All posts tagged ‘First Look’

File Under: Browsers, Software

First Look: Firefox 4 Preview Delivers Speed, Revamped Interface

firefox4

A new version of Firefox is due before the end of 2010, and while the finished product is still a long way off, beta code is expected to ship as early as late June. Mozilla’s product director Mike Beltzner recently posted his team’s vision of what Firefox 4 will look like, highlighting new features and a new look.

Indeed some of the more important changes coming in Firefox 4 are already available in Firefox nightly builds. We downloaded the latest nightly build (which is still called Firefox 3.7 for the time being, but will be renamed when it reaches beta) and tested it out. So what’s in store for Firefox 4?

The short answer is that the new Firefox 4 is going to look more like Google Chrome. While we’re not suggesting Mozilla is ripping off Chrome, it’s hard to ignore a good idea when you see one, and Firefox 4 has seen several good ideas in Chrome.

Firefox's new add-on manager is rather Chrome-like. (Click for larger)

Firefox's new add-on manager is rather Chrome-like. (Click for larger)

One of the most obvious changes in the current Minefield, as Firefox nightly builds are known, is the new Add-ons manager (see the embedded image), which, instead of opening a new window or panel as the current version does, now appears as an inline page called “about:addons.” This is very much like Chrome’s “Extensions” page.

Firefox 4′s revamped add-ons page also has some new features, like support for Personas (simple Firefox themes) and Jetpacks, browser extensions built with Firefox’s new add-on framework. The new Jetpack add-on system lets developers write extensions for the browser using web standards that install without a restart. Jetpacks resemble what you’ll find in Google Chrome, which also utilizes a framework for lightweight extensions written in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

A recently proposed redesign for Firefox 4 puts tabs above the URL bar, also very Chrome-like. The “tabs on top” change is not yet available by default in Minefield builds (you have to go into the “View” menu and select it as an option), and it’s possible the idea will be abandoned before it reaches the final browser design. Either way, Firefox users will have the option of which design they want to use.

However striking the similarities, Firefox 4′s resemblance to Chrome is only skin deep. Under the hood, Firefox 4 is a radically different beast, both from Chrome and from its Firefox predecessors.

The biggest change is the all new HTML parser. It replaces the existing Gecko parser, which dates from 1998. The HTML parser is the last remaining unchanged chunk of Gecko, the underlying engine that powers Firefox. The revamp promises to make Firefox faster and, perhaps more importantly, compliant with the emerging HTML5 standard.

Other new features to expect in Firefox 4: speed improvements in page rendering times — already noticeable in the Minefield build — as well as the ability to use SVG and MathML inline in HTML5 pages. There are also huge speed boosts for innerHTML calls (common on JavaScript-heavy pages) and fixes for dozens of long-standing parser bugs.

For the full details on what the new parser means for the Gecko project, along with Firefox, be sure to read project lead Henri Sivonen’s post on the Mozilla hacks blog.

It’s important to remember that, while Firefox nightly builds do offer a glimpse of what’s coming, many of Mozilla’s plans (and certainly the UI designs) are still in flux. It’s possible that a great deal of this stuff will change before the final code ships.

We don’t recommend using Firefox nightlies as your primary browser. There are bugs, and it will crash. However, if you’d like to help Mozilla find and squash bugs, head over the nightly builds page and grab the latest version.

If using bleeding-edge, pre-release technology isn’t your thing, fear not. Mozilla estimates the first beta builds of Firefox 4 will be available in June 2010.

See Also:

File Under: Programming, Software

Dreamweaver CS5 First Look: More WordPressy, More Firebuggy

Dreamweaver CS5

There’s a new version of Adobe Dreamweaver on the way, and it includes new features for building sites with WordPress, new CSS enhancements and a new set of tools that let you see code changes in real time as you work, much like the popular Firebug add-on.

Adobe announced details about its latest Creative Suite bundle of applications on Monday morning. Creative Suite 5 is Adobe’s new package of apps for building websites, assembling videos and editing photos. We have a first look at Flash CS5 here on Webmonkey, and we have a first look at the new Photoshop on Wired.com’s Gadget Lab.

Dreamweaver, which has been one of the most popular apps for developing websites since its debut (as a Macromedia creation) in 1998, gets a fairly substantial update in Creative Suite 5. It doesn’t have the whiz-bang new features found in Photoshop CS5, but if Dreamweaver is part of your development workflow, you’ll definitely find much to appreciate in the new Dreamweaver CS5 that makes it worth an upgrade.

Of course, whether or not to use a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver is a debate in itself. Most can get by with a text editor, a few browsers and a short stack of reference materials. But if you’re working with a team of developers, or if you’re building more complicated sites with dynamic elements, databases and hundreds of pages, tools like Dreamweaver are essential. They speed up the workflow, keep everything organized and ease the pain of constant testing and iteration.

So, if Dreamweaver has a place in your life, here’s a rundown of what’s new in the latest version.

Continue Reading “Dreamweaver CS5 First Look: More WordPressy, More Firebuggy” »

File Under: HTML5, Multimedia, Software

Flash CS5 First Look: Adobe Drops a Hefty Update Into Stormy Waters

flashcs5_box

Adobe has released details about the latest version its Flash authoring tool, which arrives amid great uncertainty concerning the multimedia platform’s future.

Flash Professional CS5 boasts a number of improvements over previous versions, including better animation physics, improved typography controls, new code hints and snippets for building webapps in ActionScript, some new data formats, and better ability to add cue points to videos. It also has a few tricks for developers eager to publish apps to places where Flash isn’t allowed.

Flash is part of Creative Suite 5, Adobe’s new package of apps for building websites, assembling videos and editing photos. The new suite of apps, which Adobe says will ship mid-May, was announced Monday. We have a first look at Dreamweaver CS5 on Webmonkey, and we have a first look at the new Photoshop on Wired.com’s Gadget Lab.

Adobe Flash has taken a beating lately, especially from the hurricane that Apple’s public relations team generated around the launch of the iPad. Apple’s mobile devices don’t support Flash Player, so Apple is encouraging web developers to make their sites “iPad-ready” by removing Flash elements.

Also, last week, the new iPhone OS was announced, and it includes a new rule banning applications built with cross-compilers. Flash CS5 will ship with such a cross-compiler, Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, which lets developers build apps in Adobe’s suite of tools that can be exported with the click of a button and wrapped up as Apple-native code. Well, those apps won’t run on iPhones and iPads once the devices get their software updates this summer and fall, respectively. (There’s also a note on Adobe’s website Monday noting the use of Packager for iPhone is “Subject to Apple’s current requirements and approval.”)

Continue Reading “Flash CS5 First Look: Adobe Drops a Hefty Update Into Stormy Waters” »