Sunday, June 20, 2004

Firefox .9

I installed Firefox' latest iteration today, release .9, and I was surprised by how easy it was. It was precisely like any other Windoze file installation, with a GUI interface that had recognisable window styles and questions. Things went without a hitch.

Beyond that, it got a bit sticky. Importing all my bookmarks from my previous version (Firefox .7) took some creativity, as the Import function initially layered the old bookmarks over the new, empty one. I went ahead and loaded the History file by simple copy'n'paste with Windows Explorer, though that altered the History list a bit. Everything was still there, but re-ordered.

I chose not to import the cookies and passwords. I'm going to use Firefox's cookie filter, which is working well enough so far, and I'll rebuild my passwords and Form auto-completes. One thing I noticed is that you can individually edit auto-complete items now. Good!

It's still early days, but I've already noticed that things run a bit faster. I didn't upgrade to version .8 because the minimum requirements were the same as my machine (300mhz), and .7 already ran a bit slow and choky as it was. It's minimum requirements are a lower 233mhz and the file size itself is more than a third smaller than .7, which is astounding if you think about it. Version .9 runs much faster and without quite so much choke when more than one operation is running.

There are only bad things. So far, trying to install themes and plug-ins fails. It just doesn't happen. And there appears to be no version of Tabbed Preferences or Preferential for .9 yet. I'll keep working on those; maybe there's an answer I haven't found yet. I miss right-clicking links to open in a new tab.

There is also no version of my favorite skin, Px Classic, for .9. I love the smallness of its icons and how you can reduce all the menus and toolbars to a real minimum that leaves lots of real estate for the browser window. I'm stuck with the default for now, which is a real space-waster.

Overall, I really am enjoying Firefox .9. I'll have to use it for a while, but if someone is curious about trying the Firefox broswer, I'd say download this one and give it a spin. Automatic pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing will change your life.

UPDATE: Mon. afternoon I think I've discovered the cause of my choky, sluggish browser problems: the Tabbrowser Extensions plug-in. After installing it and rebooting, I noticed a performance hit right away. I may have to reconsider using it, which I hate because it has some great features. This plug-in may also be the source of a memory leakage I've long had trouble with. We'll see.

I forgot to mention extensions (plug-ins) and themes as another reason to use Firefox. The browser itself is very stripped down, though functional enough for nearly everyone, right out of the box. But the way it is designed, you can add all kinds of functionality with extensions -- small (some only a few kilobytes big) programs you download and install on the fly, as you decide you need them. This helps to keep the main program very small, while letting you customise it to a very high degree. There are nearly 200 plug-ins available, for almost everything, and more keep coming.

Themes are just like Windoze themes and WinAmp skins. You can change the appearance of your browser to reflect your personality. There are still only a couple dozen themes, but more keep coming there as well. As I noted above, though, my favorite theme (Px Classic) hasn't been updated for Firefox .9. I like a minimal browser interface, with just the major controls visible, to keep maximum screen space for the pages.

That's another selling point of Firefox, how customisable it is. Everything is changeable: toolbars, locations, context menus, placements, colors, themes, features, everything. If you like to tinker, there's a plug-in that will take you under the hood for dozens more adjustments you can make! Your browser really is your browser.

Dowload and install it just like any other Windoze program. Reboot, then get on the Net. Fire up Firefox and see if it doesn't amaze you. And yes, you can run it on your computer right alongside whatever browser program you are using now. See if Firefox doesn't charm you.

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