Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

FIREFOX....When I cleaned up the spyware from my mother's computer a couple of days ago, I decided to switch her from Internet Explorer to Firefox when I was finished. With any luck, this will keep her from getting infested again.

Actually, I'd been meaning to give Firefox a try myself for a long time but had never gotten around to it. However, this got me off my butt (gotta be able to provide tech support for mom, after all) and I installed it on my machine too. Here are my pros and cons after using it for a few days.

Pros

  • Very easy setup. The download is small, only about 5MB, and it installed in about 30 seconds. It imports all your IE bookmarks when it starts up, which took me about a minute. I ended up fiddling with a few defaults too, but that was optional. From download to surfing was a grand total of about five minutes.

  • The built-in popup blocker works great so far. You can customize to allow popups if it's blocking ones you want, but so far I haven't had to do that. It's just running on its defaults.

  • Tabbed browsing allows you to open new pages in a tab, instead of opening a new browser window. I don't know how useful this is in general, but it's a godsend for a blogger, since I often have five or six windows open at a time when I'm writing a single post. Very slick.

  • It loads pages faster than IE. This may be partly due to the popup blocking. It's not a huge difference, but the LA Times site, for example, is noticably quicker to open.

  • Most of my IE plugins worked fine. PDF displays properly and audio and video works fine. I had to download the Flash plugin, but Firefox notified me, found the plugin automatically, downloaded it, and installed it. It couldn't have been easier.

  • And of course, there's also the original reason I installed it on my mother's machine: since it's not IE, it's not vulnerable to viruses and spyware designed for IE.

Cons

  • It renders pages a bit differently than IE. To my eye, the rendering is usually slightly inferior, but not hugely so.

  • Unfortunately, Firefox seems to have a bug that affects the page I use most often: the post entry page for Movable Type. This page has several buttons that allow you to automatically code text for bold, italics, etc., but the buttons don't show up in Firefox.

    By itself, this isn't that big a deal since the buttons are only a modest convenience. But why don't they work? Does Firefox not interpret Javascript properly? (Or is it actually an MT bug? I don't know. However, there's a hack for MT that fixes it if you really want your buttons back.)

  • The text entry cursor is overly fat and covers up part of the text you're typing. A minor annoyance.

  • All your site passwords have to be re-entered. This isn't a Firefox bug, of course, but it's still something that has to be done each time you go to a password-protected site for the first time.

There are other minor differences that take a little getting used to, but that's always the case with a new piece of software and so far none of them are a big deal. In addition, I imagine there will end up being a few sites that don't render properly, since most sites are built for IE and not always tested on other platforms, but I've always got IE around if I really need it.

Overall, highly recommended. I should have tried it a long time ago. You can download it here.

Kevin Drum 1:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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