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Firefox 2.0 Alpha Imminent

The new software is likely to appear this week, with improvements to bookmarks, tabs, and extensions.

The Mozilla Foundation is close to releasing the first alpha edition of the next Firefox, the group's Web site announced, with a Tuesday unveiling likely.

Firefox 2.0, which at one point Mozilla officials said would debut in Alpha 1 format by the end of February, may appear as early as Tuesday. The browser, which will stress bookmark, tab, and extension changes, is in early development, and is scheduled for a final rollout in the third quarter.

According to entries on the Mozilla Developer Center blog and minutes of a status meeting a week ago, Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1 -- also called "BonEcho" -- may release Tuesday. Or Friday.

The agenda for a late-morning status meeting Tuesday, however, points toward an imminent release. All that remains to do is to finish two Web pages before pushing out the alpha.

The main purpose of BonEcho is to test Places, a new feature that combines bookmarks and browsing history.

True to its alpha status, BonEcho will be more sketch of the final Firefox 2.0 than an accurate image. "The UI [user interface] is not anywhere near final," the development team warned last week.

Other features planned for later editions include "undo close tab," which has been pushed to a second alpha, as had an on-the-fly spelling checker. The latter has been postponed because of difficulty getting it to also work with Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client.

Another feature touted by a Mozilla engineer in February, a centralized system for blocking malicious or uncooperative extensions, made it into alpha 1 at the last minute, notes from the March 14 meeting show.

Earlier reports over the weekend that BonEcho had actually released were incorrect, a Mozilla official said Sunday. Asa Dotzler, who runs Mozilla's testing program, chastised bloggers and others for hyping a not-released alpha 1 found on the group's servers.

"When we make a new release, we'll say so," wrote Dotzler on his blog. "Please don't report new releases because someone checks in a change to the user agent or similar. If we're actually doing a release, we'll announce it."

On Monday, Mozilla also rolled out the first public edition of Lightning, the renamed calendar add-on for Thunderbird. Lightning 0.1 can be downloaded for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X from the foundation's site.

When BonEcho (Firefox 2.0 Alpha 1) releases, it should be available here [site not yet live].

Firefox 2.0's rival, Microsoft Explorer 7, received a refresh of its Beta 2 Preview edition Monday.

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