Making the most of Firefox

    Simon Willison

    The web development community is positively buzzing at the moment with news of the release of Firefox 0.8, the latest release in the Phoenix/Firebird/Mozilla browser line. The release marks the third and final name change for the Mozilla project’s standalone browser, brought about due to a naming conflict with the Firebird open source database project. The name change FAQ explains the reasoning behind the new name.

    The main download URLs have been pretty much saturated all day, so if you want to grab a copy of the browser your best bet is to try one of the mirrors.

    I’ve been putting the latest release through its paces today and my overall impressions are very positive. The browser seems noticably faster than Firebird 0.7, which itself was certainly no slouch. The new icon set (designed by Jon Hicks) is superb, as is the rest of the work invested by Steven Garrity’s Mozilla Visual Identity Team.

    From a web development point of view, the most exciting addition in Firefox is the DOM Inspector. This invaluable tool for exploring the browser’s Document Object Model has long been a killer feature of the full Mozilla suite, and its inclusion in Firefox further strengthens that browser’s position as an essential development tool.

    To really make the most out of Firefox, you need to explore some of the excellent extensions that are available for the browser. My all time favourite is Mouse Gestures, which can dramatically improve the speed of your web browsing once you take the time to learn how to use them. LiveHTTPHeaders is another essential install, although it is mainly useful as a debugging tool for server-side development. Finally, no Gecko-engine browser install would be complete without a healthy dose of Jesse Ruderman’s Web Development Bookmarklets which have saved me literally days of time, thanks mainly to the powerful combination of “test styles”, “edit styles” and “ancestors”. If you haven’t tried them yet you really won’t believe what you’ve been missing.