11 April 2005. I
remember feeling very hip and bleeding-edge a year or two ago when I
first started using the
Firefox browser. And, like Mac or iPod users, I started getting
that glazed look of a True Convert; nothing could compare to the
features and functionality of Firefox.
Firefox has become much more mainstream. According to studies,
between 5 and 8 percent of Internet users around the world use
Firefox. Interestingly, high-tech sites such as
FirstAdopter.com report that one-third to one-half of their
readers use Firefox.
I could spend all day
describing what I love about Firefox, but I'll limit myself to the
features that are most relevant to web searchers.
The most valuable feature for my money is
the ability to do what is sometimes called "tabbed browsing." In
essence, this means opening multiple web pages - all within the same
browser window. It's hard to describe. I have a
screen shot that should help you visualize it. Head over to that
page (I'll wait...), which shows that I was looking for the market
share of iPods.
You see the search results.
Notice that I was interested in the first, third and sixth items.
But -- here's the cool thing -- instead of clicking through to the
first item, wandering around the site, and then trying to find my
way back to the search results, I simply right-clicked on the URL.
Firefox opened up the page in a second tabbed window. You can see
the tab for it at the top of the page. It's labeled "iPod market
share: 82%." Ditto for items 3 and 6. Do you see the tabs along the
top for those pages?
The advantage is that I
can review three or four pages of search results at a time, without
having to stop and click through to each of them. I just open a
bunch of tabs ,and then review each site at my leisure. You can do a
version of this with Internet Explorer (IE) by opening up a new IE
window for each page, but I find having to alt-tab through all those
windows -- along with all the other applications I have open at once
-- to be difficult. I have found that my web research is much more
efficient, when I can separate the "reviewing search results"
function from the "reviewing likely pages" function.
For those of us who give workshops and speeches in which we show a
series of web pages, the tabbed browsing feature is particularly
useful. You can create a folder of bookmarked pages you want to
show, fire up Firefox, open the folder's bookmarks and bingo -- all
of your pages load in the background and are ready to show the
audience, as you move from tab to tab.
Although I love the tabbed browsing, what got me to install Firefox
in the first place was its enhanced security, particularly when
compared to Internet Explorer. It's relatively immune to spyware and
adware, it doesn't support ActiveX, and it doesn't allow a site to
install any software without your permission.
Other Firefox Attractions
What else do I love about Firefox? Briefly:
An elegant "search within the page"
Lots of cool plug-ins developed by
Sage, an elegant and easy-to-use RSS reader,
A great pop-up blocker, and
It saves web site log-in and password
The only real disadvantage to Firefox is
that some web sites don't support any browser except IE. Or they
don't display well in Firefox. For those moments, I load IE,
grumbling under my breath.
Intrigued by Firefox? You can
download it for free. I had the chance recently to review the
manuscript of an excellent book on Firefox, titled
Firefox & Thunderbird Garage, by Chris Hofmann, Marcia Knous and
John Hedtke, available mid-April by Prentice- Hall. (The title
references a series of "Garage" books, including Tara Calishain's
valuable Web Search Garage. The tag line of all the Garage books is
"I do my best work in the garage.")
This is a well-written book that covers both the Firefox browser and
the related Thunderbird email software. The writing is engaging and
clear. There are loads of tips and pointers. Every time I open the
book, I learn something new. You can pre-order the book through
Amazon.com. Be warned, though, in addition to being tremendously
useful, the authors throw in a few "blog" chapters of useful, fun or
entertaining web sites. I just lost an hour of my day poking around
in some of the sites, including
© 2005 Mary Ellen Bates all rights reserved.