Firefox 1.5 creeps toward release

Firefox users will have to wait a bit longer for the final version 1.5 release, despite what a blogger says.

Despite a blogger's claim that he downloaded the official version of Firefox 1.5 Friday, the Mozilla Foundation said Internet users will have to wait a bit longer for the final version of its next upgrade.

According to a posting on theunofficialmicrosoftweblog by Marc Orchant Friday, he was able to download Firefox 1.5 through a manual update check. The blog posting can be found at http://microsoft.weblogsinc.com/entry/1234000640068579/.

"To my surprise, the Check for Updates window announced Firefox 1.5 was available and suggested I should update ASAP," Orchant wrote on the blog. "It took about 10 seconds to download the updater, Firefox restarted, and I'm now running version 1.5 official. I'm not sure why the automatic updates feature hadn't picked this up but I'm glad I checked. I've found the new version to be much faster and more stable that the 1.0.X versions."

A Mozilla spokeswoman, however, said in an e-mail that Mozilla has not released the final version of Firefox 1.5, though the group did post Release Candidate 3 (RC3) of the browser update to its Web site Thursday night. That test version is available here: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/firefox/. Firefox 1.5 is scheduled to be released in its final version in the next two weeks.

The spokeswoman said the reason someone might have downloaded what he thought was a final copy of Firefox 1.5 is that one of the updates in RC3 was to remove the "RC" header from the top of the browser to prepare for the final release. RC3 is the last test version of Firefox 1.5 before the final release.

Firefox browser release candidates are made available so testers can make any last-minute fixes before the final code is released. Mozilla advises on its Web site to use these releases for testing purposes only and, "if that sounds scary," to use the current version of the Firefox browser, Firefox 1.0.

In an e-mail, Orchant said Friday that while he's willing to accept that he was duped, but he is puzzled why Mozilla would not just label a test version as such.

"I still don't see any reason why their own update tool can't inform the user that what they're about to update to is a Release Candidate though," he wrote. "That's a trivial bit of programming and is much more accurate communication about what is about to be installed on the user's system than simply calling it 1.5 (which to me implies it's an official release)."

Orchant updated his blog posting later on Friday to reflect that RC3, and not the final version, was the version he downloaded.

New features in Firefox 1.5 include a better system for updating software, faster navigation using the "Back" and "Forward" tabs, and a redesigned Options/Preferences window that increases the number of category icons and moves them from the left side of the window to the top.

The next version of Firefox also will include better pop-up blocking and a host of security enhancements, according to Mozilla. These features, as well as the addition of Answers.com to the search engine list and a Clear Private Data function that allows users to quickly remove personal data through a menu item or keyboard shortcut, are demonstrated in the release candidate posted last night.

Firefox, which celebrated its one-year anniversary Nov. 9, has become a popular alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser. Last month, downloads of Firefox topped 100 million.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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