The Mozilla project recently released alpha builds of
. In addition to bugfixes and performance enhancements, there are
several new features in Firefox and Thunderbird that look interesting. So,
what's slated for Firefox 1.1 and Thunderbird 1.1? Let's start by looking
at the "Deer Park" alpha build of Firefox 1.1.
Firefox 1.1 is the first major milestone on the way to Firefox 2.0. Firefox
1.5, planned for sometime in 2006, is the second milestone, with 2.0 being
the final milestone. Overall, the 1.1 release isn't a radical change from
1.0, but there are some pleasant new features to look forward to, and a few
user interface changes as well.
The "Preferences" dialog has been modified quite a bit, which may throw
users at first, but the overall layout seems a bit more logical. Some of
the finer-grained controls have gone away, which may or may not be seen as
a good thing. For example, in Firefox 1.0, users can disable specific
status bar," and so forth. Firefox 1.1 gives users the option to enable
also adds a "Tabs" dialog dealing with all of the tab functions in
Firefox. The new Preferences dialog, and the new Thunderbird dialog, is
very similar in layout to Apple's Safari browser Preferences dialog.
There is a new tool to quickly remove information from Firefox, called
"Sanitize." One can choose to clear browsing history, saved form
information, download history, cache, cookies and saved passwords with a
hotkey or by choosing the "Sanitize" option from the tools menu. Sanitize
is configurable, so one can choose to erase download history, cache and
browsing history, for example, without erasing saved passwords or
cookies. Users also have the option of erasing these items each time
Firefox is shut down. This is a very useful option for those who share
computers with other family members, roommates and co-workers.
Firefox 1.1 also improves browsing pages in the cache, so browsing forward
and backward seems much faster than in Firefox 1.0. Granted, Firefox 1.0
isn't terribly slow, but even a few seconds improves the user experience
Users will also be able to report "broken" websites using Firefox 1.1. The
release includes a "Report a Broken Web Site" wizard which provides the
URL, a list of possible problems ("Browser not supported," "Can't log in,"
"Plugin not showing," and so forth) and a field to describe the problem in
feature, the Mozilla team will use this feature to work with webmasters to
correct interoperability problems with Firefox. Whether the feature will
actually encourage webmasters to fix the problems is another story.
The "Cookies" dialog has changed somewhat. Cookies are now organized in
folders by site, and users can search to find the cookies that they're
looking for rather than scrolling through the list, which can be handy if
one has accumulated a long list of cookies.
Despite its alpha status, we didn't run into any serious glitches, crashes
or other nastiness using Firefox 1.1. This writer plans to continue using
Firefox 1.1 alpha as his primary browser, since it has proven to be stable
(at least over the past three days) and offers some modest improvements
over the 1.0 release.
As with Firefox 1.1, there are no drastic interface changes or radical
feature changes slated for Thunderbird 1.1, but there are a number of
interesting improvements and new features that will make the upgrade
One spiffy new feature slated for 1.1, and working fine in the alpha
release, is the "inline" spelling checker that underlines misspelled words (or
words not yet in Thunderbird's dictionary) while you type. Thunderbird 1.0
does have spelling checking, but not as you type. Thunderbird also allows the
user to add a word to the dictionary, or ignore it, on the fly by
right-clicking on the word.
The Preferences dialog for Thunderbird has also been reworked, and is
similar to the new Preferences dialog for Firefox. Users can now get to the
"about:config" interface for Thunderbird easily, by going to the "Advanced"
tab and selecting "Config editor." Several of the features in 1.1 seem to
be inspired by Thunderbird extensions. The RSS features, and the
"about:config" access are both available for Thunderbird 1.0 as
extensions, for example. It will be interesting to see if the Mozilla developers manage
to keep Thunderbird and Firefox free of the kitchen-sink syndrome that
plagued the Mozilla suite. We're not suggesting these should only be
available as extensions, but we do hope the Mozilla team will resist adding
in popular functionality from extensions in order to keep Firefox and
Thunderbird lean and allow users to pick and choose the extensions they
Users who wish to use Thunderbird as an RSS reader will like the OPML
import capability in Thunderbird 1.1. We tested Thunderbird with an OPML
file exported from Bloglines with more than 130 feeds. Thunderbird handled
it gracefully, and imported all the feeds with no apparent problems. There
should be an "export" capability in the final 1.1 release, but it is not in
the current release.
Thunderbird 1.1 will also come with features to help users avoid being
scammed by phishing
attacks. We didn't actually get any phishing scams to test this out with
Thunderbird, but the client is supposed to display a warning message if a
message looks like a phishing attack.
Again, as with Firefox's alpha, the Thunderbird alpha handled well enough
that this writer will probably employ it for day to day use -- while making
regular backups of mail, just in case.
The Firefox roadmap
calls for a second alpha release in June, and a beta and final 1.1 release
sometime later this year. The Thunderbird
roadmap calls for a final 1.1 release in June, but that may need to be
pushed back since the alpha release is only a few days old.
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