Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Firefox 2.0 upgrade

I upgraded to Mozilla Firefox 2.0 yesterday. I had been debating it for a while, but heard there were bugs. Someone at work (our project manager) told me that it was stable. I upgraded for one reason in particular: Firefox 2.0 has in line spell checking. If you type text into any web site text window — like the Blogger text window where I'm writing this entry, or Gmail's or Hotmail's edit window — Firefox will underline in red any word that is misspelled. Since I post fairly often to web forums like that don't have spell checkers, this is invaluable!

Firefox has a number of language packs. I'm currently using the Canadian English spell checker!

It also doesn't hurt that one of my favourite extensions didn't work in the most recent version of Firefox 1.5 (I think it was 1.5.7) but works fine in Firefox This is the Duplicate Tab add-on (Firefox 2.0 calls them "add-ons", not "extensions"). You can take the content of any tab and duplicate it to a new tab, including history. I use this add-on all the time.

There are some other feature upgrades, including functionality only available in add-ons previously, but these were the two most obvious to me.

Internet Explorer 7 has tab browsing now. This is where you can open several browser windows in different "tabs" instead of opening them in different instances of the program. Firefox had this ability since... well, since it was called Phoenix (then Firebird, finally Firefox). The web browser Opera (which I only use to check my web site) has used tab browsing for a few years now, too. This is a new feature for Internet Explorer. I heard a couple of people at work saying how much they liked it. I pointed out that I've had this ability in Firefox for, literally, years.

As far as I know, IE7 still doesn't have in line spell checking! And it does not have add-ons. Firefox allows you to customize the program with add-ons, little program bits that work within Firefox. The ability to duplicate one tab into another is not built into Firefox, but there is an add-on for it. I have FoxyTunes in the browser, allowing me to play music from my CD drive, iTunes, whatever using controls built into the browser itself. DownLoadThemAll! allows me to download all the files on a page, based on specific criteria, instead of having to click on each link individually. PDF Download lets me choose whether I want to open an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file in the browser, or download it, or open it in Acrobat as an external application whenever I click on a PDF link. I even have a silly little add-on called Fuzzy Time. As I write this, Fuzzy Time is telling me that it is "twenty to nine" instead of "9:42".

One of the more useful add-ons is IE Tab. You can set up a page so that it it opens in an instance of Internet Explorer within Firefox. This is very useful because there are still some sites that were poorly coded so that they require IE to work. The State of Louisiana's employee site is like this. In some cases it's bad site writing; in other cases it is so that a site can use Microsoft ActiveX controls. Microsoft's download site requires IE, obviously. Alana tells me that Chatropolis, a chat site, works best in IE.

I have to shake my head at McAfee, the security company. They require IE to check your McAfee account. It must be due to ActiveX controls, because it doesn't make any sense otherwise, especially given that IE is far less secure than Firefox. Here's an article on Slashdot about IE's security flaws:

According to the article, there were critical flaws in Internet Explorer 6 that remained unpatched for 284 days last year. Criminals were actively stealing data through security flaws in IE for at least 98 days, while Microsoft still hadn't patched the flaw. By contrast, Firefox had a security flaw in it last year that left it vulnerable for... drum roll... nine days.

Reading this kind of makes you question McAfee's dedication to security.

Finally, I hear that the online community Second Life will soon embed Firefox within it, allowing people to web surf within Second Life using Firefox.

You can download Firefox here:

Mozilla Firefox, and Thunderbird — Mozilla's e-mail client — are free and open source.

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