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Mozilla Firefox 3.5 review

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Manufacturer: Mozilla

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5 User Rating: Our users rate this 1 out of 10

The Mozilla Firefox 3.5 web browser is a winner, offering significantly faster web browsing, better tab handling, a host of interface tweaks and, like just about every other browser on the planet, a "porn mode".

The Mozilla Firefox 3.5 web browser is a winner, offering significantly faster web browsing, better tab handling, a host of interface tweaks and, like just about every other browser on the planet, a "porn mode".

If you already use Firefox you'll want to upgrade right away. If you're not a Firefox user, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 represents a very good opportunity to give the browser a test run.

See also: Mozilla Firefox 5 review

Mozilla Firefox 3.5: Need for speed

For many people, the browser wars are all about one thing: speed. There's no doubt that version 3.5 of Firefox is significantly faster than version 3. Pages load noticeably more quickly for a number of reasons, not least because Mozilla built a new JavaScript engine called TraceMonkey for Mozilla Firefox 3.5.

How much faster is open to debate. Mozilla says it ran the industry-standard SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, which measures how quickly browsers render JavaScript, on versions 2, 3 and 3.5 of Firefox, and asserts that Mozilla Firefox 3.5 is more than twice as fast as Firefox 3 and more than 10 times as fast as Firefox 2 on the test. Other testers have reported similar results.

Of course, rendering JavaScript quickly doesn't necessarily mean that all web pages load faster. Microsoft, for example, argues that for most web pages, other kinds of speed-ups are more important than rendering JavaScript quickly. We'll leave that debate to Microsoft, Mozilla and other browser makers. But putting aside any speeds-and-feeds specs, we can tell you that from the user experience, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 is lightning fast - it seems to me about comparable to the recently-released Apple Safari 4 for the Mac.

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Mozilla Firefox 3.5: Private Browsing

Any browser worth its salt these days has a porn mode, and with version 3.5, Firefox now has one as well. It's called Private Browsing (Internet Explorer's is called InPrivate Browsing), and it works as advertised. When you browse the web using it, nothing about the session is stored - no history, no cookies, no temp files, no forms information, no search information, nothing that can show where you've browsed or what you've done. To turn the Las Vegas tag line on its ear: what happens in Firefox doesn't stay in Firefox.

To use Private Browsing, Select Tools, Start Private Browsing, or else press Ctrl-Shift-P. Unlike with Internet Explorer, a new instance of the browser doesn't launch. Instead, a warning appears, asking you if you want to start a Private Browsing session and telling you that Firefox will save your tabs if you want to start one.

Mozilla Firefox 3.5 then closes your existing tabs, and immediately launches a private browsing window. From here, browse the web as you normally would, and nothing of the session will remain. To end the Private Browsing session, close Firefox as you would normally, or else select Tools, Stop Private Browsing, or else press Ctrl-Shift-P. The current session ends, and Mozilla Firefox 3.5 launches with all of your previous tabs intact.

There are other nice touches for those who don't want other people to know what sites they've been visiting. You can remove all the traces of a site you've visited while you were in a normal browsing session.

This eliminates it not just from the History list, but also kills all traces of the browser on your computer, including cookies and temp files, search history, forms you've filled out, and more.

To use this feature, first open your History list by choosing History > Show All History or by pressing Ctrl-Shift-H. Then right-click the site you want to remove, and from the menu that appears, select Forget about This Site.

You can also remove all of your history and other data related to your browsing session from the last few hours or last day. Select Tools, Clear Recent History, or press Ctrl-Shift-Del. From the drop-down list on the page that appears, choose either the past hour, the past two hours, the past four hours, today, or everything.

You can also fine-tune what to clear by clicking the Details button; it lets you determine what data to remove - browsing and download history, forms and search history, cookies, cache, logins, etc.

NEXT PAGE: interface tweaks >>

Mozilla Firefox 3.5 Expert Verdict »

Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003/Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 and later
Pentium 233MHz (Recommended: Pentium 500MHz or greater), Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor
64MB RAM (128MB RAM for Mac OS X)
52MB hard disk space (200MB for Mac OS X)
internet connection
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

If you're a Firefox user, the upgrade to Mozilla Firefox 3.5 is a no-brainer. Browsing the web is significantly faster, the ability to re-open previously closed tabs and windows is a major improvement, and as for PrivateBrowsing... we won't delve into your personal life, but if you've got a need to keep some of your browsing a secret, you'll want this feature. The video is nice-to-have, but won't be particularly useful until sites start using it. The same holds true for Location Based Browsing and some of the other improvements. All in all, this is a major improvement over Firefox 3.

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