Firefox 2 beta released

Update: Quite a few people get here looking for the Session Saver extension for Firefox 2. As far as I know, it hasn’t been released for Firefox 2 (extension), but I doubt it will as it has been built in. Under the ‘main’ options in version 2 you can get the same effect: “Show my windows and tabs from last time”.

Firefox logo, a world icon wrapped up in a red fox.Since November 2004 when Firefox 1.0 was release, it has become the main ‘other’ browser growing the Mozilla base from around 2% to over 10%, even upto 40% in Germany (according to Onestat). Although not in danger of over taking Internet Explorer any time soon, it’s popularity has stung Microsoft into updating Internet Explorer, and paying more attention to standards, which can only be a good thing.

Firefox 2.0 beta 1 was released a few days ago, which represents a refinement rather than complete overhaul. It uses the same rendering engine (Gecko 1.8), and looks very similar at first glance. Firefox 3 is already being worked on, and will be a much greater change.

Running Multiple Firefox installs

Consious of not replacing my primary browser with a beta, I used the batch file method of running Firefox 2 with it’s own profile. Running several installs of Firefox is fine, but you shouldn’t use the same user-profile, as they would use the same files at the same time. Firefox does the right thing in terms of user-experience, when you download a new version it updates your profile for you.

Basically, you install the new version, do not run it from the install or regular method – that would take over your current profile.

(Windows based instructions only I’m afraid.) Edit your profile.ini file to add another profile (usually located at: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox), aim it at a blank folder by adding something like this:


Then save a batch file like the following which points to the new Firefox exe and profile name:

start "Firefox" "C:\Program Files\Mozilla_Firefox_2B1\firefox.exe" -P "Firefox2b1"

If you follow the same approach, it’s worth installing a different theme so that when you are running two, they look quite different. Several have been updated to work with version 2, my favorite was Spheregnome big, which has a certain Mac IE feel about it, and is great for high-res monitors.

Very few extensions have been updated for this release so far, but you can manually override the versioning and install them anyway. The method is:

  1. Download the XPI file for the extension. It is simply a zip file with another extension. You can open it with standard archiving applications such as Winzip or 7zip
  2. Open the install.rdf file.
  3. Find the line in that file that starts <em:maxVersion>.
  4. Change the number on that line to ‘2.0’.
  5. Save the file back into the XPI file.
  6. Drag the XPI file into the Firefox window.
  7. Install as normal, restarting Firefox.

So far I’ve installed ‘all in one gestures’, ‘bookmarks synchroniser’, ‘Nuke anything’, ‘session saver’, and the ‘web developer’s toolbar’, without any noticeable problems.

What’s new?

It is mostly refinements, perhaps partly based on the usability testing at google. For example, subscribing to RSS feeds was possible in Firefox 1.5, but pretty basic. Now you can use your own feed reader, or use the browser:
Screen shot of Firefox after you've clicked on the RSS feed, showing a styled and human readable XML feed, and options to use an external reader.

The tabs also include a close button when there are a few tabs, but only on the open tab when there are more (a good thing for space preservation), and left/right arrows when many tabs are open. This puts it streets ahead of IE 7’s implementation so far.
Cut together screen shot of firefox 2's tabs, showing the refinements such as close buttons and overlap.

There is supposed to be a built in spell checker for forms, at least according to this review and lots of forum posts on Mozillazine, but I can’t find any sign of it in the interface.
Update: either Beta 2 fixes this, or downloading the en-US version first and installing a en-GB dictionary works.

Other people have used it and provided screen shots, but even after downloading the en-gb dictionary as suggested I can’t see any sign of it. Oh well, it’s a beta!

Minefield icon, a world with a fuse sticking out.The Mozilla org even use a particular icon for preview builds codenamed “minefield”!

You’ll notice from above that I still installed session saver, even though it supports crash recovery by default now. The problem is that it doesn’t open your browser where you left it (even as an option, as Opera 9 allows you to) so I installed session saver as well. Update: I’m not sure if I missed it or it wasn’t there before, but starting from how you left is now the first option under ‘main’. Thank goodness, session saver was pretty flakey under OSX.

The add-ons interface has been refined, there are some better anti-phishing improvements, check the wiki page for a list of new features.

I’m a little curious as to whether the new release will be pushed out via the automatic update mechanism. Given that it’s an integer (big) release, I doubt it, but I remain hopeful. It isn’t a huge change, but once the final version is released it is still worth the update.


4 contributions to “Firefox 2 beta released

  1. That is so not true that firefox 2 has session saver “built in”. At least not that it “gives the same effect”

    Always saving the current session for the next session is what Firefox 2 can do.

    What Session Saver did was save any chosen session for any time later. Each saved session could be named and a whole list of saved sessions was kept indefinitely and each could be opened from a drop down menue.

    SessionSaver was MUCH more useful and of different and greater usefulness than the current Firefox “save session” option.

  2. Hi Kirk,

    It’s a fair point that session saver has more functionality, but the bit that mattered to me was being able to close the browser, and open it where I left it.

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