I’ve been playing with the Firefox 3 nightlies for quite a while now so the first beta release didn’t really hold any great surprises for me. The updated rendering engine is fast and clean, and it’s got lots of nice new features which make it a treat to use. Most of my favourite new features are already in Opera 9.5, however; and one that isn’t could really do with the Opera touch.
First, the new password manager displays as a bar along the top of the screen rather than an alert, meaning you can see if your password works before choosing to store it. One small usability point is that the option ‘not now’ is displayed only as a close button; this appears at first as if your only options are ‘remember’ or ‘never’. Opera’s implementation is clearer on this point.
The intelligent history search now looks for words in the titles of pages, not just in the URLs. This is probably my favourite new feature of the UI; it’s incredibly useful if you can remember what a page was about, but not its URL. Opera, however, goes one step further and searches the content of pages in the history, meaning you can find what you want even if the page doesn’t have a logical title.
Places, the new Bookmarks functionality, allows you to tag and star your favourite websites then recall them quickly. It works a lot like sites such as del.icio.us or ma.gnolia.com, although without those two sites’ big advantage: getting to your bookmarks from different locations. The new Opera has the synchronize facility, which keeps your links current no matter where you log in from; this is a function that Places is crying out for. Otherwise, it’s a useful tool.
Of course, both browsers are in beta status at the moment, so plenty could change, but if Opera 9.5 already has my new favourite features, why will Firefox 3 still be my browser of choice? The add-ons architecture. Above all else, that’s why I keep loyalty to Firefox when I now have no shortage of options across the different platforms. Sorry, Opera; you make a great browser, but until you dump Widgets and allow extensions, you’re my second choice.