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5 Things You'll Love About Firefox 3

By Barbara Krasnoff
December 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

3. A workable bookmark organizer. Speaking of bookmarks, the separate history/bookmarks sidebars and managers have been replaced -- or, rather, augmented -- by a single Places Organizer, which uses Windows Explorer's familiar tree-on-the-left/list-on-the-right format. It offers a simple, quick way to read and manage your history and bookmarks -- including the ability to immediately edit a bookmark's name, location and tags rather than having to go into the Properties box (something that I was really sick of in Version 2).

Places Organizer
The new Places Organizer vastly improves Firefox's management of bookmark lists. (Click for larger view.)

4. Easier bookmarking. There are, in fact, quite a few new features involving bookmarking, some of which are small but highly useful. For example, you can now quickly create a bookmark by double-clicking on a star that appears in the right side of the address bar. You can also add tags to your bookmarks, which could work nicely as an organizational tool.

starred bookmark
You can quickly create a bookmark by double-clicking on the star in the address bar. (Click for larger view.)

There is also new folder called Smart Bookmarks in the toolbar. It offers three categories of bookmarks -- Most Visited, Recently Bookmarked and Recent Tags -- and is automatically populated during the course of your Web sessions. Since, like most people, I have a series of sites that I tend to visit regularly, I can see how something like the Most Visited list could prove handy as a one-click resource for my daily surfing. (I could, of course, create my own folder for these sites, but it's a lot easier to let Firefox do it.) My only quibble: A Recently Visited list would also be handy -- more handy, I think, than a list of sites that were recently bookmarked.

5. Better memory management. I'm a great fan of Firefox, but there have been times when I've considered going back to Internet Explorer because of issues I was having with memory. After a couple of hours of adding and dropping tabs, Firefox could commandeer nearly 200MB of memory, at which point I'd usually have to shut it down to prevent my other apps from grinding to a halt. It was very frustrating -- especially when the folks at Mozilla denied that it was really a problem.

It now looks like that may have finally been taken care of. Mozilla has announced that the new version handles memory usage better, so I decided to put it through a modest test. I opened the Firefox 3 beta and my current copy of Firefox on different systems; initial memory usage for the current version (with add-ons disabled) was 25,740KB, about 100KB less than the new beta's usage of 25,848KB. I then opened five tabs in both versions, ran a two-minute YouTube video, and shut everything down but the initial home page. At that point, Firefox 3 Beta 2 was using 46,296KB of memory -- more than 2,500KB less than the 48,968KB that Firefox 2 was using.

Windows Task Manager showing Firefox memory usage
The new version of Firefox appears to have a smaller memory footprint than its predecessor. (Click for larger view.)

This is admittedly not comprehensive or conclusive testing, but if that trend extends to long-term usage, I can see the latest version of Firefox taking up a lot less memory than its predecessor.

According to Mozilla's Firefox 3 Beta 2 release notes, "There's still more to come." That could be good -- or bad. Firefox became popular because it was lean, mean and user-tweakable, and I'd hate to see Mozilla lose that focus.

Certainly, if Firefox 3 Beta 2 is anything to go by, the Mozilla team is doing a fine job in balancing new features with a basic philosophy of "don't fix what ain't broke." We can only hope that they will continue following this adage as time goes on and the final release grows closer.

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