Though I have not upgraded to Firefox 0.9 yet (actually I have but have found it very buggy and less stable) I do want to take some time to sing the praises of 0.8 and some if the great features of this browser.
First off let me start by saying that I am not a Microsoft basher by any means and have never had problems with Internet Explorer since version 4.x except of course for the security issues (which I believe have less to do with inferior code than with the desire by many to “take Microsoft down” and of course Microsoft’s insistence that the browser is integral to every aspect of their OS but that is another post).
I have used IE exclusively (except for testing) for several years now as both Netscape and Mozilla (and Gecko) all proved to have issues and problems that IE did not have. Furthermore IE was fast AND (not to be too hypocritical) I liked the seeming “integration” IE enjoys with Windows and how many of my web-based tools (Movable Type as the most notable, used the DOM of IE and Windows to provide additional control over things, such as allowing me to highlight a word and add a link to it or format it how I see fit.
A couple things have changed in the browser world however the biggest of those changes are tabbed browsing as I have become sick of window pollution for various browser windows. A natural progression for me was to try a IE based browser variant with tabbed browsing. I chose Avant Browser and thought I had found the solution. Well, Avant proved too buggy for me and soon outlived its welcome on my desktop.
Just about this time a nice little browser called Firebird. I had heard some about it but after having tried Mozilla, the new Netscape and Gecko I was not impressed at least on a PC. In addition, I did not (nor do now) understand the convoluted development roadmap at Mozilla and how every initiative fits together. But I like to try new things and Firebird (previously Phoenix and now Firefox due to legal issues) sound like just the thing.
Still the transition to Firefox was not without a few pains and hurdles. First, there were a few things I had grown accustomed to on IE needed to be supported by Firefox. The great thing about Firefox is that if something is cool and worthwhile someone will create an “extension” for it. Listed here in order of importance are a few of the extension I have found useful:
Text Area Spell check – It may not look like it by reading Alt Text but a quick way of spell checking entries in text areas is very important to me. This has been the most difficult to find and install of the extensions listed. It is also still one of the buggiest.
Session Saver – One great thing about Avant was that it would save the tabs that were open when you closed the browser. I love this as I often have too many things to look at and read but not enough time to do so in one sitting. This feature is like temporary bookmarks.
Popup Alt Attribute – It always annoyed me that Firefox decided that alt attributes were not important for the user and so hid them. This extension allows them to work as they do in other browsers.
Autohide – This allows the full screen mode of Firefox to behave more like IE does by auto hiding the menus. I use this for presenting things online.
A few extensions, I had never used before Firefox, but which are nice:
RSS Reader panel – A great way to browse RSS feeds right in the browser. You can setup schedules and notification properties for each RSS feed and it works well.
Add Bookmark Here (ala Opera) – I always liked this bit from Opera -it allows you to browse to a bookmark location and then select Add Bookmark here for the page you are visiting. Works well for me who tends to not organize the bookmarks too often.
Bookmarks Synchronizer – This is huge! I can enter my FTP info into this tool and it syncs my bookmarks with other instances of Firefox I have (i.e. work and home)
ChomEdit – provides a means of editing the user files, i.e. userChrome.css, userContent.css, user.js without the need to find the profile directory. These files are very powerful and can affect many things about the browser. For example, I added entries to userChrome.css that blocked all ads that fit within certain sizes and that were presented by certain websites.
Adblock – Can be used to block any ad or image or flash etc that annoys you.
Copy Image for Windows – allows copying of an image right to the clipboard from the browser.
Download Manager Tweak – a modification of the Firefox download manager that improves its appearance and allows it to be opened in a separate window, a new tab, or the sidebar.
I classify these as tweaks or enhancements that are nice but unnecessary:
TabScroller – allows you to hold down the right mouse button and then use the scroll wheel to switch browser tab.
RadialContext – hierarchical, context-sensitive pie menu. It offers an alternative to both the normal context menu and mouse gestures. The feeling is very similar to mouse gestures. But there also is a GUI so you don’t have to look up what options are available in the given context. A little clucky but I set it as an alternative option (using the alt key) and want to give it props for trying.
CuteMenus v0.3 – adds icons to most menu items and in context menus. These icons are not an insignificant thing as they more quickly allow browsing the menu and making your selection.
More extensions are being created every day and when 0.9 or 1.0 get released I am sure there will be even more great features. For now I am very content with Firefox. (and if I wasn’t I could change it)
Now I can safely say there is only one thing I miss from Internet Explorer, the access to the DOM that programs like the one I am using to make this post could use to help me out. Of course there are Movable Type plugins such as Textile and WikiFormat that I could try, I guess. Maybe now I will have the kick in the ass to do so.