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The first serious new contender in the browser wars in many years has entered the battlefield after years in training. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK puts Firefox through its paces and comes away converted.
Yes, once you’ve download and installed (see links and lines below). It’s a mere 4.7Mb, which may be a lot on dial-up, in which case wait for the next issue of any of the computer magazines that offer free software on CDs (such as Windows Southern Africa or Net Plus) – guaranteed they will include Firefox.nnnnOnce it has been installed, it will ask if it can import your settings from Internet Explorer. Assuming you have been using Microsoft software, say Yes. It takes a while, but the import is seamless, and you don’t have to lose any of the bookmarks or “favourites” that you have accumulated over the years in Explorer, not to mention user names and passwords.
If you’ve used a browser (i.e. if you’re reading this online), you can use Firefox. In some ways it is very similar to Explorer, so the transition is painless. However, it is advisable to browse around the top menu for a while to become familiar with additional features like New Tab and the Go menu, which includes a list of recent pages visited, as well as the changed approach to Options settings under the Tools menu. It is more user-friendly than Explorer, but can take getting used to as you find where they have stuck various options.
Firefox offers two key enhancements: faster browsing and better handling of security:nnnn•In the latter case, the capability to be more secure is on a par with Explorer. However, the ability of the user to take advantage of this security enters a new dimension with Firefox, as it automatically protects you from the major browsing threats out there, rather than expecting you to work out how to make the browser protect you. The Options menu is also far more human in the way it organises and labels security and other features.nnnn•Faster browsing is where Firefox is going to decimate Explorer. The same pages called up in Firefox come up in half to three quarters the time it takes to come up in Explorer. No doubt Microsoft will call in benchmarking experts to disprove this, but no amount of statistics can argue with the user experience.
This is the one area where we could point fingers at Firefox. It is too much like Internet Explorer to be called a truly innovative browser. The Tabs are a great new feature, but really only a better way of doing what Opera was already doing in its browser. It is innovative in terms of the way the user is treated: while most browsers result in tremendous desktop clutter during a serious browsing and downloading session, Firefox is geared towards neat and easy access to all activity. Aside from the tabs, all download information is stored in a single window, so that, during multiple downloads, you can access all download statistics in one space. Security settings and handling of cookies and the like is also far more transparent, but it is not revolutionary.nnnnThe most innovative feature of all is one that will probably only be used the first time – importing Explorer settings, which means that your browser is customised to your habits and activities as you being to use it. While such importing has long been a feature of e-mail programs, it is alien to the bloody world of browser battles.
Is George Bush good for the arms industry? Even if you have to incur the cost of download on a dial-up connection, it will pay for itself in reduced waiting for web pages. And unlike George Bush, this is a human browser. Make mine Mozilla …
To install Firefox 1.0, Visit www.getfirefox.com, click on the Free Download button, and follow the installation instructions.
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