What is Firefox and why should I use it?
Mozilla Firefox ("Firefox" for short") is the next-generation version of the Mozilla web browser.
For the best in web browser security, I choose and recommend Firefox.
Long before Internet Explorer existed, long before Microsoft started giving away Internet Explorer and much longer before it became an "integral part of the operating system," Netscape was the web browser everyone used. We even paid to purchase it — like "real" software.
Netscape Corp. released a snapshot of the source code to the open-source community. This snapshot was called Mozilla. That portion of the open-source community became known as mozilla.org. Netscape, which retains the right to use the Mozilla derivatives in its commercial products, became a subsidiary of AOL.
Flash Forward to 2005: The Mozilla program is now version 1.7.3, and includes a web browser, an email program, a news reader, a chat program and more. Mozilla Firefox is the up-and-coming replacement for the browser in the Mozilla product. It is a web browser only, very compliant to the HTML and CSS standards, very small, and fast. A "Preview Release" was released in September 2004 and then updated in early October. The official release of Firefox 1.0 (v1.0) was Tuesday, November 9, 2004.
The fresh new Firefox
A new version of Firefox was released recently. Firefox version 220.127.116.11 is now the current version, although Mozilla is continuing to suppor the 1.5 series until about April’07 (latest is v18.104.22.168).
Firefox has a number of great features. One of the early features was "tabbed browsing" — the ability to have multiple web pages open at one time, in one browser window. I use this feature all the time, and use Firefox’s setting to force “New Windows” to open in tabs. This means that, if a web page wants to open a link in a new window, Firefox opens it in a new tab instead. The result is a lot less clutter and an increased usefulness of having multiple web pages open at the same time.
A recent improvement was the ability to drag tabs to the right or left to change their order in the display. At first thought, this was a "so what?" change. But, after using it, I really like the ability to move the tabs.
In addition to its freshness, Mozilla Firefox is not Internet Explorer, the target of a large number of bad guys. The bad guys spend all their time attacking I.E. because it is "effective marketing" — they are focussing on the web browser that is on everyone’s Windows system, and that is now integrated into the operating system. More copies in use means more "potential customers" for their viruses, spyware, trojans and other malware.
"Integrated into the operating system" means that a flaw in the I.E. program is now an unprotected flaw in the Windows OS.
Firefox is not subject to many of the same security problems as I.E. It isn’t integrated into the operating system, so a security issue is not as likely to be catastrophic, and it doesn’t support ActiveX, the vehicle of many of the "drive-by downloads" and spyware/adware infections.
Tabbed pages versus new windows
Firefox has a "tabbed" look, where new web pages actually open in tabs within the existing window. It’s easy — just hold down the Ctrl-key while you click on a link. This is great for small screens, of if you dislike having multiple browser windows. If you prefer, you can still create new windows — it’s under your control, so you can do it where it makes sense.
Firefox has a fantastic "Find" function. No longer do you get a dialog box in the middle of the window, type the search term, and click "ok" or "find it". Now, Control-F or Edit/Search-and-Replace opens a neat Find toolbar at the bottom of the window — plus, as you type, it searches in real-time. This makes it much faster to find a word or phrase in the current webpage.
As of version 1.5, tabs (in the tabbed user interface) can now be dragged to right or left to change their order.
Another neat feature of tabs affects the browser’s home page. We can select multiple tabs to open automatically when we start Firefox or click on the Home icon.
Similarly, if I center-click (or Control-Left-Click) on a folder of bookmarks, Firefox will open ALL of the bookmarks in that folder at one time — each in their own tab. This is another feature I instantly liked.
Importing your favorites
Firefox will import your favorites (bookmarks), passwords, history and more from I.E., Opera, Mozilla and earlier versions of Firefox. If you continue to use I.E. occasionally, you can import newer bookmark versions using the File/Import function.
Or, you can use the excellent tool Bookmark Converter from www.magnusbrading.com to convert bookmarks in any direction among Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape, Opera and Mozilla Firefox. You can even set it to keep the bookmarks in different browsers in sync (the synchronization occurs at boot time). Bookmark Converter is shareware and has a 30 day trial period before it is disabled.