For many years I was a die-hard Netscape fan, using the browser and email combo together. Netscape supported more of the cutting edge HTML people where using, and the interface was light years ahead of Internet Explorer. Now fast-forward to today, the browser wars are over and Netscape is dead (in terms of market share that is), Internet Explorer 6 is embedded in the Windows OS and the story is over, right? Wrong! Netscape lives on as an open source project called Mozilla with variants such as FireFox. I have been using version 0.9 of FireFox for several months now and I am amazed at how simple, fast and productive it has made my web browsing experience.
One of the best features of the browser is the built in “search” area in the top right hand corner. By default “Google” is the search engine that is enabled, but you can add other search engines as well. This area also has another really powerful feature. You can install the ability to search an online dictionary. This is a great power tool for those of us how can’t spell and that includes me!
The feature you hear most talked about in FireFox is the tabbed browsing. I can’t tell you how powerful this makes surfing the web. For instance you can have your web email open in one tab, and by surfing the web in another tab. If you have several browser windows and many applications open at once, it’s really much better to look at the tabs across the top of the screen rather than fumble with the Windows Task Bar.
All the other features you would expect to find in a web browser are present in FireFox. Much like Internet Explorer you can view bookmarks as a side tab, or in a traditional menu. Another great cosmetic feature that’s included “out of the box” is the ability to change skin on the interface. Users can download hundreds of different looks from the FireFox theme website.
Privacy controls are one of the biggest killer features of FireFox. You have much more control over how information is stored on your computer. This is particularly important if you share a computer with family, or in a dorm room. I love the fact that you can wipe out your history, and you don’t have to worry about pesky “index.dat” files like Microsoft Internet explorer creates. Overall, FireFox is a much more secure browser if you don’t want users snooping around your stuff.
Finally the biggest and best reason to switch to FireFox is a wonderous little extension called “Adblock.” This powerful extension enables you to right click on ads and make FireFox ignore them. The effect of this after a day or so of surfing your regular sites, such as the New York Times, becomes a banner free suhttps://web.archive.org/web/20071118195416/http://www.nytimes.com/rfing experience. And because most of the big companies serve their banner ads from dedicated services you just add a wildcard to the end of a server and you never see banner ads again.
The killer feature of Adblock is its abiltiy to block Flash Ads. Yes, you heard me correctly: you can right click on a Flash movie and have it disappear. That means those annoying monkeys and floating ads are gone for good! The best part of this exentsion is that it won’t block the images or the Flash movies you want to see. This is why open source software is the best. It is created by people who don’t have an ulterior motive: they just want to make surfing the web a better experience, regardless of whether that means companies can’t serve you annoying banner ads!
Overall FireFox has turned my web surfing experience into a more plesant one. I love the ability to customize the interface and privacy features. But the Adblock extension coupled with the tabbed browsing make FireFox the power user’s browser of choice. And I feel so damn smart using it too! Happy surfing!
FireFox 0.9 (2004)
Available: Available now for Windows, Mac OS and Linux in several languages from Belarusian to Turkish. Sadly no native double byte language builds as yet.