Is Firefox Ready To Rule The Roost?

This is one open-source Web browser that can win over even the most committed Internet Explorer fans.
Installation and Importation

Firefox's installation routine is smooth as silk. (Click on image to expand.)
Pros: With a 4.8MB download size and an installation routine that runs like silk, there's not much to be upset about in this area. Firefox's installation gives you Typical or Custom installation options. The main reason to opt for the Custom option is to install in a directory other than the default directory. Before you know it, the installation is done.

Firefox also automatically, at your option, imports from Internet Explorer a host of settings, including Internet options, Web site favorites, browser history, saved passwords, saved form information, and cookies. Saying that doesn't really get across what it means; what it means to anyone who was using Internet Explorer regularly prior to Firefox's installation is that you can pick up where you left off in IE using Firefox henceforth. About the only thing you'll probably have to clean up is Bookmarks and the Links bar/Bookmark Folder bar, if you used that in IE.

People have picked on Firefox because Java and Flash, as well as possibly some other plug-ins you might be using, aren't automatically carried over to Firefox. A previously installed version of Acrobat carries over automatically (well, version 5.0 did, anyway). There may be issues in this area that I haven't discovered, but the plug-ins thing seems minor to me.

Cons: When Firefox is installed on a Windows XP (and presumably Win2000) machine that has multiple users configured for people sharing a single a computer, Firefox's installation routine doesn't stop to ask you whether you want the program installed for all users or just the current one. It installs it for all users. That's unfortunate because if one of the other users decides to uninstall the program in their login, that program will disappear from all users. If two people are sharing a computer, and only one wants Firefox installed, that's not possible the way Firefox installs now. Other programs that are more Windows-aware handle this by asking you whether you want to install a program for one user or all the users. This is something that Mozilla needs to fix, and soon.

I love the IE importation features, but I wish that Mozilla had allowed us to specify from what machine we want to import IE settings, favorites, and saved data. The routine can only take that information from the machine you're installing from. It would save me tons of time if I could tell the important routine to get all that information from a different machine on my network.

Options and the Rest

The Options feature is easy to find, and in most places very understandable. (Click on image to expand.)
Pros: There is a lot more to Firefox that I'm afraid I'm just going to lump together. The browser's Options area, accessed from its Tools menu (sound familiar?), is well designed, and far less overwhelming than similar configuration dialogs from other applications. What's more, there are small little managing utilities sprinkled throughout the Options area. I mentioned the Plug-Ins tool earlier. There's also a Password Manager and a little button that checks for available updates to Firefox in the Advanced > Software Update area. The software-updating user interface should be under the Help menu, by the way, not buried in Advanced options.

Speaking of help, the built-in documentation has pluses and minuses. The basic Firefox Help file is well designed and fairly well stocked with information. The Mozilla Firebird Support site adds many additional tidbits. There's also a Help file aimed specifically at Internet Explorer users (which reminds me a lot of Word 6.0's inclusion of Help for WordPerfect users). Be sure to check out the Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts and Mouse Shortcuts support pages.

The downside to Firefox's help facility is that unlike Internet Explorer and most every app Microsoft writes these days, there's no context-sensitive help. To access this in Microsoft software, click the question-mark icon in the upper right corner and then click it on anything in a program you don't understand.

Editor's Choice
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