Firefox 3 beta, memory usage, and overlooked extensions

Learn what's new in the latest beta version of Firefox 3. Does it more efficiently manage system memory? Also, discover some underappreciated Firefox extensions for the Power Downloader in all of us.

Firefox promotional artwork
The artwork for the Firefox 3 beta promotional campaign hints at a powerful galactic defender. But who are the menacing gray spaceships? ... Phishers!?!? (Credit: Mozilla Foundation)

The big news today in the software world is a new beta version for Mozilla Firefox. The world has been sitting on Version 2 for almost a year and a half now, but the open-source foundation is making sure that Version 3 is fully baked before releasing a final version.

The latest beta release promises "more than 900 enhancements from the previous beta," but a large number of those improvements are back end and mostly invisible. Two significant features in the fourth beta that I appreciate are: an improved password manager toolbar that replaces the old semifunctional dialog; and better performance for system-intensive Web-based software like Gmail.

As for the promise of improved memory usage, I'm not sure I can call it a rousing success. I personally noticed slight memory improvements with Firefox 3 beta 4 compared with Firefox, but no major leaps. By default, Firefox 3 beta is still a fairly big browser that will definitely suck up your system resources once you have a number of tabs open or Web apps running.

Learn what else is new in this latest release from a First Look article by editor Seth Rosenblatt.

Another big hit in the blogosphere today was the publication of "10 Killer Firefox Extensions That You Don't Probably Know About" from the community site WebUpon. It's a hit or miss list, and I wouldn't call most of those overlooked, but Firefox users sure love finding new extensions.

In response to WebUpon's list, I've got my own three favorite "overlooked" Firefox extensions that have been selected specifically for power downloaders. Even better, all of these extensions--DownThemAll, CustomizeGoogle, and Download PDF--are compatible with the latest Firefox 3 beta release:


DownThemAll screenshot
Filters such as JPEG or MP3 can automatically detect all files on a given Web page. (Credit: CNET Networks)

There are certainly right and wrong times to download content in mass batches. The right time is with free, legal content, and this lightweight Firefox add-on will certainly ease the strain of your downloading chores.

It's a built-in download manager that quickly analyzes all of the given links to possible downloads on a Web page and then presents them for you to save locally as you see fit. For collectors of free music, images, and movies, it's a downloading dream. Less clicking makes everyone happy.


CustomizeGoogle screenshot
The interface for CustomizeGoogle is nothing special, but streaming search Google results are a must. (Credit: CNET Networks)

This long list of tweaks for Google's online services covers 13 of the software company's major applications, including Gmail, Web Search, News, Image Search, and Maps. Simply select a specific product in the left-hand navigation, then select from a series of customization options on the right.

Make Google Calendar automatically use a secure server. Add results from other product search sites in your Froogle/Google Product Search results. Best of all, you'll never have to click a "next" button on a Google search-results page ever again with the "Stream search results pages" option. You can stream literally hundreds of thousands of results (numbered, no less) on one Google search results page!

PDF Download

PDF Download screenshot
If you've ever gotten frustrated with PDF files pushing you around, PDF Download strikes back pre-emptively. (Credit: CNET Networks)

OK, OK, I admit it's tough to defend a product with 2,400 downloads last week as "overlooked," but it's underappreciated regardless. This simple little extension gives you complete control over PDF files. The problem with opening PDF files in Firefox is that it tends to slow down your performance, especially if you open a number of them.

Rather than stick you all alone with a browser-jarring PDF file, the PDF Download extension provides you the option to: download the file locally; open it with Firefox using the PDF download options settings; view the PDF as an HTML file in the browser; bypass PDF Download; or cancel the link. If it's a PDF file I know that I'll refer to later, I always save it locally, then open it with a separate viewer. I'll need the file locally to share; and I also avoid slowing down Firefox.

As mentioned, these three extensions are all compatible with the latest Firefox 3 beta version. I was a little surprised there weren't more extensions compatible with 3.0b4, but I suppose it was only released today.

What do you think of the new Firefox 3 beta version? What are your picks for the most overlooked Firefox extensions? Tell me about it in the comments.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.