Archive for the ‘Browsers’ Category

File Under: Browsers

Mozilla Shows Off Powerful New Developer Tools for Firefox

A mockup of what it might look like to author your pages right inside Firefox. Image: Paul Rouget.

You asked for them and now Mozilla’s Firefox developer tools team is hard at work building a slew of new tools for web developers.

A few weeks back Mozilla’s Paul Rouget asked developers what they’d like to see in future versions of Firefox’s developer tools. The resulting thread on Hacker News is quite extensive and full of some great ideas that Rouget and others have been hacking on ever since.

The result is a bunch of new tools that are mostly still at the experimental mock-up stage, though a couple are available now in the Nightly Channel if you’d like to try them out.

The most popular request, and by far the coolest of the bunch, is the ability to do live edits in the text editor of your choice — effectively controlling Firefox with your editor. The video below shows an example of live editing via the popular Sublime Edit. This would essentially eliminate the need to jump from your editor to the browser, hit refresh, jump back to your editor, and so on. A dance that most of us are all too familiar with. Perhaps the best part, Rouget says this will work with the mobile version of Firefox as well.

Mozilla is also working on the opposite idea — authoring in the browser. That means putting an editor inside Firefox’s Dev Tools suite. Thus far this idea is less fleshed out, but the possibilities include putting in something like jsFiddle or perhaps a more traditional file-based editor.

Other new tools include some catch up features that bring Firefox’s Dev tools up to speed with what you’ll find in WebKit browsers. Examples include a new network panel prototype and the ability to doc the tools to the right side of the screen — great for wide monitors (this is already available in Nightly). There’s also a new “repaint” view that shows what gets repainted on the page, very useful if you’re trying to improve performance. Rouget has also been working on a new, dark theme for the Firefox dev tools.

Rouget recently added a font inspector panel (available in the Nightly Builds) that makes it easy to see which fonts a page is using, including details like whether or not the font file is local or served through a service like Typekit, as well as the actual @font-face code used.

In what appears to be an unrelated effort, Mozilla developer Dave Townsend has been hacking on Firefox’s Tilt View Tool. Tilt View offers a 3D look at a page that can be very helpful for visualizing the structure of your code and spotting bugs you might otherwise miss. Townsend has come up with a number of ways to extend Tilt, including showing only links and only elements that change on hover.

Townsend even suggests that in the future you might be able to pair Tilt with your site analytics to see which links are most frequently clicked. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait a while before these features are actually available in Firefox; Townsend’s hacks rely on some core Firefox features that aren’t ready for prime time just yet.

While many of these coming features are, as yet, only prototypes, things are clearly looking up for Firefox’s dev tools. For more details on everything that’s new, be sure to check out Rouget’s post, as well as the related Hacker News thread that Rouget has been posting to with some follow up info.

File Under: Browsers

Microsoft Reverses Windows 8 Flash Ban

Microsoft has, yet again, changed its policy regarding Flash on Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Starting today Microsoft is ditching the whitelist, allowing Flash in IE10 to run by default on almost any site that needs it.

Previously Microsoft had announced that Windows 8′s Metro mode would not support Flash. By the time Windows 8 actually launched that had changed to allow Flash to run on websites that Microsoft had formally whitelisted. Flash always ran unfettered in IE10 when using Windows 8′s desktop mode.

Now Microsoft is reversing the whitelist, blacklisting “the small number of sites that are still incompatible with the Windows experience for touch or that depend on other plug-ins.” According to the IEBlog that’s fewer than 4 percent of sites using Flash.

According to web survey company W3Techs, around 20 percent of all websites still use Flash in some fashion. The HTTPArchive puts that number somewhat higher at 35 percent in general, but 42 percent for the top 1,000 sites on the web. Unfortunately neither of those sources track whether or not Flash is an integral part of the sites that use it, or just used in advertisements on the site.

Whatever the case, despite the fact that the number of sites using Flash is declining, it’s clearly still a big part of the web.

Whitelisting every site on a site-by-site basis was cumbersome at best and often frustrating since sites that might have worked just fine could not simply because they had not made the list. Today’s change of heart for IE10 eliminates that problem and makes Windows 8 a bit more consistent, offering nearly the same Flash experience whether you’re in desktop or Metro mode.

File Under: Browsers

Curvy, Chrome-Style Tabs Coming Soon to Firefox

So, so round. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Firefox’s tabs will soon sport a sleeker, rounded design.

The new design will likely arrive in the Nightly Channel in the next few days, but if you’d like to test it today, you can download the Firefox UX branch. Retina MacBook Pro users should note that, thus far, the new curvy tabs don’t support high-DPI screens.

