Firefox 16 Has Developer Goodies
Written by Ian Elliot   
Thursday, 11 October 2012

For an average user the upgrade to Firefox 16 must seem like one big yawn. However, for developers things seem to be really moving. Why?

Latest News

Mozilla has pulled Firefox 16 from the download server due to a discovered vulnerability. Currently users are advised to downgrade to 15 or wait for the update patch that should arrive soon. The problem could give websites access to the list of sites visited complete with URLs.


 

 

Firefox 16 has been released and it does have some really nice improvements - but only if you are a developer trying to debug a web page.

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The most obvious new feature is the developer toolbar that acts as a central control for the other tools that have been included in recent releases. You can now control the 3D view of the page, take snapshots and generally poke about inside the inner workings of the page in real time. A simple command line interface means you can also start to interact with the page in new ways.

Now that these new features are in the official Firefox developers can expect to find them on every desktop. What this means is difficult to say but no longer will you have to download Firebug before trying to fix something - having said this I have to admit to still liking and using Firebug. Even so it looks as though Firebug's days are numbered as the built in tools do nearly everything it does and faster. 

 

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There are a few problems however, for example the console lists errors but often it is difficult to find out exactly where in the files that makeup the page the errors are located. You can also add that documentation is still thin on the ground and the assumption seems to be that how to use the facilities is very obvious. 

Also new is the incremental garbage collection in JavaScript. Every ten milliseconds the garbage collector gets a chance to to a tidy up before the mess gets so bad that the page has to be put on hold while lots of objects are collected to free memory.

A big change that might go unnoticed is that Firefox now supports web apps - and about time too. The idea of a web app is that you will be able to write JavaScript and HMTL and run it like a native app on the desktop within a Firefox provided window. A great idea, but the Web App marketplace is still an invitation only beta. There are rumors that it might launch in the fourth quarter this year.

The big problem with browser based apps is that they are browser specific - a Chrome app doesn't work on Firefox and a Firefox app wont work on Chrome etc.

The real question is why is Mozilla spending so much effort on building developer tools?

This might sound ungrateful but I'd rather have tools built into a proper IDE - the browser isn't an IDE and building it into an IDE isn't a sensible way to go.  Compare the Firefox approach with the way the latest beta of NetBeans integrates Chrome via an extension. This isn't as good as facilities that Firefox offers but it is the right place to create such facilities rather than in the browser.

The idea seems to be that if developers prefer Firefox we will make sure our code works correctly on Firefox and will encourage users to adopt it. I'm not sure any of this makes much sense - but thanks for the new tools.

 

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More Information

https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/16.0/releasenotes/

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