Upgrading Firefox 3.6 To Firefox 8 Not As Painful As You Might Think

I had resisted upgrading Mozilla’s Firefox 3.6 to Firefox 4 because I wasn't sure if all of my add-ons were available for the then newest release. Fast forward a year or two, and I'm five versions behind.

I finally took the plunge when Firefox 8 was released last week because I didn't want to fall too far behind. 3.6 was getting a little sluggish and was no longer the most widely used version of Firefox.

PREPARATION
First, I tried to see if my 3.6 add-ons were available for version 8. I had fourteen: Alexa Sparky, All-in-One Sidebar, ChatZilla, ColorZilla, FFChrome, Firebug, MeasureIt, New Tab JumpStart, QuickNote, Read It later, Tree Style Tab, Web Developer, and YSlow. It’s a manual, cumbersome process of searching the Mozilla site for each of them and reading the notes. You’d think Mozilla would simplify this process. I didn’t have much success with it, but decided that as long as Firebug works on Firefox 8, I’m good to go.

Before taking the plunge, I took a screenshot of my plugins page just so I have a handy list of my add-ons.

INSTALLATION
I downloaded and installed Firefox 8, going with the “Standard” installation. Everything went pretty smoothly.

That is, until I fired it up. It didn’t have any of my bookmarks from 3.6! I think what happened was because I was running two versions of Firefox - 3.6 and 2 - it imported the bookmarks and plugins from version 2 instead of 3.6. I only use version 2 to test out pages, so I didn’t have any bookmarks or add-ons. Right about here, I started to freak out.

Fortunately, Firefox 3.6 makes a daily backup of my bookmarks. All I had to do was locate it in my computer. It’s in the Application Data folder - just Google it if you need the full location. Importing it was easy.

Afterwards, I searched for and installed all fourteen of my add-ons. All except Screengrab worked. It’s too bad because Screengrab is the best utility to grab screenshots of webpages. The creator decided he no longer wanted to support the add-on for future releases because Mozilla, under their Rapid Release schedule, was releasing new versions of Firefox too quickly. I was wondering why I was 5 versions behind in just a year or so. I installed an alternative add-on called Abduction. It’s not early as good or intuitive.

Another add-on problem I have is that Web Developer conflicts with New Tab JumpStart, which replaces the blank tab with thumbnails of your most visited sites. With Tab JumpStart enabled, Web Developer doesn’t work. You just get a bunch text with code. They both worked together with version 3.6. Now I have a decision to make - Web Developer or Tab JumpStart? Web Developer. It’s too bad you have to restart Firefox each time an add-on is enabled or disabled. Otherwise, I can just disable one of them when I have to use the other.

PERFORMANCE
Performance wise, Firefox 8 does seem to be snappier. When it was just the web browser without any add-ons, it appears to be super responsive. After installing fourteen add-ons, it’s not as fast but not as sluggish as 3.6 with the same add-ons either. I noticed that Twitter and Google Docs load up quicker.

Stability wise, I’ve had a couple crashes since installing. I had the occasional crash with 3.6 too.

JUST DO IT
Overall, the process was pretty smooth despite the bookmark hiccup and a few add-on issues. I bet it would have been a lot smoother if I wasn’t running two versions of Firefox before the install.

If you’re still on 3.6 and don’t need Screengrab (or could settle for a lesser version of it), then go ahead and upgrade. It’s not as painful as you might think.

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