The new curved tabs look like slightly over-sized, more rounded versions of the tabs Google Chrome has always used. Unlike Chrome, tabs in the background are nearly invisible.

The big question is why? Mozilla’s answer seems to be little more than “because we can”. On the plus side, the re-skinned tabs will bring a bit of a speed improvement thanks to new graphic elements and faster “paint” times.

For more details on the speed improvements see Firefox developer Mike Conley’s write up on the new curvy tabs.

File Under: Browsers

Reborn Opera Mobile Sings on Android

Opera old and new on a Galaxy Nexus. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Opera software has unveiled the first version of its new WebKit-based browser for Android.

The new WebKit-based Opera is not just different under the hood, for all intents and purposes this is a totally new web browser and, surprise!, it’s better than its predecessor.

If you’d like to take this beta for a spin, head over to the Google Play Store. The Opera Mobile beta requires Android 2 or better and, fear not, it’s a separate app so you can keep the old version around if you’d like.

Last month Opera announced it would be abandoning the Presto rendering engine that has been the basis of the browser since its inception. Instead the company will use the WebKit rendering engine for all its future releases, starting with this Opera Mobile for Android beta.

The revamped Opera for Android isn’t just different under the hood, Opera has redesigned the entire browser from the ground up opting for a more Android-native look. The new user interface is cleaner and reminiscent of Chrome for Android with a single menu button at the top of the screen rather than the space-eating toolbar found in the old Opera Mobile. While I prefer the new UI, it’s worth noting that the new design is decidedly less thumb-friendly.

Other cosmetic changes include combining the URL bar and search bar, and a new tab switching interface also similar to what you’ll find in Safari on iOS.

However, while the first WebKit-based Opera Mobile is clearly different it manages to retain, and even improve on, much of what made (makes) Opera unique.

For example, Opera Mobile’s trademark “Speed Dial” page has been revamped and is much easier to customize with your favorite sites. Speed Dial now looks and behaves much like the home screen on iOS. You can even drag your bookmarks and favorites on top of each other to create folders. The changes make it possible to fit more links in less space.

Opera Mobile’s new iOS-ified Speed Dial screen. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Also new in this release is what Opera is calling “Off-Road” mode — the data compressing power of Opera Mini is now available (when you want it) in Opera Mobile. Off-Road mode uses Opera’s servers to compress webpages before they’re sent on to your device. That means faster browsing on slower networks. Off-Road can even save you money if you’re caught roaming or running out of data on a limited data plan. Unlike Opera Mini, which always compresses pages, Opera Mobile allows you to toggle the Off-Road settings.

Opera’s simplified menu with “Off-Road” toggle. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Opera Mobile’s Save for Later feature can also save on bandwidth if you download pages for offline reading while you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

While there is much to love about the new Opera for Android beta, be forewarned that it is very much a beta. In my testing it was stable enough, but Off-Road mode frequently failed to render pages and there’s currently no way to sync your Opera Link data. Provided Opera works out the bugs though Opera Mobile is shaping up to be one of the best browsers on Android.

File Under: Browsers

Google Chrome Speeds Up the Small Screen

Webmonkey.com in the latest Chrome for Android Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Google has released a major update to its Chrome for Android web browser.

The latest version of Chrome for Android — available in the Google Play Store — features an updated version of Google’s V8 JavaScript engine, which has finally been optimized for mobile devices. That means Chrome for Android should now be faster than the old, stock Android web browser.

According to Google, the latest version of Chrome for Android improves on Google’s Octane benchmark tests by 25 percent on average. While benchmarks aren’t always the best indicators of real-world performance gains, the speed boost should mean that JavaScript-heavy pages like Gmail or Facebook load a bit faster.

Our friends over at Ars Technica put the latest version of Chrome for Android through the paces using not just Google’s own Octane test, but the Sunspider and Kraken benchmarks as well. The results don’t always feature quite the speed improvement that Google claims, but this is without a doubt the fastest version of Chrome for Android yet.

The performance improvements aren’t just in JavaScript either. Scrolling webpages is much smoother and, most noticeable in my testing, pinch-to-zoom is much more responsive with none of the stuttering and lag that marred previous releases.

Other nice improvements include the ability to keep web audio playing even if you switch to another app (handy for music streaming sites), and support for coming web standards like CSS Filters.

Google has also released an update for Chrome on iOS, though the changes on the iOS side are largely cosmetic. Apple’s App Store policies prevent Google from including the V8 engine in Chrome, so iOS users won’t see any speed improvements. There are however a few design tweaks, like a unified search/URL bar and a quick way to see the entire history of a tab by holding down the back button.