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Firefox 1.0.7

Web browser
Mozilla Foundation
Rating:@@@@

Whoosh: this thing is fast.

Apple may continue to claim their own Safari is the fastest for the platform, but Moz will surely debate it. Especially on dial-up connections the difference is tangible - and satisfying.

Firefox is now up over 100 million downloads, to which one can only say 'congratulations'. There's been a lot of hard work well done.

But there are issues - mostly of the cosmetic kind - and it may be better to go through them first and save the best stuff for later.

Download

The download URL for Firefox 1.0.7 for OS X is available at the following URL. It is 8.7 MB.

http://download.mozilla.org/?product=firefox-1.0.7&os=osx&lang=en-US

In bytes the download is 9159173; the name of the download file is 'Firefox 1.0.7.dmg'. It's a mounting image. Once the image is mounted, it's simply dragged to a permanent location and run.

Cleaning

As this download is only for English, certain files can be removed and the package otherwise tweaked.

  • PkgInfo: removed.
  • All classes.nib and info.nib (6 each): removed.
  • English/en.lproj: contents moved up one level, directories removed.

The download will have 572 items for 25,614,263; after cleaning it's 554 items for 25,274,238 bytes.

Other incidental facts.

  • The application executable ('firefox-bin') is stripped. It is 13,928,856 bytes.
  • There are several 'rsrc' files within the package; the package proper will not have ordinary NIBs (which would make it easier to modify menus and windows).
  • The executable is going to have rather extraordinary linkage as it's platform independent to such a degree.
    % otool -L firefox-bin
    firefox-bin:
     @executable_path/libmozjs.dylib
     @executable_path/libxpcom.dylib
     @executable_path/libplds4.dylib
     @executable_path/libplc4.dylib
     @executable_path/libnspr4.dylib
     /usr/lib/libSystem.B.dylib
     /System/Library/Frameworks/Cocoa.framework/Versions/A/Cocoa
     /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Versions/A/Carbon
     /System/Library/Frameworks/QuickTime.framework/Versions/A/QuickTime
     /System/Library/Frameworks/IOKit.framework/Versions/A/IOKit
     @executable_path/libsmime3.dylib
     @executable_path/libssl3.dylib
     @executable_path/libnss3.dylib
     @executable_path/libsoftokn3.dylib
     @executable_path/libxpcom_compat.dylib

Startup

Startups are going to be slow. Gecko is fast but not in starting. To make things worse, the program is set to access the Moz site by default. If you're not connected when you launch Firefox, startup will take even longer.

The initial window frame is unacceptable. It is higher than the average OS X screen and makes it difficult for the user to get at the drag corner in the lower right. A more conservative starting size would be a good idea. Changing the default page in new views to 'about:blank' is another good idea.

Sheet Abuse

The Firefox crew are evidently enamoured of OS X sheets. Sheets are document model panels that come out of the title bar of a window.

These subtleties may be lost on people more familiar with other platforms, as it's only OS X that has anything resembling true object orientation on the desktop: OS X applications can have multiple windows; Windows, GNOME, and KDE applications cannot.

The general rules of using sheets might be formulated as below.

  • Only use sheets in document contexts - never in application wide contexts.
  • Never try to put a sheet on top of a sheet - it will never work. And if you need to put up something, put up a panel - don't withdraw the first sheet, pull out the second, and then go back to the first one again (major no-no).

The Firefox preferences come out as a sheet. And right away one gets the sense it's going to be fun playing with the app as it tries to not trip up over its own legs.

This preferences window should appear as it does in Safari: it's not a sheet but is initially above all other windows, because its business is something pertaining to the application as a whole. But watch the Firefox crew dance.

The first thing you do when you pull down the preferences sheet is go to the menu. You'll notice that everything is turned off (disabled). OK, but what if you have a second window out there? And so it's probably best to generate that window first - then open the preferences on the first window, check the menu, and so forth. Everything is disabled.

Now go to the second window. And then go to its menu. Everything is enabled. OK, now go back to the first window again and go to its menu - now everything is enabled again.

Ouch.

