Firefox Web Browser
There are many players in the internet browser war, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera among them. While Internet Explorer has been the dominant browser for years, Firefox is quickly gaining popularity and just recently, surpassed Internet Explorer as the most popular web browser in Europe. With the release of version 3.0 late last June, Firefox has reached the level of being a legitimate web browser choice rather than just a cute little toy for alternative software hobbyists. So, what’s to love about Firefox 3.0? Plenty!

First off, and this is a big one, Firefox is built using the Mozilla developed Gecko layout engine. This engine is becoming wildly popular for browsers, email applications, and web authoring tools because of its well known stability and licensing. Gecko is free and open source software, leading the way in developing world wide standards for the Web. As these standards are being developed, Firefox is on the front lines adding new features and add-ons.

One of the most popular features of Firefox is their tabbed browsing. Individual websites can be opened in new tabs instead of the old method of new windows. Of course, those who prefer new windows still have that option, but tabbed browsing lends to a more efficient and seamless browsing experience. The tabs can be configured to change the order in which they are displayed, automatically switch to a new tab just opened, and warn when multiple tabs are being closed. Tabs can even be saved at the end of a session so that they are automatically opened at the start of a new session.

Like most browsers, Firefox has a “find” feature which allows users a way to search for specific text on a web page. But unlike the others, the Firefox “find” interface isn’t an annoying pop-up window that gets in the way of the page. Instead, it is a small search bar that appears at the bottom of the window. Firefox begins to scan with the very first letter entered into the dialogue box without actually scrolling down the window. And something else that’s really helpful: as a word is typed into the search box, the box remains white until a letter that doesn’t appear in that string is entered. At that point the box turns red and the user knows the text string can’t be found in the page. No need to go any further. How cool is that?

For those who work with web based applications, or the general user just typing comments into a text box, Firefox 3.0 includes an integrated spell checker. It works as you go so you’ll immediately know when a word is misspelled. The drag and drop element also makes working a bit easier, allowing you to drag text or links directly into the integrated search bar. Add to that the ability to add notes to web pages for future reference, and you have a browser that takes productivity to a new level.
Bookmarking is easy and intuitive, and the new bookmark organization tool is a vast improvement over previous versions. It now works just like a file manager with drag and drop, in-line editing, and sorting. Menus can be customized and organized with ease, bookmark names can be changed, and extra descriptions and details can be included. Some of the management features, like adding a new folder or deleting an unwanted, can even be done without opening the organization tool.

Fans of customization will be thrilled with the thousands of add-ons available for Firefox. Yes, there are plenty of skins and themes to apply to GUI, but the available add-ons go well beyond just that. There are RSS feeds, blogging tools, and weather applets. There are tools that make digital imaging and multimedia tasks easier and more intuitive, including a YouTube link that appears in search engine results. Clicking the link will play the video without having to open a new tab or window. Social networking is brought to the next level with add-ons that organize your networking locations into a single sidebar and allow customization of your Facebook page.

And the list goes on and on.

Worried about security? Firefox has that covered too with tools to protect against viruses, phishing, spyware, and malware. The standard pop-up blocker works flawlessly and allows for user customization of individual pop-ups. In addition, there’s a small icon on the left side of the location bar which can be clicked to instantly display security information about the current site. With the click of a mouse you can know whether or not you’re in a risky place. If you’re navigating to a site that’s already a well known risk, Firefox will display a security warning forcing you to choose to continue, a nice feature that helps users avoid security accidents.

Vulnerability to security threats is always a concern, but Mozilla works aggressively on that front too. According to a regular review by Symantec, Firefox’s vulnerabilities are patched, on average, within one day of the exploit code being made available. Internet Explorer on the other hand, has an average patch time of nine days. This gives Firefox a major advantage in security.

With all these features, and the dozens more not mentioned here, how is Firefox’s performance? Excellent. Its always been a fast and stable browser, but version 3.0 is the fastest of them all and it’s noticeable. Moving from page to page or between tabs goes quickly while at the same time being very intuitive and natural. The interface is clean and easy to navigate but can be customized to suit individual preferences. Private data can be cleared at the end of a session with a simple mouse click, so future users can’t follow where you’ve been.

Overall Firefox is a great browser worthy of consideration. It’s a free download available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and many Unix-like systems, so there’s no reason not to try it. Go get a copy…. you’ll be pleasantly surprised.