All posts tagged ‘beta’

File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Web Standards

Future Firefox to Bring PDF, WebCam Streams to the Browser

W.T. Monkey loves WebRTC. Image: Screenshot

Firefox 18 is out the door, which means Mozilla has bumped up all the pre-release channels, showcasing features coming soon to a final release near you.

If you’d like to try out a pre-release version of Firefox, head on over to Mozilla’s channel download page and grab either the Beta or Aurora releases. (The former is a bit more stable, but both are pre-release software so proceed with caution.)

The Beta channel contains Firefox 19, which is six weeks away from release and features a few modest improvements, including a baked-in PDF viewer based on PDF.js. It may not mean the end of those annoying (and untrue) buttons that say “you need Adobe Acrobat to view this file,” but at least you don’t, well, need Acrobat just to view a PDF.

The Aurora channel has been bumped up to Firefox 20, which contains a far more interesting new feature — support for capturing local camera and microphone streams with the getUserMedia API.

Here’s how Mozilla describes getUserMedia:

[getUserMedia] is a new HTML5 DOM API that allows the browser to capture local camera and/or microphone streams directly, and not through third party plugins. This means JavaScript developers can now quickly and easily write code to access the user’s camera or microphones (with the user’s permission, of course) without having to install anything because the support is already inside the browser.

There’s a demo page you can try out over on Mozilla’s GitHub page.

The getUserMedia API is just the first of several components that make up WebRTC, a set of APIs which enable real-time, interactive, peer-to-peer audio/video calls and data sharing. Two other pieces of the WebRTC puzzle — PeerConnection and DataChannels — can be found in the Firefox Nightly channel, for those who really enjoy living on the edge (you’ll still need to enable them in about:config, set the media.peerconnection.enabled option to true).

Firefox’s six week release cycle means that — barring unforeseen problems — the PDF viewer will arrive in final form sometime in early March, with the getUserMedia tools coming in mid April.

File Under: Browsers

Aurora Preview Brings Faster ‘SPDY’ Protocol to Firefox

Mozilla recently pushed Firefox 11 out the door and onto the web, which means the Beta and Aurora channels for Firefox early adopters have also been updated.

If you’d like to try either early release, head over to the Beta download page or the Aurora download page, depending on how far out on the bleeding edge of Firefox development you want to go.

Firefox 12, currently in the beta channel, brings a handful of improvements, including some refinements for Firefox’s new built-in developer tools. The beta currently offers updated versions of the new Page Inspector, the Web Console panel and the JavaScript Scratchpad.

Much of what’s exciting about the Firefox roadmap is to be found in the Aurora channel, currently showcasing Firefox 13. Here you’ll find support for the new SPDY protocol — a faster alternative to HTTP — enabled by default. SPDY, which began life at Google, is in the early stages of the standardization process, but when it finally arrives it should make many webpages load twice as fast as they do now over HTTP. Currently not many websites are serving pages over SPDY, though Twitter recently started doing so where possible. On the browser side, Google Chrome already offers SPDY support, as does Firefox 11, though until Firefox 13 hits prime time, SPDY support is disabled by default.

Firefox 13 will see some significant changes for Firefox on Android, with support for multitouch events and a new screen orientation API.

The biggest news in Firefox 13 for developers is that Mozilla is changing the User Agent string to report the type of device — “Mobile” or “Tablet.” That means if you’re relying on a device detection script (and this is a reminder of why you probably shouldn’t be) it’s time to update your device list.

Firefox 13 will also drop the prefix from a couple of CSS elements, namely border-radius and box-shadow. Hopefully you’ve been following best practices and including the non-prefixed CSS rule along with your prefixed versions, otherwise Firefox 13 will stop rendering your rounded corners and drop shadows.

For more info on everything that’s coming in Firefox 13, read through the list of improvements over on the Mozilla Hacks Blog.

File Under: Browsers

Beta Update: Firefox 8 Offers Smarter Tab Restore

The official release of Firefox is now at version 7, which means that all the other Firefox channels have also been bumped up. Nightly now sits at version 10, Aurora at 9 and Beta now contains Firefox 8, which has several new features worth noting, including more control over add-ons and the ability to limit which tabs load on restart.

If you’d like to give the beta channel a try, just head on over to the Firefox channels page and download the beta release. Those of you already on the beta channel should be updated to the latest version the next time you restart Firefox.

Perhaps the most useful new feature in Firefox 8 is the ability to selectively restore tabs. If you use a lot of tabs you know that closing the browser with dozens of tabs open, and then firing it up again the next day, makes for a very slow restart. You’re left waiting for all those tabs to reload when all you want to see is one of them.

That’s why Firefox 8 adds an option to change the way Firefox reloads tabs when it starts. Using the new setting you can tell Firefox to only load the focused tab when it restarts. That way the tab you want loads and you don’t need to wait for all the rest to finish. Background tabs then load when you select them.

To enable the new tab restore features, head to Firefox’s Preferences and look for it under the General tab.

