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Want Firefox 3.6?


I have been using beta builds of future Firefox versions for ages. They have always been stable enough to use as my primary browser. The problem is, there are some downsides to using non-release versions of Firefox. One of those is add-ons not working, another is some new features that you may not like, and sometimes there are new features that you cannot access in an early beta because they have been disabled. Well here is some information, and tips and tricks for if you want to use Firefox 3.6 beta 1.

This is a minor upgrade from 3.5 so you shouldn’t expect too many changes. I’m sure there are many changes underneath the hood and hidden from the user. There are 3 major differences that may be experienced by the user. The first is Personas, which once was accessible through an extension but is now built in. This is a lightweight theming system. To try it, go to the Personas section of the Firefox add-ons site and hover over one to preview it on your browser and click “Wear It” to install it. The next change is currently disabled by default but will probably be enabled in a later beta. This is the new ctrl-tab previews. When you press ctrl-tab, it will show you full screenshot previews of some of the tabs you have open. You can also press ctrl-shift-tab to view a windows inside the browser that shows you all your currently loaded tabs. The last change is the way Firefox manages tabs opened through another page. When you click a link on a web page which launches it in another tab, this new tab will launch beside the current tab, and not at the end of the tab bar as the very last tab. As I said, there are not many new features in this version.

One of the problems with using a beta is that there will be extensions that will not function. A few of the popular extensions like Adblock Plus and Gmail Notifier will function in the latest beta but if you’re anything like me, there will be extensions that you need that just don’t work. Well luckily there’s an extension for that. Nightly Tester Tools has a great feature that allows you to overwrite compatibility to get the add-on to install on your current version of Firefox. For a lot of extensions, this is all that is needed to get it to work. For those, it’s great. Unfortunately, sometimes there are extensions that this won’t work exactly right for and may cause the browser to become unstable and/or crash. This may be a little risky but it’s worth a try. If you find you have something that doesn’t work with this fix and you must have the extension, then you’ll have to wait until the developer updates it for compatibility, which may not be until the final release. If that is your case, then beta software is definitely not for you.

So now you’ve installed Firefox 3.6 beta 1, had a quick play around with personas but you’d also like to check out the new ctrl-tab feature that’s disabled. To enabled that feature, go to about:config, accept the prompt then search for browser.ctrlTab.previews, right click and select toggle (to true) to enable. Now you can ctrl-tab to switch between you tabs with previews and also ctrl-shift-tab to access the window that shows all your tab previews. Now I wasn’t to happy with the new way Firefox handled the opening on new tabs from links in other tabs. I prefer it to open them as the last tab on my tab bar. To disable this new feature, in about:config, search for browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent, right click and select toggle (to false). Now it handles these tabs just like it does in earlier versions of Firefox.

Now this last set of tips is for Mac owners with a MacBook (Pro) with one of the multitouch trackpads. The first one can be done in Firefox 3.5 and 3.6. To enable rotate gestures to switch between the tabs, in the about:config page, search for browser.gestures. Here you will find 2 gestures without a value, twist.left and twist.right. Right click on them and type in the field Browser:PrevTab for twist.left and Browser:NextTab for twist.right to enable these gestures for navigating through tabs on your browser window. It may seem a bit weird for the start but eventually it will become second nature. One more thing that I also found was a way to make the new ctrl-shift-tab window to come up with a gesture. To set that, right click on a gesture and in the field type Browser:ShowAllTabs. You can set it for any one of the gestures in browser.gestures. I set it for swipe.down to make it more like the 4-finger swipe down for Exposé so to access my tab previews, it’s just a simple 3-finger swipe down.

Now that you know what’s new in Firefox 3.6, go out an give this thing a run. You now have enough knowledge to get this thing working and to enable and disable new features added in this version. The extensions tip can be applied to pretty much any alpha and beta version of Firefox out there in the wild and the multitouch for the MacBooks can be applied to any version after 3.5 (excluding the tab preview one since it doesn’t exist prior to 3.6.) Here is the link for Firefox 3.6 Beta so now you have no excuse for trying it out.

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