Firefox 3 beta 1 shows polish, beta 2 aimed to be code complete by Dec 7

Depending on where you live, Firefox 3 beta 1 was released late last night or early today -- as expected.The code was released precisely at 11:11 pm Pacific time, or 2:11 a.

Depending on where you live, Firefox 3 beta 1 was released late last night or early today -- as expected.

The code was released precisely at 11:11 pm Pacific time, or 2:11 a.m. Eastern time,, a Mozilla developer said.

According to the Mozilla Foundation, the ninth test release of the core code offers improved graphics, ease of use, security, bookmarking and personalization features. It also offers offline application support and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OSX, although the enhanced visual UI that allows the browser to take on a more Windows-like, Mac-like or Linux-like feel, depending on the operating system in use -- won't be available until future beta releases, developers say. However, Mike Connor, Director of Firefox Development, said that the new Mac theme would be available as an add-on for beta 1 on the addons.mozilla.org website soon.

But there's a lot to test out in this beta, which is quick and easy to download and available in more than 20 localizations.

The software offers a new graphics and font rendering engine for improved text, graphics and color rendering and an enhanced HTML rendering to enable better CSS and table layout support, as well as native web page form controls.

On the ease-of-use side, beta 1 provides easier installation of add-ons, a new download manager with resumable downloads, full page zoom, and animated tab strips. Full page zoom works as expected.

On the security front, the password manager ensures a user has logged in with the right password before allowing Firefox to save the password and allows users to choose between a master password or save passwords for each site. Additionally, the software performs automatic version check of plug-ins, extension and Java and auto-disabling if insecure plug-ins are running.

Customization and personalization are among the browser upgrade's best improvements. Firefox 3 offers users the ability to organize browsing through a new Places feature. Users can organize and search their history, bookmarks and tags more easily. Additionally, new organizer features offer advanced search, multiple views and smart folders, Mozilla points out. Beta 1 adds one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders and better customization of download actions based on file types. Users can quickly access "Bookmark This Page" from the top of the Bookmark menu to add a new bookmark.

Firefox 3 uses the Gecko 1.9 Web rendering platform that has been in development for more than two years and includes changes to nearly 2 million lines of code. The re-architecture means better performance and reliability. In Firefox 3, for example, bookmarks, history, cookies, and preferences are now stored in a database format which prevents data loss even if systems crash.

In addition to better data reliability for user profiles, Beta 1 also offers faster page rendering, more than 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks, Mozilla said.

Developers said they hope to have beta 2 code complete by Dec. 7.

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