Get Firefox!

Why I, a long-time IE user, recommend Firefox:

1) First and most importantly, Firefox has better security. This isn't because Firefox is coded better. It's really not. It's because Firefox isn't IE. Every hacker-punk on this planet writes endless reams of evil drek to attack IE, and very little is written for Firefox. There is no such thing as a "perfect program" - every program written will have SOMETHING that can be exploited. Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of millions of hackers who constantly look for stuff to exploit in IE, and the only way Microsoft is going to ever stop them all is to convert IE to a text-only browser - and that's just not going to happen.

2) Firefox is customizable to match IE behaviors you are used to, and add behaviors you've always wished IE could do. This is done through what Mozilla calls "extensions" - and if you're very good at Java and CSS (and I mean VERY good), you can even create your own extensions. There are several tutorials on this, such as this one, here. I choose my browser extensions exclusively to imitate IE behaviors (yes, I know, this is heresy to those of you in the OS community, but I happen to like how IE functions, and I want to keep the functionality I have). Currently, the Firefox extensions I am using are:

  • ViewSourceWith, which is an extension that lets you open a page in your favorite editor(s). Like all extensions, it's called by right-clicking on the page, and when added to the toolbar, it emulates the behavior of the "Edit" button in Internet Explorer.
  • OpenNewWindowFromHere, which is an extension that let's you open a new instance of the browser from the current window, rather than just from wherever the homepage is set. Functionality is identical to IE.
  • All-in-One Gestures, which is an extremely powerful extension you could spend literally hours playing with. All I use it for is to set 'click/drag' type window scrolling to emulate IE behaviors, but it can do a lot more than that. Note that at the time of this writing (1 March '05), the comments on the download page say that the installer doesn't work - this isn't true, it works fine, it's just that the comments haven't been updated yet.
  • Add N Edit Cookies, which allows you to directly manage your cookie files.
  • FireFTP, which allows you to work with FTP sites in Firefox. In IE, you just open the FTP site and you can deal with it like it was a window in Windows Explorer. Firefox doesn't integrate with the shell like that (which is actually a good thing, really), so it needs an extension to deal with FTP sites.
  • ShowImage, which allows you to right-click on an image that didn't load (or only partially loaded) to attempt to load it again. The functionality is identical to the IE right-click command.
  • IEView, which allows you to right-click a page in Firefox to open it in IE. Very useful when you are trying to compare how your pages look in both browsers. Read the homepage for this extension completely, however, apparently it only works in Windows and it has several other minor quirks which might affect you.
  • FirefoxView, which allows you to right-click in IE and open a page up in Firefox. Very useful when you are trying to compare how your pages look in both browsers. Read the homepage for this extension completely, however, apparently Norton Anti-Virus has a bug that affects it.

I also am using Quicktime to play MIDI, .wav, MP3 and video files on the web, as well as Macromedia Flash, but these are separate downloads.

Other extensions I have installed which extend the browser functionality beyond what IE can do are:

  • Adblock, which allows you to selectively block ads by right-clicking on them.
  • Flashblock, which allows you to only load flash items that you WANT to load. This may not sound terribly important to you people on high-speed connections, but to modem users, this is really useful. Particularly since most flash apps on the internet are just ads, anyway.
  • Flashgot, which allows integration with download accellerators and download managers, and several other features. If you don't have a download accelleratorand you're on dialup, I reccommend Free Download Manager. If you're on a high-speed connection, I reccommend you hold a moment of silence for those of us who have to deal with small town ISP's in the boonies.

Now, there are literally hundreds of extensions that are available, ranging from the extremely useful (like ViewSourceWith) to the extremely useless (like an extension that lets you check whether or not Abe Vigoda is alive by clicking a button - not kidding). Firefox is infinitely expandible to do literally anything you want it to do - and that includes looking exactly how you want it to look. Yes, you can download "themes" for it, and even create your own. With a bit of work, you can make Firefox look and act like anything you wish - even (like I did) making it look and act like the pre-SP2 version of IE6.

While we're on the subject of behaviors, there are several irritating behaviors that appeared in the SP2 version of IE6 for WinXP - not the least of which was that the information bar always pops up and disables scripts that may exist on your homepage if your homepage is stored on your hard drive (like me), and any HTML-formatted e-books that may contain scripts. And, equally unfortunately, this new and annoying behavior in IE can't be changed, even after you use the IE registry hack to add "My Computer" to your security zones and edit the security permissions to disable the information bar. Every time you load the page anew, even if you told IE6 SP2 to not show you that message and not disable your scripts, it will do it again anyway. Firefox doesn't have this behavior - when you tell it "my homepage is okay, just load it", it does so and doesn't ask again. It's that simple.

3) Firefox is not demanding. It does not insist it be your only web browser, take over your machine, change your settings, or do anything else unpleasant. It does only what you tell it to do - and it's a lot more intelligent than IE is when it comes to understanding what the less computer-savvy amoung us mean when we tell it to do something. Firefox does not require you to jump through flaming hoops to set various security zones (though you can alter the security settings if you want), nor does it require anything else untoward. Basically, you just use it, and don't think about it - like IE used to be back in the golden days of IE3.0 and before the hackers started their multi-year campaign to attack Internet Explorer (wistful sigh).

4) Firefox is faster. I know, if you're like me and have been using IE for a long time, you're probably saying "Yeah, right, that's all dependent on your connection speed." But, the truth is that IE actually, honestly, really is slower. I didn't believe this myself until I did a side-by-side comparison of the two browsers loading the same page. Firefox was faster - and the less images there were to be loaded on the page, the greater the difference. Pages that were all text loaded amazingly fast on my dialup connection in Firefox.

5) Firefox displays web pages like IE does. Unlike Netscape, whose designers literally went out of their way to insure that web-pages would display differently in their browser than they do in IE, the only way you can tell you're looking at a page in Firefox instead of IE is to look at the top of the browser window and see that it says "Mozilla Firefox" instead of "Internet Explorer." You don't have to redesign your entire website to accommodate this new browser, nor do you have to worry that when you open a web-page on the internet, it's going to look like hell because you're not using IE.

In short, Firefox is a good little critter (despite it's Open Source origins and it's incindiary name), very well mannered, and behaves properly on your machine.

So, for these above reasons, I, a long-time IE user who still has IE installed on his machine, recommend Firefox.

- Jim Farris,
Published Professional Author and Composer


Get Firefox!


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