Firefox 0.9

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle, September 2004, send e-mail
Published by: The Mozilla Organization, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 98 & up, Linux 2.2.14 and libs (see site), Pentium 233, 64MB RAM, 52MB hard disk space; also available for Mac (see site)
MSRP: Priceless

(Ed. Note: As we published this review, Firefox v1.0 was released. It's identical to v0.9 reviewed here with the exception of a few bug fixes.)

I'm going to save some time for you folks reading this review. Go buy Firefox right now. Oops, sorry, you can't buy it, but you can download it, install it and use it for free. Now don't be put off by the free part. I know as well as you that a lot of freeware is either just okay or sneaks in ad banners. Firefox is definitely not just okay and the only ads you'll see are the ones on the web pages you happen to browse. That should make you feel better. And don't be put off by the version number either. "But Jim," I can hear you whining, "it's not even at version one for crying out loud." I understand the 'it's still beta' feeling but rest assured the product is more mature than some other browsers out there with version numbers more than half way to ten.

Firefox is developed and produced freely by the Mozilla Foundation. Mozilla, the original name for the Netscape Navigator browser, is supposedly a hybrid of the words "Mosaic" and "Godzilla." Web lore has it that Mozilla means "the beast (Godzilla) that ate Mozaic (the browser)." Mozilla was also the name of Netscape Corporation's dinosaur-like mascot. The Mozilla Foundation was established in July 2003 with start-up support from America Online's Netscape division, the Mozilla Foundation exists to provide organizational, legal, and financial support for the Mozilla open-source software project. The Foundation has been incorporated as a California not-for-profit corporation to ensure that the Mozilla project continues to exist beyond the participation of individual volunteers, to enable contributions of intellectual property and funds and to provide a vehicle for limiting legal exposure while participating in open-source software projects.

Let me run down a few of the things that sold me, er, convinced me to move to Firefox. For one thing it just feels light. I know that's subjective and kind of difficult to explain but I guess I can liken it to using a simple tool. It does the job it's designed for quickly and well, and after using it for hours you don't feel like you need a shower and a nap. Another thing that kind of sneaks up on you is the pop-up blocking. By default the browser is very strict on pop-ups. The beauty is that you don't really notice they're gone until you load a different browser and start closing ad after ad. It's that light feeling you know. Of course, there are sites you probably visit that use pop-ups legitimately. That's fine; all you have to do is add the site to the Web Features dialog. Firefox will then allow pop-ups from that site to appear. See how nice that is? It won't let linked pop-ups from other sites jump in, just pop-ups from the site itself.

Installing Firefox in Windows is simple. The download is only 4.7MB. That's tight programming folks. The installer is well done and it has what Mozilla calls an Easy Transition. What this does is import all of your Favorites, passwords and the rest from Internet Explorer and other browsers. It was great popping down the Favorites list and seeing that, for instance Something Positive (one of my must-see web comics) was right where it should be. Hey—that's important.

Another feature that I use when researching is Tabbed Browsing. I'm sure you've been on the web trying to run down information. You find a site with some good starter information but it also has links imbedded in the text to other pages that either give more detail or additional explanations. With other browsers you can either leave the current page and go to the link, or you can open a second browser for the new page. So either you end up jumping back and forth from the links to the page you're reading, or you end up with multiple browsers running which you have to click through in order to get where you want to be. With Tabbed Browsing you simply right click the link and select “Open in a New Tab”. While you continue reading the original page Firefox will go out and get the link and present a tab containing the link's title at the top of the browser. When you're ready to check the link, just click the tab and the page is there. It also tabs your current page first, just in case you want to come back.

There is much more here as well: the built in Google toolbar which isn't invasive, excellent privacy and security tools and extensions for the browser (about 156 at last count), and even themes for you folks who like that stuff. The end case here is that the Firefox browser is quick, behaves well and plays nice with others. I've only had trouble with one site loading links, can you guess which one?

(Ed. Note: Microsoft?)

Ok, if you're still not convinced to try Firefox and if you have to spend money on a piece of software to feel good about it, then buy a Firefox T-Shirt for $16.95 or a Firefox Plush Toy for $15.95. Feel better now? Firefox is highly recommended.

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