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Firefox 5 Beta is available for download (mozilla.com)
78 points by Garbage on May 24, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

When a new version of Firefox comes out, I always like to find the oldest bug that it fixes. It looks like the winner this time is a 12-year-old bug affecting MathML: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=21479

Also fixed is this 7-year-old bug that has annoyed me for years: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=254714 (When you open a link in a new tab, the new page's URL doesn't appear in the Location Bar until the page loads.)

Wow, thanks for pointing out that second one. That's bugged me for some time too!

The state of PDF support in Firefox on OS X has me stuck at FF 3.6, and it doesn't look like that'll be changing for a while (unless I want to experiment with random xpi's and running FF 4+ in 32-bit mode, etc).

Until that's resolved, all the fancy CSS tweaks in the world won't mean a hoot.

On OS X, there's possibly the best PDF viewer ever, in Preview. I'm curious why you'd want so strongly to avoid using it?

I prefer opening a PDF in a tab until I've had a chance to see if it's something I want to keep. With download-and-open-in-Preview I'm filling up my Downloaded Files folder with a lot of PDFs that I don't want to keep, and I'll have to delete them manually.

Indeed, I'm surprised this had to be said.

As a linux user I am surprised. When I download to open in my reader the pdfs go into /tmp. This is fine, because since /tmp is a ramfs it just goes away when I turn off my computer. If I want it I just save it to a permanent location.

Unlike m_eiman and cemerick, I regard dumping debris into my Downloads folder as a feature. I basically never clean it out; it's just a convenience place to keep stuff that I have a low probability of ever wanting again, auto-sorted by how likely I am to want it (most recent first, in other words). Since I almost never bother with more than the first few items in the stack display of Downloads, it didn't occur to me that cleaning it out might be a chore, or even desirable.

It's desirable when you're using a laptop with a 120GB SSD that for some reason fills up all the time :/

This is the way (download, open in preview, keep/delete) I prefer. It's just a matter of taste.

Whatever engine Apple is using to view PDFs in Preview, it doesn't always display PDFs correctly.

It's much faster than the bloated beast that is Acrobat, but I'd say about 20% of the documents I open in Preview have to be viewed in Acrobat to be usable, so I've just defaulted to avoiding Preview instead.

A good, fast PDF viewer in the browser would be far better than either of those options.

What kinds of PDFs are you opening? I find the failure rate in Preview is more like 0.5%, and it's generally related to annoying (Adobe proprietary?) form-related stuff.

Plus Preview can also do some very handy basic editing (cropping, adding/deleting/reordering pages, etc.), which I can only assume Adobe have left out to in order to up-sell you Acrobat.

FF or Chromium (or both) should embed MuPDF[1]. It is extremely fast, reasonably small, and renders very well.

1: http://mupdf.com/

Chrome bundles a PDF renderer. (You won't find it in the open Chromium sources; it's by proprietary license from a third party.)


It's already sandboxed and pretty fast and light-weight, so I'm not sure the Chromium developers would put much work into a replacement.

It looks like Chromium doesn't have it but Google Chrome has a built in PDF viewer.

Right. Chrome uses a binary PDF reader plugin, there are no sources available. Open source projects like Chromium and Firefox require an open source reader. I think MuPDF would be a good choice.

Does MuPDF have any speed/performance/etc benefits over the plugin in Chrome? Are there any reasons to spend the time/effort to switched other then one is open source?

I wasn't talking about Chrome switching. MuPDF is an open source option for open source projects.

Could you explain the problem you're referring to (or point me to a page that does)?

I'm currently running FF 3.6 on OS X. Getting regular announcements of 4.0, and thinking I'll install it sometime soon. I don't usually pay much attention to what features/problems the new version might have. So, what's up with this?

I tried upgrading to FF4 on OSX, and it was a disaster: crashing on me left, right, and center. I went back to FF3.6 in under a week of use. I suggest OSX users wait for some stability updates before upgrading.

Fx4 is nothing but stable for me. Do you perhaps have a number of extensions that could be causing the instability issues?

If PDFs are that important to you, why not just use the external PDF viewer of your choice?

