February 14, 2007

Firefox: Browser Reloaded

This article was published in the "Linux For You" magazine in November, 2004.

Firefox is a free, open-source web browser for GNU/Linux, Windows, MacOS X and other platforms. It is small, fast, easy to use and much more secure than other browsers. To know more about this latest marvel of open source read-on.....

Ask anyone which browser they use and the answer you will get is Internet Explorer. Well, that thing is about to change. Enter Firefox: Firefox is a free, open-source web browser for various platforms and is based on the Mozilla codebase. Where Firefox scores over Mozilla is that it is just a lightweight browser whereas Mozilla is a complete suite consisting of a web browser, an email client, a chat client etc. It offers many advantages over Internet Explorer like tabbed browsing, ability to block pop-up windows and enhanced security. So, what are we waiting for? Let's begin the joy ride!


Getting and Installing Firefox
You can download the latest version of Firefox from:

Since, Firefox is available for various platforms and languages you can download the one suitable for your machine. For GNU/Linux you can either go for the source tarball (if you are geeky one) or download the Linux/GTK2 tarball.

Installation using the Linux/GTK2 tarball is a breeze. First, extract the tarball using the following command:

# tar -zxvf firefox-*.tar.gz

Now, change (cd) into the newly created directory and run the installer using the following command:

# ./firefox-installer

Just a few seconds and we are ready to roll!


Getting Started
When you run Firefox for the first time it gives you the option of importing favorites, passwords, cookies, history and other data from your existing browser. Once you are through, the sheer look of the browser mesmerizes you, with cool looking icons, easily accessible menus and a fully customizable toolbar. Just be a little innovative and play around with the menus and toolbar until you get the feel of the power that Firefox offers you while keeping the interface easy and simple.

Screenshots

Figure 1: Pop-up Blocking

Figure 2: Download Manager

Figure 3: Tabbed Browsing


Features

There are numerous reasons for using Firefox instead of other browsers. Here is a small list:

  • Tabbed Browsing

Just like Mozilla, Firefox allows you to open multiple web pages inside a single window by using tabs. Tabs are extremely handy when it comes to opening multiple web pages. You can have as many tabs open as you like inside a single window. You can switch easily among different pages by clicking on the appropriate tab. In case you accidentally click the close button, it warns you that there are open tabs.

Tip: To use Tabbed browsing hold down Ctrl key while clicking on a web-link or click with the middle mouse button.

  • Pop-Up Blocking

With Firefox bid adieu to those annoying pop-up ads. When Firefox blocks a pop-up window an icon is displayed in the status bar. Click on this icon to see the list of sites that were blocked. If you want to allow a particular web site to display pop-up windows, just go to Tools>Options>Web Features>Add Site… and enter the URL of the website.

  • Fully Customizable Toolbars

The toolbars are completely customizable and you can easily add or remove buttons to the toolbar. Just click View>Toolbar>Customize…, here you can add or remove buttons, bookmarks, separators etc. by dragging and dropping them to the toolbar. You can also add your own custom toolbar. One feature that is lacking is that you can’t add your own custom icons.

  • Inbuilt Search Features

Firefox offers you the power of the world's most powerful search engine. Bingo! You guessed it right, it's Google. Just hit Ctrl+k or click on the search field, enter the search string and press enter. You are now ready to conquer the world!

The auto-complete mechanism remembers your previous searches and makes your work easier and faster.

  • Download Manager

Just like Mozilla, Firefox features an inbuilt Download Manager. It shows you the list of current, finished as well as pending downloads along with the progress bar and relevant text. You can pause and resume the download whenever you want. In case Firefox exits accidentally it warns you about pending downloads.

One thing that we would like to see in future releases of Firefox would be support for segmented downloading for faster downloads.

  • Efficient Sidebar

With Firefox you can easily organize your bookmarks, history etc. by using the sidebar. By using the Bookmarks sidebar you can easily access and organize your bookmarks with the click of a button. By using the History sidebar you can easily navigate back to sites and pages you have previously visited. You can also search for a particular bookmark or history item.

Cool Facts

Firefox was previously named Firebird and before that Phoenix. The name Firebird was in use by another open source project so it had to be changed. Firefox was chosen because it's similar to Firebird. It's easy to remember and sounds good. The official name is Mozilla Firefox.

Tip: You can even search for a specific page you have visited earlier! Just enter the relevant words in the search field and press enter.

  • Smart Update

Firefox frees you from the stress of updating itself by automatically keeping itself up-to date. Whenever there is an update available it alerts you about the update and the available options.


Table: Firefox v/s Internet Explorer 6.0

FeaturesFirefoxIE6.0
Tabbed BrowsingYesNo
Pop-Up BlockingYesNo
Extensions and ThemesYesNo
Smart UpdateYesNo
Fully Customizable ToolbarsYesNo
Download ManagerYesNo
Cookie ManagementYesNo

  • Extensions and Themes

Extensions are small add-ons to Firefox that change existing browser functionality or add new functionality. It can be anything from a button to a completely new feature, such as mouse gestures or image zooming. Extensions allow Firefox to stay small, lightweight and fast. Firefox comes with Extension Manager for easy installation, removal and automatic updation of extensions. It displays the list of installed extensions along with a small description of the extensions. You can personalize Firefox according to your tastes by using Themes. With Themes, you can change the look and feel of Firefox. A theme can change anything from toolbar buttons, icons to the whole browser appearance.

Themes are managed by the Theme Manager. It contains a preview for each theme, thus making the choice of which theme to use easier and faster. You can click on Use Theme button to use a particular theme.

Tip: To download more extensions and themes just click 'Get More Extensions/Themes' in the Extension/Theme Manager.

  • Talkback Feature

Firefox ships in with a Quality Feedback Agent that allows you to send information about a problem back to the Firefox developers that will help them to improve Firefox. Whenever Firefox crashes, a talkback window appears that contains details about the crash. You can choose to send or ignore the information about the crash.


Firefox: What the Future Holds?

In the near future Firefox will be used as the default browser in Mozilla. The current Mozilla suite will be replaced by stand-alone applications with Firefox as the web browser, Mozilla Thunderbird as the email client etc. Firefox will be available as a .zip download. There will also be a web installer which means that you will have to download a small installer and then select the components you want.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get the power of Open Source Software.

Note: This document includes work by Ben Goodger of mozilla.org as well as material from texturizer.net.


2 comments:

clickonhit said...

maybe you should update the comparison table between firefox and ie 7...

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montylee said...

Thanks for your comments dude!
I'll surely try to update the comparison table.