Fennec 4.0 – New and Notable

Just Too Damn Good to be a Version 2.0

in case you haven’t heard yet, Firefox for mobile (Fennec) is bumping it’s version numbering to more closely match desktop releases of Firefox. This means “Firefox 2.0b1 for Android & Maemo” is becoming “Firefox 4.0b1 for Android & Maemo” and will be released as “Firefox 4 for Android and Nokia N900“. We are aligning mobile Firefox and desktop Firefox since the web rendering engines used in both browsers are the same. Treating them as the same version seemed like the right thing to do.

Any add-ons hosted on addons.mozilla.org (AMO) that are marked as compatible for Fennec 2.0b1pre will automatically be bumped to support Fennec 4.0b1pre. If your add-on worked in Fennec 2.0b1pre, it will work fine in Fennec 4.0b1pre.

Goodbye Tiles, Hello Browser

Desktop Firefox uses a XUL <browser> to display web content. The user manipulates the browser element when clicking, scrolling, dragging or typing. The same was not true in Fennec. In order to achieve acceptable panning and zooming performance, Fennec 1.0 started using a set of <canvas> tiles to render the web content – which was still loaded into hidden <browser> elements. It was a complex system with many quirks to go along with the performance improvements.

Thankfully, a lot of platform work in graphics, layout and multi-process has happened since Fennec 1.0 and recently we removed the <canvas> tiles and switched back to use only <browser> elements to render web content. The front-end code is much cleaner and more simple. In addition, it’s much faster than the previous code so panning and zooming are even better than before.

Go try a nightly release for yourself: Android or Maemo

Note to the faint of heart: Nightly release contain bugs – don’t be frightened when you encounter them. Tell us about them instead!

Fennec 2.0 – New and Notable

It’s been a while since I posted about news things happening in Fennec and now I have a backlog! Let’s jump right into the list of new features you’ll find in the Fennec 2.0 nightlies:

  • Awesomescreen: The Awesomebar Awesomescreen redesign merges the existing Search and Bookmark UIs while adding History and Desktop (via Sync) into a single UI. It’s part of our goal to keep data close to you when you need it. The Awesomescreen is all about helping you navigate to the pages you want, as fast as you can.
  • Moved Search Providers: The list of search providers was moved from the bottom of the Awesomescreen results to a button on the right side of the URL bar. This was done to maximize the available space fro the Awesomescreen results.
  • SiteMenu and ContextMenu APIs: We made it a lot easier for add-ons to extend the SiteMenu and ContextMenu by adding real APIs around the functionality.
  • Awesomescreen Badging: We added the ability to “badge” URLs shown in the Awesomescreen with helpful meta data, like unread inbox counts. We also added an API to the feature so add-ons could add badging to any URL (website), not just the ones we built into Fennec.
  • More Context Menus: We added support for more context menus (long tap menus) in places like Bookmark list, Awesomescreen results and the <video> element in web content.
  • Android Notifications: We use the native notification system on Android for things like downloads, add-on installations and application updates.
  • Right-to-Left Support: We made the Fennec support RTL locales much better than it did, and we also want to make sure we don’t break RTL locales as we land new features.