Actually the first beta of FF5 is available for almost a month on their ftp here


That wasn't really a real beta. that was simply a copy of then Aurora to the beta channel to test the process and the channel switching utility in Firefox.

Hm, still no win64 build available.

I mean they don't have to promote it through their website, just put it on the ftp. Take advantage of the dev-channel for some testing. Yeah, I know, I don't need Flash ...

Why do we have version 5 already?

Firefox is moving to a more Chrome-style of version numbering, to try and get enhancements out to the web quicker.

Or to try and get more free cake from the IE team ;)

If I wanted Chrome features, I'd download Chrome. The reason I use FF is /because/ I don't want to use Chrome. If FF just copies from other browsers, why have FF at all?

It's about faster release cycles not copying features.

That doesn't explain why we have Firefox 5 rather than 4.1. It must be that the Mozilla marketers were worried that the major version numbers were too low compared to Chrome and IE, so by bumping them up every few months they can catch up! I'm so impressed!

Trye, but unfortunately no one can match Chrome teams ability to rapidly ratchet version numbers. Chrome is is in a weird spot where they "had to" rapidly catch up to MS, but now it is awkward to shoot ahead to version 20 or 30. Presumably his is why they started downplaying version numbers once they caught up.

I wonder if Google is now committed to never break the Eextensions API now. To their credit, Android has done a great job with API compatibility over versions, not breaking old apps. Maybe Chrome can too, and dropping version numbers has raised the bar for software quality, just like forcing auto-upgrades has.

The whole thing is a bit silly.

This post composed in emacs 23. (Not really)

Emacs has followed a similar idea, essentially they just dropped the 1. (or was it 0. - can't remember!), so emacs 23 is really v1.23. Chrome is similar – why use endless non integers for main builds?

What does a new release cycle have to do with using Chrome?

Of course, chrome-style versioning doesn't necessarily mean Chrome features. As I recall, at some point plans for Firefox just had way too many features and goals, so in draft at least they got split into 4 separate (and relatively rapid) releases. Is that correct? That sounds like necessity-driven decision making, rather than imitation-driven.

Firefox 4 took forever to launch, and in the meantime WebKit room over the world. A shorter tease cycle is the right thing the to do, and we can only hope that it didn't happen too late. Also, FF needs to fix extension versioning and API compatibility stat, or else the new release cycle will manslaughter 80% of Firefox's appeal: extensions.

I guess Google is lucky/smart because Chrome extensions are juiced up user scripts with no native code (I think?), but FF needs to do something to save old extensions.

You could also turn that around and say why have chrome at all. Chrome may be implementing some things first now but for most of the time it has been the other way around.

Yeah, I just downloaded 4 like a month ago.

Unless they have the quick, silent updates of Chrome AND the (so far) perfect quality control of Chrome, these quick releases do more harm then good.

I JUST downloaded FF4 and now I see 5 is coming out.

Version-less updates of browsers makes sense, and they should be seamlessly, silently, updated in the back-ground. This is getting crazy.

I install Firefox for friends and family who I want off IE, and this actually embarrasses me a little. If I have to keep telling them to update, they will quit - or end up using REALLY OLD versions of Firefox and we'll have an IE6 situation all over again soon but with Firefox.

I'm starting to install Chrome now. At least I can say that their browser will always update, and they have nothing to worry about.

Firefox has always done a good job of handling updates. It is not in the background, but it is painless and automatic once you agree to upgrade. It will never be anything like IE6 - how many people do you see using Firefox 2? or even 3.0?

The upgrade to 5 isn't much different than going from 3.8 to 3.16. Mainly, they've changed their numbering scheme, so there's no reason to make a big deal about it.

Firefox 5 is not coming out. It's a beta. You shouldn't bother friends and family with it.

Actually, my Firefox it's advicing me to update. And I'm not on the nightly, developer or beta channel.

Are you sure you're not on the beta channel? Coming from Firefox 4, that channel stuff was under the hood. If you used Firefox 4 beta, then you're probably on the beta channel (you can check in about:config looking at app.update.channel)

Strange, mine (4.0.1) doesn't. There's something broken either in the update routine or in your Firefox. The beta is not supposed to be recommended to users of a release version.

