The Andrew Turnbull Mozilla Network

A Look at Deer Park and Beyond

(Originally written June 12, 2005):

On May 31, 2005, a web browser codenamed Deer Park Alpha 1 was released by for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux systems, preceded by a set of release candidates a few days earlier. This is actually the first alpha release of Mozilla Firefox 1.1, which will likely be released later in the year, possibly this summer.

[Deer Park Alpha 1 screenshot]

This software release does not bear the official Mozilla Firefox logo, and most Firefox references in the software have been changed to "Deer Park Alpha 1." This has been done to discourage end users and those not interested in actively testing software, who for now should stay with Firefox 1.0.4, from choosing to use this alpha software release or consider it an "upgrade" from Firefox 1.0.4.

About a year's worth of development work separates Deer Park Alpha 1 from Mozilla Firefox 1.0.x, and needless to say a number of beneficial new features and other changes have have been implemented in it and will see their way into Firefox 1.1:

[Screenshot of Options window] [Screenshot of Sanitize window]

A new "Sanitize" privacy feature, accessible from the Tools menu, allows logged information such as browsing history to be easily removed. The options dialogue has been redesigned in a more convenient to use, horizontal tab-like fashion. In addition, there are experimental new features such as "Fast back"/"Fast Forward" (not enabled by default) allowing faster session history navigation and a potentially useful "Report a broken website wizard" tool that can be added through a custom install. Browser tabs can now be navigated to using the Tab and arrow keys. There are some improvements in CSS and rendering capabilities as well.

One important bug that has finally been fixed in Deer Park Alpha is the title bar and taskbar icon bug affecting the appearance of Firefox on Windows 95, 98, and ME systems. Deer Park's title bar will now display its own icon, rather than Windows' generic icon, on these operating systems without user-improvised fixes.

If you use third-party extensions with Mozilla Firefox, be aware that due to the number of changes Deer Park has over Firefox 1.0.x, many of them are currently incompatible with this new version of the software.

Finally, Deer Park Alpha 1 seems slightly faster than Mozilla Firefox 1.0.4. Loading time is a second faster on my own computer, and performance seems a bit quicker after the browser is open as well.

Deer Park Alpha 1 isn't for everyone, but it is impressive and an accurate portrayal of the features we can expect to see in Mozilla Firefox 1.1. If you install Deer Park Alpha 1 alongside another Firefox release, be sure to create an additional user profile (by starting the software with a "-p" or "-profilemanager" switch) to use with this version of the software.

Further links:
Mozilla Firefox Project page (includes Deer Park download links)
Release Notes


(Originally written July 24, 2005):

Deer Park Alpha 2 followed on July 12, 2005. Virtually all of what I said about the first alpha carries over to this release as well; additionally, a number of new and nifty features of note are now present in the software. Individual browser tabs loaded on the tab bar can now be reordered by dragging and dropping, and the "fast back" feature that had first appeared in Alpha 1 is now enabled by default. Additionally, the next major version of Mozilla Firefox will include a number of enhancements for Mac users, including better appearance of the application itself and the capability to easily migrate user profiles over from Safari. Unfortunately, Mac OS X 10.1 support has been dropped. Finally, the next major Firefox release will reportedly be easier to deploy and maintain than Firefox 1.0.x in, for example, computer lab installations.

Additionally, some additional news has surfaced regarding the next major release of Firefox itself. Although previously it had been assumed that the next major Firefox release after 1.0.x would be 1.1, it has since been determined that the next version number will actually be 1.5, and it is Mozilla Firefox 1.5 that these Deer Park alphas serve as previews for. As over a year's worth of additional development work separates Deer Park from Firefox 1.0.x...much more so than the difference between Firefox 0.9 and 1.0, for example, this jump in version number seems appropriate. Currently, Firefox 1.5 is tentatively scheduled for release in September 2005 on the current development roadmap; however, this date is nothing more than a rough estimate and it remains probable that Firefox 1.5 will be released even later in the calendar year.

(Originally written September 19, 2005):

[Mozilla Firefox 1.5 beta error message] The first post-alpha version to succeed the "Deer Park" releases, Mozilla Firefox beta 1, was released on September 8, 2005. As perhaps expected, this release introduced yet another set of significant changes, improvements, and new features. First of all, the Firefox logo and branding that had been intentionally omitted from the early testing releases has been restored. Menus now have a flat appearance; the change allegedly made to more closely emulate the appearance of the "Luna" interface of Windows XP; fortunately for users who dislike this change it is not difficult to revert the menus back to their former appearance. When viewing a single image, a thumbnail of the image is visible on the location bar and tab bar where a site icon would otherwise be, a feature that apparently actually first surfaced in Deer Park Alpha 1. The Live Bookmarks indicator moved from the taskbar to the location bar, and there have been a great deal of bug fixes. Finally, error messages have been changed and now appear directly within the browser window, as in the example at upper right, rather than in the form of pop-up dialogues.

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Last update September 19, 2005.