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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Mozilla's Firefox launched!

Mozilla's Firefox launched!

Mozilla's Firefox 1.0 was released today after spending a long time in beta. Firefox is my browser of choice and I have been using it for a very long time now. The earliest forms of Mozilla that I used were buggy and had its share of "user" challenges (I still can't believe it took them a few versions before they realized a warning message is necessary when the user tries to close a window with multiple tabs.). Am glad we are over those hurdles now. Here is a brief history of Firefox and here are some reasons why I dig Firefox (earlier known as Phoenix and then Firebird):

  • Tabbed browsing: For the uninitiated, in IE, everytime you want to open link from within a IE window, either you load the link in the same window or you open a new window. With firefox, you have the added option of opening it as a tab WITHIN the same browser window. Why would you need this: For me browsing is like running through a dictionary. I open the dictionary to lookup a word and that leads me on to other words and very soon I am a "walking dictionary", at least for a couple hours till my memory cells fade out! So when I open a web page, I start finding other interesting links and I soon find myself with 10 different windows. With tabbed browsing, I basically have only one window with 10 tabs. My taskbar is less crowded and if my manager walks into my cube I have to minimize only one window! :) So heres the math:
    10 interesting links imply: in IE -> 10 windows; in Firefox: 1 window with 10 tabs.
    Of course, Firefox does provide the ability to open a link in a new window too.

  • Searching: This and tabbed browsing are my favs. Though it supports "CTRL + f" to open the FIND window, it supports a simpler search method. Hit the "/" key and start typing the word you are interested in and the browser jumps to the phrase as you type it. "CTRL + g" finds the next occurance and so on. If you land on a link, hit enter and it opens the link in the browser. How cool is that!

  • Bookmark management: Much better management of bookmarks than in IE. You can associate a keyword to a bookmark.
    Example: Set the keyword to google.com to "g". If you now type "g" in the location bar, it will replace the keyword with the URL and go to google.com. No extra search toolbars; less clutter.

  • Quick Searches: Do you use google frequently to look up stuff? Or do you jump to a dictionary site such as www.m-w.com often? Wouldn't it be nice if you dont have to first go to google.com or m-w.com before you can lookup the word/phrase by just typing in the word/phrase in the location bar? Quick Search in Firefox allows just that. Example: If I want to lookup "R.L.Stevenson's Vagabond" on Google (my favourite poem), I just type "g R.L.Stevenson's Vagabond" in the location bar. And the google search results for my query is immediately loaded. :) To set it up, define a bookmark for google, set the keyword to "g" and the location to "http://www.google.com/search?q=%s". Anything you type after g in the location bar will be taken as the query string for the search. And you can type in queries just like you would in google with characters such as + or enclosed in "". To create other quick searches, use similar logic to construct the location string.

  • Live bookmarks: RSS feeds can be read into the bookmarks toolbar. So, you know when a new feed is available from your favourite website even without going to the site.

  • Open source: Implies more choice for the customer. Developers worldwide continue to enhance the browser and to build extensions to it for specific features. This site should you give you a general idea about the rich options available. This one too.

  • And numerous other features such as built-in pop-up blocking, better security than in IE, an efficient download manager, multiple extensions, numerous keyboard and mouse shortcuts, etc round it up. Oh! And its free!!! :)


My recommendation: Go for it! I still use IE, but only if the page does not render well in Firefox which happens a few times esp when the site is flash-driven or sometimes when there are embedded media objects.

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