Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Extensions Lost with Firefox Update

The process of upgrading Firefox 1.5 to release went flawlessly.

Firefox Update Availability NoticeOn the day the new release was published, Firefox 1.5's automatic update feature sent notification that a new version of the browser was available.

Automatic Update Options:
The automatic update feature's options enable you to select the types of items you want to update, i.e. extensions and themes. You also can control the update feature's autonomy, i.e. "ask me what to do when an update is available" or "just go ahead and install whatever you find, but warn me if extensions will be disabled". While I selected the more permissive option, it is generally safer if permission to proceed was always required.

My Browser's Update:
Unlike my bad experience with the upgrade to release 1.5 (due to inadequate warnings about the potential loss of extensions), I was provided with the data necessary for deciding whether or not to install the update:

* Mozilla's strong recommendation to upgrade immediately
* A list of my extensions that will be disabled with the update
* A convenient link to the Firefox Release Notes (which I now read carefully, prior to updating)

I decided to install the update.

Fortunately, prior to downloading the browser update, I checked for available updates for the extensions that I installed previously. To my (pleasant) surprise, updates were available for the two extensions that I thought would be disabled. My updated extensions worked with the newest release of the browser, and I did not lose any functionality as a result of upgrading.

The one thing missing from the automated notice was a recommendation to check for the availability of extension updates before deciding to download the browser update.

Also, step-by-step instructions for a reliable Firefox upgrade and an optional profile backup would have been useful. And while the browser update was a success, the process did not appear to take a direct path.

My next post will attempt to outline a how-to procedure for upgrading Firefox.

Important Feature:
The Firefox 1.5 developers did a great job of addressing the problem of extensions disabled unexpectedly by a browser upgrade. The automatic update feature in Firefox 1.5 effectively alerts users to the potential loss of functionality when updating their browser.

Warning Required:
I can only hope that Mozilla's marketing and public relations staff, along with the writers in the trade press, will be equally effective in alerting the millions of pre-version 1.5 users who are unaware of the potential functionality loss when extensions are disabled in a Firefox update.


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