Ai Pei Sheah


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Firefox Mozilla over IE

Why I'm not using IE now? I've been plagued by numerous spyware, trojan, adware & other virus on the net when I was using IE.

Firefox, which uses a different underlying browsing engine called "Gecko," also has a couple of close cousins based on the same engine. One is Netscape, now owned by America Online. The other is a browser called Mozilla, from the same group that created Firefox. But Firefox is smaller, sleeker and newer than either of its relatives, although a new Netscape version is in the works.

Firefox isn't totally secure -- no browser can be, especially if it runs on Windows, which has major security problems and is the world's top digital target. But Firefox has better security and privacy than IE. One big reason is that it won't run programs called "ActiveX controls," a Microsoft technology used in IE. These programs are used for many good things, but they have become such powerful tools for criminals and hackers that their potential for harm outweighs their benefits.

Firefox also has easier, quicker and clearer methods than IE does for covering your online tracks, if you so choose. And it has a better built-in pop-up ad blocker than IE.

But my favorite aspect of Firefox is tabbed browsing, a Web-surfing revolution that is shared by all the major new browsers but is absent from IE. With tabbed browsing, you can open many Web pages at once in the same browser window. Each is accessed by a tab.

The benefits of tabbed browsing hit home when you create folders of related bookmarks. For instance, on my computer I have a folder of a dozen technology-news bookmarks and another 20 or so bookmarks pointing to political Web sites. With one click, I can open the entire contents of these folders in tabs, in the same single window, allowing me to survey entire fields of interest.

And Firefox can recognize and use Web sites that employ "RSS" to create and update summaries of their contents. When Firefox encounters an RSS site, it displays a special icon that allows you to create a "live" bookmark to the site. These bookmarks then display updated headlines of stories on the sites.

Firefox also includes a permanent, handy search box that can be used to type in searches on Google, Yahoo, Amazon or other search sites without installing a special toolbar.

And it has a cool feature called "Add-ins" These are small add-on modules, easy to download and install, that give the browser new features. Among the extensions I use are one that automatically fills out forms and another that tests the speed of my Web connection. You can also download "themes," which change the browser's looks.

There is only one significant downside to Firefox. Some Web sites, especially financial ones, have chosen to tailor themselves specifically for Internet Explorer. They rely on features only present in IE, and either won't work or work poorly in Firefox and other browsers. Example is RHBinvest.

Luckily, even if you switch to Firefox, you can still keep IE around to view just these incompatible sites. (In fact, Microsoft makes it impossible to fully uninstall IE.) There's even an extension for Firefox that adds an option called "View This Page in IE."

So Firefox is my current choice of a Windows Web browser. It is to IE in 2004 what IE was to Netscape in 1996 -- the browser that does a better job.


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