Saturday, January 28, 2006

Get Firefox!

There are two new additions to my home page, a feed for my blog and a Firefox button. The two are related, but you'll have to read on to discover why.

Firefox

Firefox has been my default browser since early 2005. The more I use it, the happier I am with it. The other day I realized how much I've customized it, and how much those customizations improve my browsing experience.

Internet Explorer

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer 6, the browser used by approximately 80% of web users, gets older and older. (See some browser usage statistics at Browser News.) IE7 is on the way, but as my Dad used to say, "So's Christmas." Even when it does arrive (Summer 2006?), it will be a case of too little, too late. IE7 is not going to fix all the IE6 compliance issues, it won't be available for all Microsoft operating systems, and it doesn't represent a major step forward in any meaningful way.

I think it's worth mentioning here that I am not a Microsoft basher. I try to be more pro-things than I am anti-other-things. It's possible, and actually relatively easy, to be pro-Firefox without being anti-Microsoft. In the late '90s Microsoft did something truly remarkable by recovering from their early strategic blunders in the Internet arena. They caught up to Netscape and by 1999 Internet Explorer was the better browser and became the market leader.

Competition

Since then, however, Microsoft has succumbed to the problems of being a market leader. They stopped innovating, and worse than that, they've stopped fixing bugs, basic security vulnerabilities still exist, and some of the security-related changes in Windows XP SP2 interfere with everyday use. I am sure there are lots of reasons for all that, but the root cause is a lack of competition.

The good news is, there are now several browsers that are technically superior to Internet Explorer and they have gained enough momentum that they can be used by everyone, not just the technical elite. In fact, for the good of the Intenet, it's important for people to use the other browsers. It's the only way to send a wake-up call to the powers-that-be at Microsoft. They can choose to answer the call, or not. If they answer, fine. Getting Internet Explorer back on the right track will provide a better product for Microsoft users, and will force the competitors to stay on their toes. If Microsoft doesn't react, those competitors can fight it out. The winner, in the end, will be browser users.

Why a Blog?

I feel strongly about this issue, and I wanted a place to express my opinion, so I created this blog. The main audience will probably be users of my genealogy tools, but I decided to keep the opinion-based content that is not strictly related to those tools separate from the home pages for Second Site or TMG Utility.

Why Firefox?

As I said before, my favorite browser, and the one I recommend, is Firefox. There are other good browsers, and in particular, Opera is a good alternative. I recommend Firefox because I think it has the best compliance with web standards. I use it for that reason, but also because it has the most customizable interface1. Specifically, some Firefox browser extensions have become a part of my browsing life and I depend on them. My browsing habits won't match yours, but there will be some overlap.

Extensions

Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to Firefox. You can browse the directory of Firefox extensions to see what's available. Here are some of the extensions I use.

Extension Description
Sage Sage adds a sidebar (a small panel on one side of your browser window) that has a list of feeds (blogs and other RSS feeds) and a list of articles for the currently selected feed. It's very easy to use, and for me, it's a lot better than using a separate feed reader.
Web Developer Web Developer adds a suite of web development tools to Firefox. According the Editors of the Firefox Add-ons site, Web Developer is "Indispensible ... An essential extension for any web developer/designer as it provides a raft of incredibly useful features all under one roof. You will wonder how you ever managed without it!" They're right.
ViewSourceWith With ViewSourceWith, you can view the source for any page using one of several external applications. I use TextPad to view and edit text, and so I configured ViewSourceWith to start TextPad when I view the HTML source of pages I visit. Viewing the source of pages developed by other people is an effective way to learn HTML and CSS, and ViewSourceWith makes that easy and convenient.
IE View IE View makes it easy to open a page in IE when you are using Firefox. It's handy when you encounter a page that only works in IE.

  1. Most Firefox extensions can be used with Mozilla.

3 comments:

WunderDownUnder said...

Instead of IEView, I use IETab; one click changes the browser engine, and saves loading IE at all

Bob Velke said...

Another Firefox extension that I rely on heavily is the Google toolbar. It isn't exclusive to Firefox but they're great together.

John said...

WunderDownUnder - Everybody's got their favorites. The cool thing is, there are choices.

Bob - I use Googlebar Lite; I didn't want to recommend the light version in case some people who compare it on a feature-by-feature basis to the IE version.