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Mozilla releases Mobile Firefox Alpha - For Mac, Windows and Linux?

Fennec DLS
Mozilla has released the first Alpha version of Fennec, the mobile web browser which currently runs on the Nokia N810 internet tablet, and which will soon run on Windows Mobile. Fennec is just a code name. Eventually the browser will probably be called something like Firefox Mobile. And there's a good reason for that. If you can view web content in Firefox, you can pretty much view it in Fennec.

Today there is still no version of Fennec that will run on your phone. But you can install the Alpha on an N810 tablet -- or on Windows, OS X, or Linux. Because Mozilla has decided the best way to show off its upcoming browser is to let you download and run it on your desktop.

To run Fennec for Windows, all you have to do is download and unzip an 8MB file and click on Fennec.exe. Up pops a small web browser with nothing but a URL bar visible. Type in an address and away you go. You can scroll up and down on a web page by clicking and draging the page. And you can zoom in on the content by double clicking. You might wonder why you would want to zoom in, but keep in mind, this browser is designed to run on a much smaller screen. The text that looks perfectly readable on your desktop may look miniscule on your phone.




Fennec Settings
The browser navigation menus are hidden to the right and left of the main window. If you want to see a list of open tabs or open a new one, just click the screen and drag to the right to pull up a tab menu on the left side of the screen. Likewise, dragging the main window to the left will bring up a menu on the right side of the screen that lets you access bookmarks, go forward or back, or adjust your settings.

The settings menu is full of goodies. You can enable javascript, enable or disable images, and decide whether to save cookies and/or passwods or not. There's also an option to enable plugins. But there description under that option says "makes websites annoying," so I'd advise using this option with caution -- except that there don't seem to be any extensions available for Fennec at the moment.

When I clicked on the Plugins tab, I did see a list of items, but I think Fennec is basically looking at the plugins I've installed for Firefox on my desktop, and it doesn't do a great job of implementing them. For example, when I enabled the Flash plugin and tried to play a YouTube video, I could hear audio, but there was no video playback.

With Javascript enabled, on the other hand, I was surprised at how well web applications like Gmail, Google Docs, and even Zoho Sheet worked. Pages loaded quickly (your results may vary when you try using the browser on a phone with a GPRS connection), and responded quickly to mouse clicks and text entry. Yahoo! Mail does display a message saying you're using an unsupported browser if you try to access the page with Fennec. But you can use the Yahoo! Mail "classic" user interface just fine.

Overall I'm pretty impressed with Fennec. If it works half as well on a mobile phone as it does on Windows, I think Mozilla could give Apple and Opera a run for their money in the mobile browser space. But it all depends on how well the browser performs on devices with slow processors and low resolution screens.

[via ComputerWorld]

Tags: alpha, fennec, firefox-mobile, mobile-firefox

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