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Why I Love Firefox

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Mary Ellen Bates, Bates Information Services, Inc.

 

Logo for Bates Information Services, Inc.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 BoingBoing and 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.

 
 

I can review three or four pages of search results at a time, without having to stop and click through to each of them.

 
 

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" feature,

  • Lots of cool plug-ins developed by Firefox fans,

  • Sage, an elegant and easy-to-use RSS reader,

  • A great pop-up blocker, and

  • It saves web site log-in and password information.

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 www.heavens-above.com and www.lileks.com.

2005 Mary Ellen Bates all rights reserved.

 
 

Mary Ellen Bates is the principal of Bates Information Services, a research and consulting business based in Boulder, CO.

 
 

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Created: 11 April 2005
Revised: 18 October 2007 (no text revisions)
URL: https://www.virtualchase.com/articles/archive/firefox.html

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