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29 February, 2004

Firefox settling in

Well, I did it.  I'm now using Firefox 0.8 as my primary browser, at least for a trial period.  I have to agree that doubts about the lead developer's personal attitude are a poor reason to avoid trying the browser at all, though I'm still concerned that similarly draconian measures might be built into the browser itself at a later date, which I definitely wouldn't support: technology needs to be inclusive, and that means including IE users, too.

The most immediate impression I received was that the default look & feel is near-identical to that of IE6 - and that's a good thing. Two approaches might tempt me to adopt new browser:

  • A browser that, within the first couple of minutes of investigation seems so wonderful that time invested in learning to use it is obviously worthwhile.
  • A browser that, from the default installation, operates in precisely the same way as my previous browser, everything in the expected places and (properly coded) pages displayed as in the previous browser; no initial learning curve at all.
I'm happy to say Firefox fulfills the latter criterion, and I see no reason not to use it instead of IE, immediately. My original intention had been to continue using IE, merely accessing Firefox for occasional cross-browser compatibility checks of new pages (exactly as I use Netscape 7, in fact), so an unexpected provisional decision to fully adopt Firefox is considerable praise ;)

Three significant criticisms:

  • At least under this week's connectivity conditions (I've been using Firefox for four days), pages load much slower in Firefox than in IE. Maybe this isn't noticable on a broadband connection, but I use dialup at home.
  • Firefox doesn't integrate with the auto-disconnect feature of WinMe. I'm used to closing IE and being asked if I want to disconnect, but Firefox leaves me online indefinitely. It's only a matter of time before I forget and run up my phone bill unnecessarily.
  • This site, and others I've designed, use custom-coloured scrollbars. Disappointingly, they don't appear in Firefox. That's quite a major design feature to lose.

Two very minor negative cosmetic points:

  • The Firefox tab in WinMe's Start bar doesn't have its own icon, instead using the 'flying Window' from the default 'Start' button. Maybe this will be fixed before the v.1 release.
  • The 16x16px Firefox icon, as rendered in WinMe's Quick Launch toolbar and Windows Explorer, is unattractive: an orange circle overlaid by a grasping blue claw (I know it's supposed to be the orange firefox curled round a blue globe, but that's not what I see!)

I was really glad to find that this site (the whole Ministry, not just the blog!) looks okay in Firefox, near-identical to in IE, in fact. I'd been apprehensive about looking, in case differently rendered text sizes threw out page layouts, or similar, as I've experience in earlier versions of IE & Netscape. Thankfully I only had to change one line of my page templates, and that was to correct sloppy coding on my part.

I'll have to stick with IE at work for another week, as I'm being upgraded from Win2000 to XP on Thursday (so there's no point installing anything new beforehand), but I will be switching to Firefox afterwards, which proves I'm pleased with the experiment.
To summarise, the initial impression is that the GUI is a virtual clone of IE's, which is what I wanted, but with the reassurance that 'behind the scenes' it's standards compliant.


On broadband firefox actually seems a lot quicker than IE - go figure. You might like to try some config tweaks to speed things up though.

I agree the custom scrollbar compatibility is annoying but this is actually a feature only MSIE has - no other browser has them. It's virtually the only plus point IE has going for it (imho).

The icon problems I'd argue are ME's problem and not Firefox's. I have this problem with many apps on ME, but Firefox, and the rest, all look great on XP & 2000 (and OSX where applicable).

Posted by graeme at March 4, 2004 01:36 AM

How do you disconnect from the net when using firefox? My options at the moment are pulling the wire out of the wall and restarting. (i use dial up connection)

Posted by steve at August 19, 2004 11:59 AM

That's a bit drastic, Steve!

I agree that it's a bit disappointing that Firefox doesn't auto-disconnect, but I suppose IE has the advantage of being so closely integrated with Windows, so can do it.

Assuming you're using Windows, there should be an 'internet connection' icon (I'm not certain of the exact name!) in the system tray at the lower right of your screen. Right-click on it and select 'disconnect' from the context menu, or double-click on it (left mouse button) and select the 'disconnect' button.

Posted by NRT at August 19, 2004 01:07 PM
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