I read Lifehacker on the Firefox 3 beta, and as a testimony to how totally unable I am to think for myself when Gina Trapani recommends something, I went and upgraded to Firefox 3. I didn’t just go for the portable version, I went whole hog. Here are some details on my experience.

I’m not sure if it was just me, but when I got the Firefox 3 installed, there were no back and forward navigation buttons on the toolbar. At first that’s disconcerting, but you’ve got to love people who have enough faith in keyboard shortcuts to remove the buttons that do the same thing. (Lest mouse lovers be frightened, it is possible to add the buttons through the customize menu.)

A cool feature that I just noticed is that when I have two Firefox windows open and one is not maximized, I can still use my mouse to scroll in the other one, even if it’s not focused. That’s pretty cool because it allows you to move through the background window even while you’re working in the foreground. In the particular situation I noticed it in, I was making a comment in a pop-up window on a post that was in my un-focused window. In spite of these benefits, for some reason I can’t open more than one window at a time except when I run into a pop-up. I rely on tabs most of the time anyway, but sometimes even the tab bar gets so crowded that I open a new window so that I can start filling that up with tabs as well. Hopefully that feature will get worked out in the future.

The tab bar itself has seen a little bit of improvement. The button for opening a new tab isn’t visible by default, which is a plus in my book, because it gets rid of one more thing to accidentally click. Scrolling through tabs is also better when you have so many tabs open that they don’t all fit across your screen. The scrolling feature that allows you to view the hidden tabs is improved in the beta. It looks very nice in action and it will only stop when the entire width of a tab is displayed.

A feature that I noticed back when I tried the portable version a few weeks ago, is that tab switching is incredibly fast. It’s really almost instantaneous. You click on a tab and you’re there.

When I was trying to run one of my extensions I accidentally discovered a new feature. Hotkeys Ctrl+Shift+S will open a screenshot dialog at the top of the screen which gives you some nice options for capturing web browser screen shots. Much better than “Print Screen” and without having to install another application.

Bookmarking capability has improved. The address bar now includes a star at the right side. Clicking it will give you some bookmarking options. In addition to this up-front improvement, the organize bookmarks dialog has improved considerably.

There are still a few things to get worked out, because it is only a beta, but so far Firefox 3b5 has worked pretty well for me. Any other early testers out there?