People will often come running when you say the word ‘free’ unless it applies to free software like Mozilla’s Firefox. There are a variety of reasons why this is the case. We are conditioned to believe by carefully crafted corporate sales pitches of proprietary software that open source software is:
2. Crash and bug prone, and
3. Lacking in support.
Free software, we believe is complicated, prone to bugs and errors, can crash our systems, and are woefully lacking in instructive manuals or phone reps to discuss our software issues. Even when other users tell us Firefox rocks as a browser, we have to have some good incentives to eventually download it and bypass all that negative conditioning.
Although open source is a philosophy and not a synonym for the word ‘free,’ this is where you will find the bulk of free software. These are software packages that were created within an open source community where the source code was made available for other programmers to view, modify, enhance, and re-distribute if they so desired. That is how Mozilla began developing browsers, in an open source community. Programmers usually donate their time and expertise freely to open source projects they feel meets a public need within the community and excites their sense of challenge. Due to this, the software is not packaged or sold for commercial purposes and is usually promoted and distributed in a far different manner than a corporation might be inclined to do. Often, it takes a little longer for the public to become aware that another open source package is gaining mass appeal. But this is the very thing that makes programs that are developed to suit the needs of the community and often these packages are highly customizable, more so than proprietary software packages, through the use of software extensions and plugins. This is what you will find in the case of Mozilla’s Firefox Web Browser.
Now, again, why would anyone go out and get another browser when we all know Internet Explorer comes with all Windows operating systems? Even if it’s free, what is going to motivate the average person to take the trouble to install and learn a new browser system? I asked myself that question too, even having done some programming in my life. Isn’t one browser enough? But, upon the recommendation of a few others, I decided to give it a try. Therein lies a very good lesson for all people resistant to trying something new – try it, you may like it. As the saying goes, you’ll never know until you try it. So, downloading yet another browser, this time from http://www.Firefox.com, I grimaced as it began the setup. Multiple browsers sometimes fight each other and I was kind of wondering who would win. Of course, when it finally finished a flawless install and I loaded my first web page, I was still going: What is the big deal? That was until I found the tabbed option for viewing multiple web pages and the live bookmarks. Then I figured it out. This wasn’t just a browser it was a link management system. This feature alone makes Firefox worthwhile. You can browse more than one website simultaneously. This comes in rather handy when you’re cutting and pasting text from one to another or even a third off-line document. It keeps from having to re-enter passwords, or being forced to say, ‘remember’ just so you can do your work. You do not lose the place the point on the page you were browsing and in the case of blogs, you don’t get put to the top first blog just for switching from one website to another. This feature alone saves a lot of time for serious web surfers. If you have a machine that chugs when you open two sets of browser, you will not have as much memory drag by opening two tabs instead.
Now that the Internet is becoming more of a content management system with webmasters serious about providing interesting new daily content to their sites, it becomes very easy to get lost in a tide of information. If you are a blogger or a news addict, you experience this information overload even more so as these sites are updated frequently. Live bookmarks allow you to pick your content from simple menu headings, thus collapsing large streams of text into clickable headings that you choose whether or not to view. This is all within the Firefox browser, even before you open a particular website to browse! I tried this on a blogging site and the ease of selection for topics was clearly enhanced by this format.Firefox is a system that is easily installed and learned, but how is it documented? Although there is a slight nod to a tutorial located here: http://opensourcearticles.com/introduction_to_firefox. It is not comprehensive by any means but it goes over tabbed pages and bookmarks. This is typical of most open source software where programmers are mainly the intended audience. However, it isn’t that support is not available for open source programs, it’s that we must revise how we seek support to fall in line with how it is made available. Oftentimes, the places to look for support will be forums and newsgroups specifically setup to discuss issues within the program. If you don’t know what those are, then your best bet is to go out and look at ‘The Dummies’ series of book. They almost always have books on open source software that has reached mass appeal. In fact, they have one called ‘Firefox For Dummies’ that you can get at Amazon.com.
Software Extensions and Plugins
Firefox comes with a myriad of software extensions that expand the basic functionality. These extensions are separate programs that, once installed, will add new features to the browser. Sage, a Firefox RSS Feed Reader, has been highly recommended to me even though I don’t use a feed reader. In the future, I can see myself trying it out to search multiple news stories across the web in a fraction of the time I currently do now. An official list of software extensions available for Firefox is located at this URL: https://addons.mozilla.org/ under extensions. In addition, Firefox is claimed to work with many of the same plugins, available at the same URL, that Internet Explorer uses like Adobe Acrobat Reader, Windows Media Player and Flash Player. These would have to be downloaded separately and added into the browser for use.
Look And Feel
As trivial as this little bit sounds, many people spend a lot of time trying to get their pcs to match their personalities. With Firefox you have the option to download different themes for the look and feel of your browser! Personally, this author thinks in plain vanilla and just doesn’t care much for customizing desktops and browsers. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. With Firefox, you now have that option using the theme add-ons located at https://addons.mozilla.org/. As can be seen by the tons of tools available for Firefox, this is a browsing experience tailored to the individual’s needs and not the corporation’s pocketbooks. Do not think browser for Firefox – think WWW link management system.