The latest release of Firefox - version 3.6 - has been released, and there are some nice new features for fans of the browser.

Announced over on the Mozilla Blog yesterday by Melissa Shapiro, the latest build of the popular free-as-in-speech browser will be trickling out to users via the in-built update system over the next few days. If you can't wait that long, it's available for immediate download from the official site in Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X flavours.

There are some pretty neat tweaks to the system for those who take the plunge and upgrade - not least of which is a speed improvement of around 20 percent to the browser's already pretty swift JavaScript engine, along with general performance enhancements that help the browser feel snappier to use. From a slightly less techie perspective, themes have been enhanced with the introduction of 'Personas' which can be applied without a restart - allowing users to change the look and feel of the browser in a single click on-the-fly.

The Plugin Check functionality which Mozilla developed back in October is now rolled into the main code, with Firefox 3.6 automatically checking for out of date of vulnerable plugins and helper applications in addition to the existing checks for updated add-ons. Some clever coding has also allowed the team to significantly reduce the ways a third-party application or add-on can crash the browser - without, the Foundation claims, "sacrificing our extensibility in any way."

The support for HTML 5's integrate audio and video playback functionality has been improved with 3.6, with support having been added for full-screen playback of any embedded video. How much use this will get, however, remains to be seen - although Google's popular YouTube service has started offering HTML 5 video support for playback without Adobe's Flash plugin, it uses proprietary codecs and as a result doesn't support Firefox.

Various other tweaks are included in Firefox 3.6, including support for feeding back the orientation of a portable device to a website for content customisation, linear and radial CSS gradient support, and the ability to use Web Open Font Format fonts in addition to OpenType and TrueType fonts. There's even been a modification to the automatic form filling functionality, with Firefox now suggesting content for fields based on similar fields filled in previously, rather than just identically-named fields.

With Firefox 3.6 being made available for free, as always, there certainly doesn't seem any reason for fans of the browser not to upgrade - although whether the new shinyness of 3.6 will be enough to tempt back those who defected to rival browsers like Google's Chrome remains to be seen.

Will you be upgrading to Firefox 3.6, or are you going to let others do the final round of testing before retiring your trusty Firefox 3.5 install? Are there features still missing that the Mozilla Foundation will need to add before you consider using Firefox as your main browser? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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