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Ars reviews Firefox 3.1 alpha 1

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Mozilla took a big step towards Firefox 3.1 yesterday with the release of the first alpha. It includes important improvements to both the user interface and to Firefox's underlying Gecko rendering engine.

Much of Firefox's internal architecture was overhauled during the 3.0 development process. This means that Mozilla now has a much stronger foundation to build upon. The features planned for 3.1 will continue pushing the browser forward and will leverage some of the new infrastructure that was put in place for 3.0. The new release will also include some features that were deferred during the 3.0 development cycle because of time constraints. Additionally, some of the experimental features from 3.0 will be refined and improved for 3.1 based on feedback from users.

Tab browsing

The 3.1 alpha, which is codenamed Shiretoko, already includes some of the earliest pieces. The Firefox developers are attempting to improve on the conventional tabbed browsing model and extend the tab interface so that it provides more visual feedback. In the alpha release, the ctrl+tab keyboard shortcut now invokes the visual tab switcher, which shows previews of the pages in each tab. It also changes the order of tab rotation. Instead of iterating through each tab sequentially, it switches between them based on when they were last used—much like the alt+tab application switcher in Windows or command-tab on the Mac.

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