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Software Review: Mozilla Firefox Web Browser 3.6

The latest version of Firefox is now available to download. Firefox 3.6 is the latest release following on just over 6 months after the successful release of Firefox version 3.5.

There are a some new features which improve on what was already an excellant browser. The two features that users will see initially is a further speed increase and the inclusion of personas into the main browser functionality.

The speed increase is noticeable, both in start-up speed and in how quickly pages are displayed. Firefox is particularly good on sites which use a lot of JavaScript. Considering the complexity and number of features within the browser the speed is impressive.

Personas provide a way of personalising your web browser which is quick, easy and looks great. It allows images to be placed as a background behind the menu, navigation bars and tabs. Personas were available with Firefox 3.5 but needed to be installed as an add-on (see getting started with Firefox Personas on Firefox 3.5), it is now a standard feature of the browser. Choosing a new background is as simple as going to and clicking on the one you want. You can also create your own Firefox personas.

Firefox Web Browser with Persona from First Aid

There are other improvements to the browser adding more features that can be used by web pages, but these will not be immediately obvious to most users until web sites get around to updating their sites to use these new features. Although it's possible to use feature degredation in some cases to maintain functionality with older browsers there is little incentive to using new features until there is a significant number of users. We will start to see more of the features being used on web sites in the upcoming months.

Worth upgrading?

If you are not running Firefox already, or have a version prior to 3.5 then I'd highly recommend downloading 3.6 to see how it compares as Firefox is a great web browser.

If you are already on Firefox 3.5 then there is less incentive to upgrade. If you are running Windows or Mac OS X then the steps needed to download and install the new version are so simple then it makes sense to upgrade.

If you are running a Linux distribution and are happy with your current version then it's probably better to wait until your distribution catches-up as (in my opinion) there are not enough features to out-weigh the benefits of sticking with the maintained version used by most distributions.