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9/9/2005
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First Look: Firefox 1.5 Beta 1

Mozilla's popular browser Firefox undergoes its first major upgrade, but the company is being careful to tweak rather than overhaul.

Mozilla's Firefox Web browser is viewed by its proponents as a David trying to unseat Microsoft's Internet Explorer Goliath. Firefox's well-designed interface, tabbed windows, and use of extensions — not to mention the fact that it's not Microsoft — has endeared it to a lot of Webphiliacs out there.

However, even its most fervent advocates (or at least most of them) have to admit that the browser has some issues. (Intrepid Firefox fan Mitch Wagner covered some of them last June in his article Firefox Users Sound Off: Fix Those Bugs!.) In response, Mozilla has finally come out with the first beta of its first major update, Firefox 1.5. According to current reports, there will be one or two more release candidates, with the final version expected out before the end of the year.



Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 is now available for Mozilla fans to try.
(Click to enlarge image.)

Users who are expecting a radical overhaul are in for a disappointment. Mozilla obviously (and justifiably) believes that what ain't broke shouldn't be fixed, and so it has simply added some new features, both in the interface and behind the scenes.

Check Your Extensions At The Door
When you go to the download page, Mozilla warns would-be beta testers that Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 is not the final version, and that if you're not comfortable playing with betas, you should stick with version 1.0.6 for now. I'd add that if you would feel unhappy without your favorite extensions, you might want to hold off as well.

Mozilla cleverly included a wizard that checks out your extensions for compatibility with the beta. I had four extensions installed — Adblock, Forecastfox, IE View and Google Toolbar — and of these, both Google Toolbar and IE View were found not to be compatible with the beta and were automatically disabled. (When you are told which extensions have been disabled, Firefox offers a "Check now" button so you can look for updates to the extension that might work with the new release.)

However, the other two extensions didn't seem to work either. Forecastfox wasn't on my menu toolbar, where I had put it; I tried changing its location, but I couldn't seem to find it. Adblock seemed to be there, but was a bit quirky — the only thing it blocked was a video feed, but it couldn't seem to find any advertisements. The moral of this particular story is that if you depend on your extensions, wait until Firefox 1.5 is out of beta.

Speaking of extensions: One of the smaller fixes in the new version is the ability to drag and drop tabs to new positions. I was using an extension previously for that function, and this new feature isn't really an improvement on that. However, it's nice to have.



Firefox now lets you drag and drop tabs without having to add an extension.

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