Ive been using Mozilla [www.mozilla.org] full-time for 32 days now after years on Internet Explorer.
At first, it was just to test out the software for work, but Ive now installed it on my personal systems and dont plan on going back. Here are the pros and cons Ive found so far (I went directly to Mozilla 1.1 Alpha and am now running 1.1 Beta).
First, there are two things Mozilla does better than IE, and both are compelling enough to me to make the switch: tabbed browsing and pop-up-window blocking.
Tabs are beautiful, beautiful things. I often have 30 or more browser windows open for days as I research several stories in parallel. Now I have four or five Mozilla windows open, each devoted to one particular topic, and each with several tabs open. This really suits the way I work. This was an Opera invention, but theyre well done in Mozilla.
With KDEs Konqueror getting tabs in Version 3.1, IE is the only big browser left without them (there are third-party additions for IE, such as Stilesoft Inc.s NetCaptor [www.netcaptor.com], that add tabs to IE, but it isnt part of the main product).
One small thing Id like with tabs is the ability to reorder them left-to-right in order to group them logically before saving a group of tabs to a bookmark.
Mozilla also does a great job at pop-up-window blocking (to turn this on, see Edit, Preferences, Advanced, Scripts & Plugins, and then uncheck the top five options). I feel like Im in control of my browsing again. This is a truly user-friendly feature.
Second, Mozilla had to be at least as good as IE in a few key areas—speed, stability, compatibility, Google integration and bookmark handling—in order to allow me to switch.
The speed is quite decent. Mozillas start time feels as fast as IEs (I was surprised at this, since IE is so hooked into Windows) and browsing is fast, too. Its not as fast as Opera, but its good enough for me.
Stability (especially since Im running Alpha and then Beta code) is acceptable. Ive had four or five crashes overall. The crash dump reporting tools present in both IE and Mozilla give me hope that every time I do have a crash, the bug that tripped me up has a real chance of getting fixed.
The vast majority of sites Ive visited do just fine on Mozilla. I have noticed a few places where two objects overlap each other (see example ) and have had some problems with sites that use Windows Media streaming video, but Flash and QuickTime plug-ins work fine.
The Google search toolbar plug-in is only for IE, but Mozilla has built-in search features that support Google. Both Mozilla and IE also support bookmark keywords that let me create a custom Google bookmark so I can type “g (search string)” into the URL bar to do a search. (See advanced Mozilla bookmark tricks.)
Mozilla Still Good After
Overall, I think IE has stronger bookmark handling, but Mozilla is close to IE here. I prefer IEs in-place editing features, and its approach of storing bookmarks as individual files because I can then easily move bookmarks between systems or selectively archive them, but Mozilla imported my IE bookmarks fine and reads IE URL files, so the transition from IE is smooth.
Here are some IE strengths Id like to see Mozilla adopt in future releases. Theyre all small things, overall.
I really like IEs smooth-scroll feature through a middle-button click. Mozilla uses this very effectively to open a new tab, but if not on a link when clicked, Id like to have the smooth scroll option. Its tiring to have to scroll with the keyboard or keep sliding the scroll bar handle.
IEs highlighting is also better. Its snap-to-word feature when highlighting text makes cutting and pasting easy. Mozilla also handles selection in its URL address bar in a way that keeps messing me up—once text is highlighted, a click-drag tries to move text (even though theres nowhere youd really want to move it). This behavior annoys when I click and drag sloppily to highlight the end of a URL in order to quickly delete it—what actually happens is I end up moving one part of the URL into another part of the URL.
Mozilla has learned a lot of things from IE, even while IE has stagnated through its 5.5 and 6.0 releases. Its time for IE to start picking up some of these new tricks itself.
West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at [email protected].
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