On November 9, 2004, Mozilla released the 1.0 version of their lean and mean Firefox browser. There have been rumblings that Firefox and other browsers may be taking market share away from Internet Explorer (IE), albiet at a slow rate. The question is not whether the 1.0 release of Firefox has eclipsed IE, but by how much?

What makes Firefox better? Do you have to ask? From my perspective, it’s all about the feature set.

Here are some of the features that I’m starting to fall in love with:

  • Search Toolbar: As a Mac user primarily, Safari is my number one choice when it comes to browsing, so I’ve gotten used to the built-in search toolbar. Firefox takes that up a notch by not only including a Google search by default, but by also adding the ability to search Amazon.com, Yahoo!, Dictionary.com, eBay, and the Creative Commons. Firefox also allows you to add other search engines such as A9 (an Amazon web and shopping search engine), AltaVista, AskJeeves, CDDB (to find album, artist and song information), LEO (an English to German Translator), IMDB (The Internet Movie Database), Merriam Webster (English Dictionary) and Wikipedia (a free encyclopedia). With all of these built into the toolbar, you’ll be searching more efficiently, right away - without clogging you screen with a ton of extra toolbars!
    • Live Bookmarks: This is a feature that I found recently. If you browse with your status bar off (the status bar is the bar that runs along the bottom of your browser window and tells you what is loading when you access a web page) then you could easily miss this feature. Live Bookmarks use the RSS feeds provided by web sites to keep you up to date on news stories, discussions, etc. that have been updated or added to a web page. Live bookmarks can be added to your bookmarks menu or to your bookmarks toolbar that runs below the address bar and they allow you to see what has been updated without actually visiting the site. Below you will find an example of what Live Bookmarks look like when added to your Bookmark toolbar. When you visit a site that has a feed that can be used by Live Bookmarks, you will see a small orange icon on the right side of the status bar.
      • Pop-Up Blocking: This feature finally made it into the version 6 release of Internet Explorer that was included in the WindowsXP SP2 update. I am always shocked when I have to access the internet from a Windows computer that has an older version of IE without pop-up blocking. The number of pop-ups makes the internet almost unusable! Pop-up blocking whether provided by Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer or some third party software helps you reclaim your screen space.
        • Tabbed Browsing: I’ve been using this since Safari (MacOS) was released and don’t know how I would live without it now. If you are not familiar with tabbed browsing, it is the ability to view more than one web page in a single window. It places each page in a tab allowing you to click back and forth between sites without ever having to leave that window. Tabbed browsing in action.
          • Themes: I must admit, I haven’t used this feature. Primarily because I like the way Firefox looks right out of the box (download). Themes allow you to change the look and feel of the browser. There are a number of themes that have been developed by developers and users that are free to download. </ul> In addition to the features that I’ve mentioned here, security and speed are other reasons that Firefox has been praised by the likes of Walt Mossberg, USAToday and Forbes. If you are looking for a free, fast, feature-rich, safe browser then you owe it to yourself and your computer to check out Firefox.
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