these extensions allow you to quickly see the page you are currently viewing in Firefox in Internet Explorer. The amazing thing about IETab is that you can see the page in IE from within Firefox.
- No Squint: This is the spiritual successor to the old and frustrating TextZoom extension. This allows you to persistently set a default text zoom setting for Firefox, which I desperately need on my laptops high-res screen. (in fact i don't know why this kind of thing isn't built into Firefox itself).
- Tab Mix Plus: Currently not compatible with Firefox 2.0 (unless you download a developmental version from the author's website), this extensions allows you to customise basically anything to do with using tabs in Firefox. Very very useful, I have employed many tweaks.
- Winestripe (FF 1.5 theme): As mentioned above, switches the ugly 2.0 theme back to the old 1.5 one.