Firefox 8 also gives you more control over add-ons installed by third-party software. Now any add-ons you don’t explicitly install are disabled until you opt-in. That stops less than scrupulous developers from hijacking Firefox without your knowledge.

The latest beta of Firefox adds some new developer features as well, like support for the HTML5 contextmenu attribute, a part of the menu element that allows developers to add items directly to the browser’s right-click menu. More details about what’s new for developers can be found on the Mozilla developer wiki.

Other new features in the beta channel include a new default search option for Twitter, some better animations when dragging tabs around and improved security for websockets, which were just recently re-enabled in Firefox 7.

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File Under: Browsers

New IE9 Preview Arrives, Now With More JavaScript Power

Internet Explorer 9 Beta on the Windows 7 desktop

Microsoft pushed out another preview release of Internet Explorer 9 Wednesday. This is not a new beta release — we’re still months away from the official release of Internet Explorer 9 — but we’re definitely approaching the finish line.

Wednesday’s release, dubbed Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 7 (whew) includes a big performance boost with a newly revamped JavaScript engine inside of it.

The last preview release of IE9, which only arrived a few weeks ago, saw increased support for web standards. But Microsoft made it clear to us during a phone briefing that Wednesday’s release is all about speed and performance.

To that point, PP7 contains an updated version of the Chakra JavaScript engine. This new engine for IE9 was first introduced at Microsoft’s PDC developer event in November 2009. During the last year, the company has been improving Chakra to the point where it’s now scoring over 300 percent higher on the WebKit SunSpider benchmark than it was at launch.

Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin from the IE team says the new release scores 234.6 ms on SunSpider’s JavaScript execution performance test. Read more about the testing stuff on the IE Blog.

While some browsers are certainly faster than others, the major browser vendors continue to tweak their internal workings and make small improvements to speed. JavaScript performance is particularly important, since modern web applications like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter rely heavily on scripted actions. A faster browser means a snappier web app. Just last week, Mozilla released a new beta of Firefox 4 that included revamped code for its JägerMonkey and TraceMonkey JavaScript engines.

You can download this early version of the next IE browser directly from Microsoft. It’s available for PCs running Windows 7 and Vista. Also, this platform preview can be installed alongside IE9 Beta or IE8 with no problems.

Once you grab it, head over to the company’s demo playground and put the new browser through the paces. Be sure to report your results in the comments.

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File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer 9 Beta Drops. It’s Lean, Fast and Modern

Internet Explorer 9 Beta on the Windows 7 desktop

Microsoft will release the first beta version of its new Internet Explorer web browser Wednesday morning.

Internet Explorer 9 Beta will be made available for download shortly after it is announced at a launch event in San Francisco, around 10:00am Pacific time. We’ll post a download link for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users as soon as we have one.

The final version of IE9 is still some months off — Microsoft wouldn’t commit to a definite time frame for the browser’s release when we asked. But we’ve spent a few days in IE9 Beta’s company, and so far, it has proven to be a thoroughly modern machine. The world’s most-sed browser is getting a new look, much expanded support for HTML5 and other 21st century web technologies, and a big speed boost.

Quite a change. Microsoft has a reputation for being an also-ran when it comes to browser innovation. When IE8 arrived in March 2009, we found it rich in features, but lacking in support for the emerging standards powering the shiny apps that make the web exciting. IE8 was faster and more secure than its predecessor, but when it came to speed and productivity, it wasn’t up to snuff with its peers — Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. In fact, it was a bit of a snooze.

A year and a half on, Microsoft has smelled the coffee and is wide awake at the wheel. IE is fit to play in the same league as the other browsers.

Keep in mind, IE9 Beta is still pre-release code, so it may not run perfectly. But there’s enough new going on here — especially that speed boost — to make the download a must for the curious who want a taste of IE’s future.

A new look

The most striking difference between this browser release and the IEs of old is the new user interface. It’s sleek and minimal, and — what are those? — it now has the inverted top-tabs, which are quickly becoming common.

We first caught wind of this design change when a screenshot of the new IE9 leaked onto the web. It decreases the amount of real estate the browser consumes on screen and makes way for more content.

Another shot of IE9 Beta. Click for larger.

“The browser is the stage and the backdrop, but the website is the star of the show,” Microsoft general manager of Internet Explorer Dean Hachamovitch tells Wired. “We think the browser should totally take a back seat to the sites.”

Freeing up those extra pixels with a minimal top bar is a path others in the industry are taking. Chrome shipped with the tabs-on-top look two years ago, Mozilla has adopted it for Firefox 4, and Safari has flirted with in the past. Opera offers a few different choices for where to put your tabs.

Other notable details: a unified search and URL bar (a la Google Chrome) where you can get search suggestions as you type. Bing is the default, but you can add Google, Wikipedia or a host of other engines. There’s also an enlarged back button, (a la Firefox) and a noticeable lack of menu items in the main bar. Something else new in IE9 is the New Tab window with thumbnails of your most commonly-visited sites, which looks much like what you’ll find in Safari, Chrome and Opera. A nice addition here is a little bar in each thumbnail that shows how much time you’ve spent on each site.

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