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Review: Firefox 2 Takes On IE7

The beta of Firefox's next version doesn't have any radical changes, but it does include a few nifty tweaks. Can it continue to challenge IE?
Other New Features
There are quite a few smaller improvements in Firefox 2. Careless bloggers everywhere will be pleased to find that Firefox includes a built-in spell checker that automatically flags misspelled words as you type. Right-click on the word, and you'll get a list of suggestions for correcting it. You can also add words to the dictionary. (Bloggers might also be interested in our review of Flock, a browser based on Firefox that includes features for social networkers.)



Firefox's new spell checker will be welcomed by bloggers.
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Troubleshooting has also been improved. A new Error Console reports on problems that the browser has encountered with JavaScript code, and includes live links to the HTML of the page in question. Web developers will welcome it; others may never use it.



The new Error Console reports on errors the browser has encountered and offers live links to the HTML of the page in question.
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A new "History" menu has also been added, replacing the largely useless "Go" menu. The history menu lists your most recent browsing history, so you can quickly jump to a page you've already visited, and also includes the ability to open recently closed tabs.

The way you manage extensions has been slightly altered as well -- both extensions and themes are managed from the same screen, titled Add-Ons. Updating, installing, and removing extensions is made slightly easier as part of the redesign. This redo is part of an overall redesign of the browser's Options screen and dialog boxes, which put all customizations within easier reach.



A single Add-ons window lets you control both your extensions and your themes.
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The new version of Firefox also considerably improves the Search Bar. Previously, once you installed a new search engine for the Search Bar, there was no simple way to get rid of it. Now you can easily manage all of your installed engines. Click the button next to the magnifying glass and choose Manage Search Engines; to remove an engine, highlight it and click Remove. To change the order that engines appears on your list, highlight one, and move it up or down.



Manage Search Engines lets you delete the search engines you no longer want.
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The Bottom Line
So what's the bottom line for Firefox 2? There are enough improvements so that anyone who uses Firefox should upgrade. And the beta appears stable enough that you may be able to use it now as your everyday browser.

Is it better than IE7? That depends on which features are most important to you. IE7's anti-phishing tool and built-in RSS reader beat Firefox's. Firefox's tab handling is superior, except for its lack of Quick Tabs. The ace up Firefox's sleeve is still its extensions, because those will give it a significant set of features that IE7 won't have.

Overall, while Firefox 2 is an improvement over 1.5, it's not likely to be the version that helps it overtake IE's dominance in the marketplace. It will be interesting to see if anything else is added by the time Firefox comes out of beta.


Firefox 2 Beta 1
Mozilla
www.mozilla.org
Price: Free
Summary: The beta of Firefox 2 offers some neat new features, but nothing really radical.
Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Greg Douglass, Global Lead for Technology Strategy & Advisory, Accenture
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter