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Mozilla Firefox 16 Delivers More Dev Tools. Hello Browser IDE

Mozilla FirefoxFrom the 'open source goodness' files:

Mozilla's Firefox 16 open source web browser is now generally available and with it comes more goodies for developers.

That's right. While Firefox has long positioned itself as browser for users, the focus since moving to the rapid release train cycle has clearly shifted – towards developers. I personally think that's a good thing because it's not something that any other major browser vendor does.

The Mozilla focus on developers means that developers will use Firefox more than other browsers. If developers use it more, I suppose that the prevailing notion is that they will also be more prone to recommend it to others, thus feeding a virtuous cycle of referrals and future adoption.

So what's new for developers in Firefox 16?

The big new item is a developer toolbar. This toolbar is yet another element that Firefox is adding (on top of the Web Inspector and the 3D view that is the pinnacle of awesome – first introduced in March with Firefox 11)

Mozilla developer Joe Walker explained in a blog post that the new toolbar also includes a command line.

"It's a great place to add small tools and experimental features, and we're making it easy to add your own commands," Walker blogged.

From a practical point of view this new toolbar makes it easier to access and control, other tools that Mozilla has already baked into Firefox. One of the nifty little commands that Mozilla has also included is something that I've never seen before – called screenshot. Mozilla developer Kevin Dangoor explained in a post that the screenshot command can quite simply grab a screenshot of whatever element you want. The Export command is a simple way to, export HTML.

Sure these are things that you could kinda/sort do before, but not from a simple CLI. Firefox is now evolving into what I will call the world's first true Browser IDE. View Source is still fun for me, but with all the goodness now exposed through the dev toolbar, I suspect that view source won't be used nearly as much in the years ahead.

Firefox 16 also fixes a long list of bugs and security issues. As is Mozilla's habit, they haven't listed the full list of security advisories just yet. Given Mozilla's history though, I can already speculate that there will be some JavaScript use-after-free memory issues fixes (because there always are..)

Mozilla has also moved to stop accepting MD5 hashes in signatures and memory reporting is now getting a boost with the about:memory per tab reporting feature.

While I'm always a user of the leading edge of Firefox's generally available releases, I still tend to not recommend them for enterprise usage. It never ceases to amaze me how many custom built applications seem to break with each Firefox release. Thank goodness for Firefox ESR (but hey you devs out there stick with Firefox 16 and get your code in gear!).

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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