Clean and Optimize
Windows. Quickly fixes
Free to Download
Helpful Tips on your new
The New Browser of Choice
Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), the browser of choice for
over 80% of the Internet population. Right? Well that really
depends on how you define choice.
The vast majority of people who buy a computer are buying a
system with some version of the Windows operating system
already installed. Or, you sit at work all day in front of a
computer that already had Windows installed for you.
Regardless of where you use a computer to access the
Internet, the odds are that it was preinstalled with
Windows, and therefore IE, before you ever used it.
IE is easy and convenient for most people. If you have a
connection to the Internet, just click the big blue E on
your desktop, and you are surfing the net. No thinking.
Whatís the problem?
Unfortunately for Microsoft there are indeed a few problems.
And, any regular user of IE can quickly point out the
annoyances they have while using the browser.
When I talk to people who use IE, the first complaint always
seems to be, the constant bombardment by what seems to be an
endless stream of pop-up ads. Iím quick to rub in the fact
that I never have to deal with pop-up ads when Iím using my
Another big complaint I hear is from those, like myself,
that find it much easier to have multiple sites open at
once. They find that in no time at all they may have 5 or
more instances of IE open, which quickly clutters the task
bar, and with other programs open can sometimes make it
nearly impossible to find the window you are looking for.
Others read a few articles on the security of IE, and come
to realize that itís no more secure than a house with no
glass in the windows or locks on the doors, and a big sign
out front that says, ďCome in and take whatever you want.Ē
Doesnít sound like very much of a choice now does it?
ďYeah, but IE has everything I need, it usually works, I can
deal with the annoyances, and really what else is there to
choose from?Ē you might be asking yourself.
Well there are more web browsers out there than you might
think. I just did a search and found no fewer than 50
different browsers. Most are designed for specific needs,
like being kid friendly, compact to run on older systems,
text only, and many others. I have downloaded and used about
10 of the more viable solutions. But, realistically there
are just the four big boys to consider right now: IE,
Netscape, Opera, and Mozilla.
Most people have at least heard of, and about 10-20% use,
Netscape, which like IE is a perfectly adequate browser. It
has most of the same features as IE, an interface similar to
IE, and in many aspects is better than IE. The main problem
with Netscape is that itís not a significant enough
improvement over IE to motivate people to bother to switch.
Also, like IE, Netscape is a suite of programs, many of
which people never even use.
Opera is an interesting little browser. It is designed to be
compact and run on a wide variety of platforms and
architectures. I swore by Opera for quite some time, and
fell in love with many of the features. The main problem
with it was the number of sites I ran across that could not
be displayed correctly. I found myself far too often having
to open up IE for sites that could not handle Opera, and
before I knew it, I was back to using IE more often than
Opera. What finally did Opera in was the fact that it had
the smallest area for viewing web pages, of all the other
browsers, and a quite annoying ad that was constantly
changing in the top corner of the program.
My search to find the perfect browser continued
In January of 1998, Netscape decided to release their
browser code to the public, thereby making that code open
source. Which basically means itís free for anybody to
download and use, or distribute to others as long as it
remains unchanged. It also means that programmers, anywhere
in the world, can work on the code and fix things that are
broken, or change things they feel could be improved upon,
but only as long as those changes are registered with a
central database and approved.
The Mozilla Project was born
Mozilla was created as Netscape went to open source, so
there would be a central depository for all suggested
changes to the code. A list of approved changes would be
periodically incorporated into the code then a new public
release would be offered.
The Mozilla Project gives its name to its premier browser
suite. You can download and install the Mozilla browser for
free, and it has all of the same features of the other
browser suits, including integrated e-mail, newsgroup, and
chat software to name a few. But once again like IE and
Netscape, it has much of the bloat that many web surfers
donít need or donít know how to use for that matter.
Mozilla launched the Firefox (then Firebird) project in
September of 2002, with the intent of creating a browser
that would revolutionize the way we surf the web. The idea
is to create a browser that includes all of the features the
typical surfer needs, without the bloat that the others add.
