Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why we should all use Firefox

I know it has become customary for all technology blogs to rant about how it is crucial that everyone switches to Firefox right away, to prevent their computer being rendered unusable by vast amounts of spyware flooding onto their computer, to stop supporting the evil monster of Redmond, and to experience the nirvana of tabbed browsing. However, I do believe there is a very strong case to justify switching to Firefox, even if only until we’ve all had a look at the new IE7, due to be released about the middle of this year.

The first reason is extensions. I think that they improve my web browsing experience and increase the things I can do drastically. The extensions I use include Mouse Gestures, which allows me to perform functions like going forward and back, opening new tabs and almost anything else by moving my mouse in a particular way. Providing another way to do something already possible can only increase browsing speed and the browser’s usability. Viamatic Foxpose is an extension that allows me to view all the tabs tiled on one screen, Mac OSX style. Other extensions include Google Suggest, Blogger Web Comments, GreaseMonkey and StumbeUpon. Together they provide a level of functionality one could only dream of on Internet Explorer. More importantly, Firefox’s ability to support extensions empowers users to create the functions they need, and if they don’t have the ability to do that, the chances are someone else has.

Critics of Firefox say that if Firefox is so usable, why does it need all these extensions to improve its usability? However, Firefox without extensions is still significantly more usable than IE6. It has tabs, which mean that a user can see all the websites they have open at once, and quickly choose which one they need, rather than being forced to struggle through the multiple instances of browser windows like those unfortunate IE users. Just recently I discovered another innovative feature in Firefox; caret browsing. If it exists in IE, I have never seen it, and it allows the user to easily select text onscreen without the use of a mouse by having a moving cursor controllable with arrow keys. It may sound simple, but it’s the accumulation of these many ideas of Firefox developers that makes it better, in my opinion, than any other.

A problem that Firefox users have to contend with regularly is websites that are designed badly, and that only work with IE. Although with the growing market share of Firefox, this problem will diminish rapidly, there is now a solution which means that there is no excuse at all not to switch to Firefox. It’s called IE Tab, and its an extension for Firefox that allows you to open any website using the IE rendering engine, but in a Firefox tab. Although this exposes you to all the security issues with IE6, it does allow you to take advantage of all the other features that Firefox has and IE does not.

Firefox can be downloaded by clicking the Firefox button on the sidebar of this blog. I urge you to do it, if you haven’t already, now. Go on – you know you want to!

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