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Add Windows 7 Features to Firefox

With Windows 7 scheduled for general availability in about a week, Mozilla is getting ready to support some of its best known features as they progressively come to Firefox 3.6 nightly development releases.

Yes, Firefox 3.0, 3.5, and 3.6 will work on Windows 7 just the same as they did on previous versions of Windows. When the Firefox window is open and visible in the bottom taskbar, there will not be any added options like some other Windows 7 applications.

Mozilla has released the first beta release of Firefox 3.6, which comes with some nice Windows 7 integration features. More specifically, the Firefox 3.6 beta integrates with the new taskbar in Windows 7.

What this means is that tabs within Firefox will show up as previews when you hover over Firefox’ taskbar entry in Windows 7, much in the same way Internet Explorer 8 already does it. This makes Firefox one of the first high-profile applications (that I know of) to offer integration with Windows 7’s new taskbar.

Firefox is currently a 32-bit application, but will work on 64-bit versions of Windows 7. Mozilla is working on a 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows, but this version has not yet been scheduled for release.

The taskbar previews for tabs brings Firefox into parity with Internet Explorer 8, allowing users to see and select their open tabs via Aero Peek. The obvious limitation with this feature is how it impacts the display when you’ve got a high number of tabs open. As you open more tabs, their preview panes will shrink.

While the taskbar preview will work without manually changing settings in about:config, the others will require a bit of fiddling. As such, they’re not recommended for new users, or for those who just aren’t comfortable tweaking the about:config.

The enhanced Control + Tab will now show you a preview window of your tabs, as long as you have three or more tabs open. To activate it, go to about:config, search for browser.ctrlTab.previews, and double-click on it to change it from False to True. Then restart Firefox, and the CTRL+Tab hot key will give you Aero-style preview pane of your tabs.

Firefox 3.6 also comes with visual previews when you use the ctrl+tab method to switch tabs – all in a very Windows 7ish coating. This feature is disabled by default, so you need to dive into about:config, find the browser.ctrlTab.previews key and set it to true. Restart Firefox, and experience the new tabbing feature in all its glory.

A revision to the List All Tabs feature gives it a visual component mimicking CTRL+Tab. Using Control + Shift + Tab combo, you can pull up a CTRL+Tab tab preview window that includes a search box. As you type in the name of the tab you want to call up, it will filter the tabs. Enter or the left mouse button will take you directly to the tab. To activate this one, go to about:config, search for browser.allTab.previews, and double-click on it to change it from False to True. Then restart Firefox.

You can disable the Windows 7 taskbar preview by going to about:config, search for browser.taskbar.previews.enable, and double-click on it to change it from True to False.

Firefox 3.6 also comes with performance improvements, but for the most part, it’s an evolutionary release. On the Mac OS X side, the roadmap for 3.6 includes native dictionary integration, services and AppleScript support, and Keychain integration.

Finally, we should be able to check download status directly from the task bar thanks to a progress bar integrated with the Firefox icon. A green progress bar indicates downloads are currently in progress while a yellow one menas downloads are currently paused. This one hasn’t been landed yet on either source repository.

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