Notice as well that you cannot click anywhere in that first window to regain focus except on the sheet itself. This is not HI behaviour but is probably due to Firefox hot-wiring so much of its code.

Other Stuff

  • You'll eventually get to the bit about 'clearing all information' in the preferences. Click that button and you're in for another surprise. Your preferences sheet will disappear, you'll get an alert sheet popping out, you click to either continue or cancel, and that sheet will disappear and your preferences panel will come back again. Sweet - but all wrong and not a lot of fun.
  • For that matter, some of the preferences themselves are frightening, such as 'allow web sites to install software'. Hello? Someone on drugs here?
  • The spinner control on the toolbar is redundant: if you set Firefox to always use tabs, each tab will have its own. Fortunately you can drag this spinner off.
  • The toolbar configuration sheet is not standard either - suddenly it's a panel where OS X uses a sheet, and you don't get to see all glyphs, only those you're not currently using. As people on any given platform are used to doing things a single way, this can become confusing. But again, this is a platform independent browser, so one can't expect too much in this vein.
  • 'Send Link' is welcome too. There's a Google search field which can easily be dispensed with if it's not wanted, giving the location bar more room for your URLs.
  • The Firefox about box, another custom job, makes the same mistake as already seen elsewhere: it comes out as a sheet from the current document window.
  • A lot of windows created on the fly have toolbar lozenges. The toolbar lozenges do nothing.
  • Scrolling around in source can reportedly screw up the text.
  • When transferring control from one page to another, Firefox disables viewing on the first page way too soon. Scroll bars don't work, etc.
  • The downloads box has Pause, Resume, and Cancel commands. These are implemented as what appear to be 'hyperlinks' instead of buttons or other form of GUI controls.
  • Form controls use design typical of MS and the Linux desktops. No Aqua buttons here.
  • DMGs are stamped on download with HFS file types and creator codes. Disk Copy won't be the default editor/viewer and double-clicking the files won't give you what you're expecting.
  • A rogue scroll bar arrow can appear in the lower right a la Safari.
  • Everything stops when the preferences sheet is out. Or the about box. Or any sheet. Ouch. [Safari does this too with its cookies sheet, but Safari doesn't otherwise abuse its use of sheets.]
  • Clicking in the location bar selects everything - not the default behaviour on OS X - making all too easy to ruin an entire URL.

Stray Files

Firefox is a well-behaved app. No skulduggery, thank you. It leaves files in the following locations.

  • /Library/Mozilla (the file Global.regs)
  • ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox
  • ~/Library/Application Support/FullCircle
  • ~/Library/Preferences (the file org.mozilla.firefox.plist)

Firefox stores bookmark icons in the file 'bookmarks.html'. If you don't like this, you'll have a time getting rid of them. Open the file in a plain text editor and remove the fields that say 'ICON=...'.

Never-Ending Story

At time of writing there seemed to be a bug in the Firefox way of handling security certificates - bottoming out yet again in the use of OS X sheets.

Try the following URL with Firefox 1.0.7 for OS X and see what happens. YMMV.

http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/blog/2004/04/itunes_45

Cons to Pros

That, at any rate, constitutes the 'cons' - the rest is all 'pros'. This browser is extremely fast. If you're working from a backwater on dial-up, you will notice and appreciate the difference.

Firefox 1.0.7 was tested from a dial-up connection on an older (slower) Apple box running OS X and compared with Safari and Camino on the same box.

Just to make matters as interesting as possible, the target chosen was news.com - an utter kludge of mismanaged HTML if there ever was one.

Firefox left the field behind.

BrowserFull Load Time
Firefox37 seconds
Safari57 seconds
Camino1 minute 9 seconds

Results may be more accurate if one makes certain one has the absolute lastest version of each browser, but the differences were dramatic nonetheless.

The Gecko engine may take ages to load (leaving your menu bar blank for an agonisingly long moment) but once it's up and running there's little that can beat it.

The Firefox crew have come a long way. They've resurrected Moz from the ashes Bill Gates wanted to leave it in and are slowly but surely eating away the Redmond urchin's browser market share - with a well written honest app that anyone on any platform is going to enjoy using.

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