Thursday, June 17, 2004

Firefox Review - setting the world on fire

Popup Blocking
Tabbed Browsing
Smarter Search
Privacy and Security
Hassle-Free Downloading
Fits Like a Glove
Setup's a Snap
A Developer's Best Friend

Firefox has got to be one of the most exciting pieces of software I have used in a long time. An open-source, embeddable web browser from Mozilla, Firefox is the latest release from a company which touts its product as "The Future of the Browser". And it's free.

Currently a 4.7MB download available here, Firefox is a very streamlined piece of software. It is refreshing to see the bloatware of Netscape disappear with the release of this product.

First install took less than a minute, and after a couple of uses I decided to switch browsers. (of course I am still typing this in IE - more about that later) Choose the custom config and get the Web Developer Toolbar, a revolutionary add-on that every person who has to deal with web pages will want.

The Web Developer Toolbar allows you to change the way pages are viewed on-the-fly. Some of the more interesting features:

  • Display image dimensions

  • Find broken images

  • Zoom in/out

  • Hide images or make them invisible

  • View Speed Report

  • Show Comments

  • Custom-sized browsers

  • CSS/HTML/Standards Validator

  • Link Checker

  • View Response Headers

  • View Cookies

....Catching breath....

  • Display Form Details

  • Show Passwords

  • View Form Information

  • Outline Table Cells

There's really no point in listing them all, just download it.

Be wary of plugins. The main reason I am using Internet Explorer right now is the fact that I tried every plugin out there and one of them pooched the installation really nicely. If this happens to you, there is some documentation about running the tool with the firefox.exe -p switch, and creating a new profile.

That got me back up and running nicely. Speaking of extensions, there are quite a few and sure to be hundreds of these additional plugins for Firefox in the next few days. There is a tool to synchronize your bookmarks via FTP. An RSS Reader. A notepad. An ad-blocker. A DOM inspector. A Google Bar. (There's actually a few Google bars). A utility to search University web sites from A-Z. A tool to .... you get the idea.

Skins have become a big thing since WinAmp and this is no different. There are a few Themes available out there and more to come, which make the tool look uber-cool.

There is a Download Manager, with a cleanup option, and an extension for moving different downloads to alternate paths.

The tabbed-browsing piece has been available for awhile. It is still great. Forget scrolling through the taskbar to find the IE window with the 3 letters that may contain the window you are looking for.

Auto-open a folder of your favourites. How about opening up all your favourites at the same time, in the same window.

The GUI still has some bugs to iron out (click customize on the toolbar and see), and the install bailed when importing my IE History, but it doesn't matter. This is 0.9, and still much better than alot of 2.0-shipped software out there.

This will be the next killer-app if things go right for Mozilla. Once they get a few more blogging extensions in there, a media-player, integration with E-bay, Paypal, Amazon, and GMail, and some weather & traffic applets, streaming audio, and .... wait.

Nevermind. A 4MB download is enough for now.

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