Yeah, I'm also very confused. While I think it's a good idea to be pushing relases more often, this is way too often.

Here's the about Firefox dialog http://i.imgur.com/cDbN1.png and the update request http://i.imgur.com/4SYRI.png

if Firefox 17 came out 3 months ago and we are currently on Firefox 20, I don't think that's any less secure than running 3.6.5 when 3.6.7 came out...

seriously... WHY aren't other browser vendors adopting the chrome release strategy?

There's still a market for people who want to manually upgrade. There was a comment thread on HN a few months ago about this as well (no way we'll be able to find it now, I don't remember the story), but it summarized my views very well. I like knowing what is or isn't being installed on my computer. I've got a bash script to automatically download and update to the newest Firefox, so the act of upgrading isn't a chore. But I don't want a given company, be it Google or Mozilla, to arbitrarily change what's on my computer.

That's not to say I don't see the allure of automatic updates, but I just don't want them to be silent and mandatory.

Given how configurable Firefox is, I'm sure they'll add an option to disable automatic updates even if it becomes a default feature.

For a web browser there is no reason not to want to use the newest build, especially while HTML5 and CSS3 are being actively implemented. Your bash script is just your own version of Mozilla's auto updater.

Sure there is. A while ago, while I was using the 4.0 beta, I ran into a problem: modal dialogs wouldn't work. In beta 4 they worked just fine. Beta 5, just fine. When beat 6 rolled around, they stopped working. I reverted and used that until beta 12 fixed my problem. 6-11 were useless for some of the things I used it for (example: TiddlyWiki editing) because Javascript alert() and confirm() dialogs would literally not show up.

EDIT: also, the bash script is there because I install Firefox to /usr/local, and it's easier to type "update-firefox" in an already-open terminal than to reboot Firefox as root so it can modify my files. I'm aware it's redundant, but it also a) requires my active participation, so I can't miss it and b) lets me downgrade, in case of something like what happened above.


Use it if you want break all the working addons for nothing.

The list of bugfixes is hardly nothing: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/5.0beta/releasenotes/bu...

Still, there's no reason to break bugfixes. Heck, a lot of them still work, if you flag some "developer mode", but you don't need to do that in Chrome.

Who care's if Mozilla has more extensions? They cause too much trouble when you upgrade.

Who care's if Mozilla has more extensions? They cause too much trouble when you upgrade.

I do. TreeStyleTab and Pentadactyl essentially change Firefox into a different browser that I much prefer. There's nothing like that on Chrome, and until they get better capabilities for extension writing, there won't be. The day when they have working full replacements (not Vimium and the mediocre sidetabs option), I'll happily switch to Chrome, but until then I'll take having my nice customized browser.

"Who care's if Mozilla has more extensions? They cause too much trouble when you upgrade."

Exactly. I switched to Chrome because of this and Chrome's better (less buggy!) Sync features.

I don't think it really counts as an "upgrade" if you opt-in to a beta.

True, but unless FF adds a "re-version-tag my addons based on feedback from testers" feature, we will get bitten when FF5 final comes out and disables all existing deployed extensions.

In actual fact, they've changed the process so this generally won't happen:


This was with FF3, I think, but I once managed to over-write all my bookmarks with the temp ones from doing a separate install for a beta. Probably "my fault" on some level, but it still sucked. I have an aversion to trying out betas since then.

Not your fault, but that is a risk of using a Beta (before Google hijacked the term to mean "Upgrades are Planned").

Bugs like what you saw are flagged as high-importance "data loss" bugs, and FF has gotten better about avoiding those, even in pre-release builds, since the bad old days of accidentally deleting non-FF data from your home folder.

I've used the same profile on my primary computer for something like 5 years, across a migration from Windows to Ubuntu, and a few times when I've had too much time on my hands and ran minefield/betas for a month now and again.

They were unstable, but I never corrupted my profile.

None of my extensions are broken or disabled so far. I can totally see your scepticism and where you are coming from though. With the update from FF3.x to FF4 it was all hell with extensions and it has been like that between previous major versions as well.

Just thought I'd report that for my (somewhat meager) selection of addons, I haven't found anything auto-disabled or crashing yet.

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