Firefox, now slated to become the premier browser of The
Mozilla Foundation, (created in July of 2003 to help the
Mozilla Project with financing and legal issues) is
scheduled for release in September of 2004, as a beta
Iím currently using version 0.9 and have been using it since
version 0.7 when it was still called Firebird (for legal
reasons they were forced to change the name). Since Firefox
has not been ďofficiallyĒ released, no promises can be made
about its stability. But, I can attest, after running it
through the ringer for a year, it is the most stable browser
Iíve ever used. Iíve had no problems with it crashing, and
99% of the sites on the Internet are viewable by Firefox.
The only problems Iíve encountered, viewing sites, are not
specific to Firefox.
There are a few sites out there that are designed in such a
way that they will only work with IE, and some that will
only work with specific versions of IE. This, in my mind, is
not a failing of the browser, but rather lack of foresight
by the designer. Any site designer so obtuse as to program a
site that can only be viewed with IE, is not worth much of
As far as Iím concerned I have found the perfect browser
Firefox meets and exceeds all of my expectations as a
regular user of the Internet. Its free, fast, compact, easy
to use, intuitive, offers all of the features Iím used to
(even improves on some), and adds features Iíve been
One of the most intriguing features of Firefox is its built
in pop-up blocker. There are many programs out there, which
in theory will stop pop-up ads. Iíve used a few of them, all
worked reasonably well, but none of them stopped all the
Then thereís Firefox. Firefox has a built-in pop-up blocker.
There is no need to install additional software. It is
configured right out of the box to block everything that
tries to open a new window of any kind, automatically. And,
itís not just a ďmindlessĒ pop-up blocker. There are a
myriad of options, among those the ability to allow pop-ups
on which ever sites you choose.
Iíve been using the original installation pop-up
configuration (which is set to what Mozilla calls the least
annoying) since I first set up the browser, and Iíve never
had one unwanted pop-up ad.
For me the efficiency of the pop-up blocker has been the
single most compelling reason to stay with Firefox. All the
other features are just gobs of double chocolate icing on
Tabbed browsing is not something new to Firefox. The idea
has been around for a few years now. The Mozilla Suite, and
Opera both use tabbed browsing. In fact, the major reason I
stuck with Opera so long was because of how much I enjoyed
using the tabbed browsing feature. Unfortunately, I
encounter loads of people that have never experienced the
joys of tabbed browsing, or are scared away by how different
the concept is to them.
I had my doubts when I first experienced tabbed browsing. I
had become very used to the old, and much more inefficient
way of doing things. But, as I became more familiar with the
concept, I couldnít imagine having multiple instances of the
same browser open ever again.
So what exactly is tabbed browsing?
Many people find they have the need to have more than one
web site at a time open. As for me I sometimes have ten or
more different sites open at any given time. With IE this
would require having ten or more different windows open on
your desktop just for IE alone. Not to mention any other
windows you may have open for your other programs. Before
you know it your task bar is an incomprehensible row of tiny
rectangles. All of that changes with Firefox and itís tabbed
Firefox, like itís big brother Mozilla, offers a feature
called tabbed browsing. Instead of having to open a new
instance of your browser for each site you visit, you can
have them all open in one browser window, which you then
switch between using tabs.
Tabbed browsing helps to keep your Desktop and Task Bar
clutter free. It also helps keep you more productive, as it
is much easier to find one of your open sites in the tabs
then to search your Task Bar for the correct instance of IE.
Firefox tabs are highly customizable right from the initial
install. But for an unprecedented level customizability,
Iíve installed something called Tabbrowser Extensions (Iíll
get into extensions later), which allows an endless array of
configuration options. I can configure the tabs to perform
in any manner I like using this extension.
Firefox comes as a lean mean browsing machine. The download
for IE is between 8.7MB and 12.7MB, depending on the
operating system. The download for Firefox is only 4.7MB. I
just checked my system and the IE install folder alone takes
up nearly 45MB, and the Firefox install directory is right
around 20MB, about half the size of the IE install. Now
while the difference of 20MB isnít much of a concern on
todayís hard drives which are quite often 80GB or larger,
itís more the principle of the thing. Firefox is a much more
functional browser at half the size.
