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Mozilla Firefox: The Searcher's Browser

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Firefox has emerged as the first browser in years to seriously challenge Internet Explorer—with good reason. Firefox has superior security and anti-scumware features, it works on Windows, Linux, MacOS X and other operating systems, and it's free.

Best of all, Firefox offers lots of goodies for searchers, both through a built-in Google search toolbar, as well as dozens of free extensions created by an active open-source developer community.

This week, I'll be taking a close look at Firefox, reviewing some of the native features that make it a compelling alternative to Internet Explorer. I'll also review my favorite browser extensions that enhance both search and browsing the web.

If you haven't yet tried Firefox, download it now. This link is to the 1.0 "preview release," but this version is very stable and really works like final, production software. The download is a relatively light 4.5 MB, and the program installs quickly, without requiring any type of registration.

During installation, you can also opt to have Firefox import options, bookmarks, browsing history, passwords and other data from Internet Explorer or a previous version of Firefox.

You'll also be asked whether you want to make Firefox your default browser. Although I love Firefox and use it daily, I still keep Internet Explorer as my default browser, because some web sites are designed specifically for IE. If you find that you really prefer Firefox you can always set it to be your default browser later through the options panel.

Once installed, you should have no problem using Firefox. It's similar enough to Internet Explorer that it doesn't need a lot of explanation. That said, if you really want to dig in deep check out the excellent Introduction to Mozilla Firefox.

Firefox was designed from the ground up to be highly customizable. You can tweak literally any aspect of the browser, from appearance to fundamental behavior. See the Firefox Tips & Tricks page for details. The tips are divided into four categories and sorted by importance/popularity.

Tomorrow I'll focus on Firefox's search tools, starting with the built-in Google search toolbar that can be extended to add just about any of your favorite general purpose or specialized web search tools.

Part 2 of this series is here and Part 3 is here.

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