Firefox 3 Gripes and Cheers Comments

Firefox 2 seemed a godsend for a long while. After dealing with IE for so long, and remembering the bad old days when I preferred IE to NS, I was barely convinced I was an FF1 user before FF2 came out. Godsend or no, it has since worn heavy and slow on my desktop(s). This goes for all platforms. It just plain drags. I love it so, and tend to ignore the slow startup, the occasional slow rendering of pages, the somewhat more frequent memory leaks, the random crashes and inability to properly quit the application simply because it’s the Best with a capital B. It’s the Best for one reason: the plugins extensions.

Like WordPress, Firefox became the powerhouse in market share it is at this point because of the plugins extensions (and getting an early jump on the tabbed browsing trend didn’t hurt).

I’m currently writing this post from ScribeFire, a badass little plugin extension that allows me to post directly from the browser in a rich text editor without worrying whether I’m online or not. I use several other plugins extensions every day. Most notably of these, as a developer, is of course Firebug. While the source of some of the aforementioned memory leaks and random crashes/misbehavior, it’s well worth the cost for the benefits of a true debugging environment for my JavaScript, an unmatched HTML inspector and the best analysis-and-live-tweaking CSS toolset on the planet. Nothing else matches it, on any platform. Webkit has Web Inspector and Drosera, which are fine, I guess. IE has various JS consoles (including Firebug Lite and several bookmarklets you need not include in your pages), DebugBar and maybe one or two other commercial tools, but nothing with the integrated firepower of Firebug. I also rely heavily on Web Developer toolbar for quickly enabling/disabling JS/CSS and launching validation checks when I’m bug hunting.

More bitching and moaning after the jump!

There are a number of other plugs extensions I use (Google Browser Sync, Server Switcher, YSlow, Colorzilla, MeasureIt get the majority of use, though I play with OneClick for WordPress now and then) which at this point do not yet work in Firefox 3, which is currently at Beta 5. Web Dev Toolbar, ScribeFire, Firebug all do. Or do they…?

Firebug has recently seen some leaps forward in version numbers after a long period of inactivity (save for a scarily bad-looking little site for FireClipse). With several versions now vying for my attention, which am I to choose? Currently, I’m running Firebug 1.1.0b11, but I’ve tried 1.2 alpha. Not going there again till it’s in beta. Complete fail. Won’t need to play with ChromeBug unless I ever get round to developing some extensions myself, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

What drove me to write this post, however, wasn’t the terrible experience with Firebug 1.2a. No, it was my burgeoning crush on Firefox 3b that triggered this rant. That’s what bit me tonight.

Firefox 3 runs immensely faster than FF2. Startup time, page load time, JS execution time, all seem much faster. I credit much of this to Mozilla handing off much of the work of the browser to native API for drawing form controls and for similar tasks. FF3 will fill the whole screen of my MacBook when I click the little green button, something FF2 never did, the bastard. FF3 respects my wishes when I ask it to go away, instead of struggling to stay afloat like a drowning cat who just won’t stop mewling no matter how many times I dunk the bag in the frigid water of Quit. Pretty soon I’m just going to have to let the cat out of the bag entirely (except for testing backwards compatibility) and start playing with a new pet.

Anyhow, with all of the good things to say about FF3b, there are a few bad ones. First being that I’m lonely for plugins extensions. I’ve read about an about:config hack for running FF2 plugs extensions untested on FF3 and may try that, we’ll see. Next up, they keep breaking things. I tried upgrading to FF3b5 which came out… I dunno yesterday maybe? and suddenly Firebug ceased doing a damn thing. Retro’d my ass back to beta 4 real quick, tell you what. Tonight I tried connecting my MacBook to my secondary monitor and Firefox 3 just wouldn’t let me drag it to the other screen. What gives?! The mouse cursor simply slid off the top of the app no matter how hard I leaned into the mouse button. FF2 worked just fine.

Enough getting worked up over bull shiz. Time for me to sleep.


  1. Asa Dotzler
    Posted April 4, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    “Firefox 3 runs immensely faster than FF2. Startup time, page load time, JS execution time, all seem much faster. I credit much of this to Mozilla handing off much of the work of the browser to native API for drawing form controls and for similar tasks.”

    Actually, that had absolutely no positive impact on our performance and memory usage. We did, however, spend more than two years fixing bugs, optimizing memory and tuning for performance in JavaScript, image rendering, and more.

    Add-ons compatibility is moving really fast too. We’re up to about 60% of the most used addons being compatible and we think that’ll be a lot better as we get closer to shipping.

    The screen problem is interesting to me. I always run with an external monitor and can easily drag Firefox or any Firefox sub-window (bookmarks organizer, preferences, etc.) between my two screens without any difficulty.

    What generation MacBook do you have? I know that they revved the graphics sub-system in Rev D MacBooks so maybe if you’re on one that’s not the same as mine, that could be related.

    – A

  2. Posted April 5, 2008 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    Wow, a Mozilla team member on my blog! Radness!

    Thanks for the clarification. I did read recently the Oct 13, 2006 article by Eich (http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/roadmap/archives/2006/10/mozilla_2.html) that included a lot of interesting information regarding the massive bug fixes. Lot of cobwebs to clear out from the old days. Just thought perhaps the native controls might’ve had /something/ to do with it.

    Played with the config hack last night/earl this morning and found it slowed down my FF3 terribly. I was able to get 9/10 extensions working. I must say I’m still confounded by the naming of things. What’s an Add-on? What’s an extension? What’s a plugin? I’ll admit I’m a terrible abuser of the terminology. Extensions are XUL and Plugs are native code for handling binary data, correct? Both are Add-ons.

    I run two different MacBook Pros, one a 17″ and the other a 15″. I run two monitors side by side at work and one above the other at home. (the cinema display is crammed between to reference monitor speakers) The 17″ runs Tiger and the 15″ runs Leopard. I believe I was on the 15″. Not sure what I’m looking for to identify the machine as a Rev D…

  3. Posted April 5, 2008 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Guess I should also clarify that Asa had a lot to do with Firefox blowing up. Haha. [insert awkward pause] My bad.

  4. Posted April 10, 2008 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I’d also like to switch to the newish FF3 if only plexons (plugins-extensions-addons) functioned properly in it, tell you what (you colloquialism-jacker!)!

  5. Posted May 23, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Also, I wanted to note that (at least in current versions I’ve played with, 3b4 and RC1) the dragging-between-monitors problem is not so much a problem as it is a case of one screen being wider than the other. My laptop’s screen has a higher resolution than that of the Cinema display and this may be what the issue was all along. However, FF2 never had this “problem” that I’m aware.

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