The reason IE is so large (and such a big memory hog) is
because everything that any person could possibly need, and
them some, has been programmed into the browser. The
questionable programming, which adds unnecessary bloat, is a
topic for another article or even a book. The point being,
IE has stuff programmed into it that the vast majority of
people will never use, but itís all still installed just the
Firefox, on the other hand, has code that has been trimmed
down and streamed-lined. When you download Firefox you get a
fast compact program that has all of the features of IE that
everybody is used to, but removes the code bloat that ends
up slowing browsing down, and actually is the cause of some
security holes in browsers like IE.
Now itís important to note that while Firefox is half the
size of IE, it has all if not more of the functionality of
IE. If you just download Firefox you will have a robust
browsing experience, which pales in comparison to any of the
other major browsers. But, your options donít stop there.
Firefox has, what they call, extensions. Extensions are
small add-on features like plug-ins, which you can quickly
install from the Mozilla Firefox web site. They are not to
be confused with plug-ins, which work in Firefox like they
do in other browsers, and allow you to view and interact
with different kinds of media on the Internet, like Flash,
Quick Time, and Real Audio.
Extensions add even more power and customizable
functionality to Firefox. Currently, there are nearly 200
extensions available for installation. The extensions range
from fun trinkets like games and calendars to add-ons that
can change the behavior of the program to meet your every
need. All extensions are extremely easy to install. All you
need to do is find the extension you would like to add to
Firefox, click the download or install now link, click ok to
the prompt that comes up making sure you want to install the
extension, and you are done. Firefox handles the download
and install in the background instantly. Quite often you
donít even need to restart the browser for the extension to
Fully Customizable Search Bar
With IE if you want to do a search for something you have to
type in the name of your favorite search engine in the URL
field and wait for the page to load, then do your search. If
you like, yahoo provides an add-on, which will add a bar at
the top of your IE window with Yahoo related items and a
google search. But once again you have to find and download
this program, and it is yet another program taking up
precious computer memory. With Firefox, the search field is
an embedded feature.
At the top of the Firefox window you will find the URL
field. And, just like any other browser, you can type the
exact URL of the site you would like to visit and it will
take you there. But, unlike others, if you type in a topic
you would like to search for, Firefox will automatically do
whatís called an ďIím feeing luckyĒ, Google search. For
those of you unfamiliar with that search, if you go to
www.google.com then type in a search topic, and instead of
clicking the ďGoogle SearchĒ button you click the ďIím
Feeling LuckyĒ button, it automatically loads the first page
it finds based on the search topic.
As if thatís not enough, just to the right of the URL field
you will find a search box. If you type the topic of
something you would like to search for, a Google search is
done for you and displayed without ever having to visit the
main Google page.
But, the fun doesnít stop there. The search bar is totally
customizable. You can easily add any search engine that you
like. So if you prefer to use Lycos, or AltaVista, you can
add and use them with the search bar, instead of Google. Do
you often visit, dictionary.com, Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com),
or a site to check your stock quotes? All of these, and
hundreds more can be added to the Firefox search bar.
You can also change the appearance of Firefox through the
use of themes. The Mozilla site provides 29 different themes
or skins, which allow you to change the appearance of your
browser. Iím currently using one called Pinball, which
provides smaller more compact icons and provides a bit more
space for the actual web page. You can find skins that give
a wood grain appearance, metallic look, a kids oriented
theme, and quite a few others. All are very easy to download
and install, and you can keep as many as you want on your
system and switch between them as your mood changes.
The list of features doesnít end there.
Firefox provides unparalleled security and privacy features,
optimized downloading, Text Zooming, an Easy Transition
system, and many other features that will make this the new
browser of choice.
Still not sure this is the browser for you? Not ready to
take the plunge? Well Iím not suggesting you uninstall IE
just yet. After all this is a prerelease version. But, also
donít forget Firefox is more stable and robust at version
0.9 than IE (currently version 6.x) has ever been! Hey, if
you donít like it, Mozilla even provides a simple uninstall
Take a few minutes to download Firefox, so you can see for
Robert Bradeen has over 10 years of extensive experience in
the IT field, providing services such as: Desktop Support,
LAN/Network Administration, Network Engineering, Web Design,
and Technical Writing.
Firefox is so popular
Firefox the New
Browser of Choice
FireFox Extensions you can't live without