Why I'm a Firefox evangelist, and how you can become one

Mikey 18 comments
Why I'm a Firefox evangelist, and how you can become one

I have a confession to make, one that I'm not proud to admit. When I first started using Firefox over a year ago, I didn't like it. Seriously.

But given my line of work, I had no choice but to at least include it for web testing in my daily work flow. So after less than one working week or semi regular use, I suddenly realised what my colleagues had been raving about. Firefox was amazing, and not just from a web development point of view. The moral here is that given just a few days perseverance I had gone from one extreme to another - Firefox loather to Firefox evangelist.

From a regular user's point of view, Firefox has so much more to offer than Internet Explorer, and it's faster and it's free. Even the upcoming Internet Explorer 8 (which I use in a virtual environment) cannot come close to mimicking Firefox, and I use that term deliberately because that's precisely what Microsoft have tried to do - and that's probably a smart move on their part. But because Microsoft won't open it up to developers, Internet Explorer will always - and I repeat - ALWAYS - lag behind Firefox is terms of features and performance. Microsoft knows this, so expect to be assaulted by a heavy propaganda marketing campaign when IE8's launch day gets closer. Don't be fooled by it.

"The moral here is that given just a few days perseverance I had gone from one extreme to another - Firefox loather to Firefox evangelist"

In my line of work I get to ask a lot of people why the use Internet Explorer and the answer is always the same variation of "Because it's there" or "Because it came with Windows". And that's a valid reason to start using it. But consider this for a moment. If you only ever use the tools and applications that come with Windows, you will always be using tools that are designed to do the minimum job requirement. You could argue that Microsoft are required to do this by law as part of an Anti-trust agreement, which basically means they are only allowed to make their software ‘just good enough' so as to not rub their competition out of the market. Or you could argue that Microsoft are just lagging behind.

Internet Explorer 6 is perfect example of software designed to do the bare minimum, which made it too easy for Mozilla to wipe the floor with it when they released Firefox.

Back on track now. What makes it so fricking fantastic? There are plenty of tech web sites out there that will give you the technical reasons (speed, security, resources etc.) but here are just a few or my personal reasons that you can probably identify with.

Firefox is free
There's no need to explain why that's important.

Firefox is easy to use
If you know how to use Internet Explorer, then you already know how to use Firefox.

Firefox has an open source plug-in architecture
That means there are loads of add-ons available, and they are free. When I say loads I am not kidding.

There are even heaps of plug-ins designed to integrate with your favourite social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. Once you start using them you will wonder how you ever got by before.

Plug-ins I use for general use:

  • BugMeNot: Logs you into web sites that normally require an account to get in.
  • DownloadThemAll: As the name suggests, finds all downloadable files on a page and downloads them all in a single click.
  • IETab: Opens a new tab using the Internet Explorer rendering engine, so you can view those web pages that have been made by lazy-arse web developers who still think IE is the only browser on the market.
  • MenuEditor: Lets me customise all my Firefox context menus so I have access to what I want quickly.
  • DownloadHelper: Lets me download and save any movie on any video site: Youtube, Google video, Break etc.
  • Supershot: Takes a screenshot of the entire page or visible area with a single click.
  • Greasmonkey: Extends Firefox even further with even more customisations.
  • StumbleUpon Toolbar: Makes stumbling easy and fun.

Plug-ins I use for professional use:

  • Web Developer Toolbar: Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools. Makes my job that much easier.
  • HTML Validator: Lets me know when I violate W3C web standards.
  • Firebug: Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse.

Firefox has built-in spell checking
Never post a comment that resembles a grammatical tornado again

Firefox has a portable version
Download the Portable version of Firefox and run it from a thumbdrive. All your plugins will work as expected, and you don't even need install Firefox. Great for browsing without leaving any footprints.

And one thing you probably didn't know about Firefox, is it imports all your Internet Explorer favourites to make the transition as smooth as possible.

I am even going to make it easy for you if you are interested in trying Firefox. If you have any questions or something about it isn't working as expected, post your problems here and I will walk you through it.

Let me leave you with this. It's one of the entries from the Firefox Flick TV commercial competition from a couple of years back that still puts a smile on my face. Happy browsing.

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Nate >.>

Friday 6th June 2008 | 06:56 PM

I already use it so yeah, I can back Mike up on this. 3 words:

Firefox Is Better.

Enough said :-)

p.s. that video made my night :-p

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Friday 6th June 2008 | 08:15 PM

Preaching to the converted!

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Friday 6th June 2008 | 09:34 PM

The words fire and fox are in the bible. Firefox is God's will! Its in the bible!

Good information. I had no idea firefox has so many mod's.

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Pete J.

Saturday 7th June 2008 | 08:40 AM

It's the best. And when Walt Mossberg agrees then its a done deal.


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Pete J.

Saturday 7th June 2008 | 08:43 AM

Here's a link to the latest browser stats - Firefox has a whopping 39.1% Marketshare and IE is 53.8% (IE6 and IE7 combined)


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Pete J.

Saturday 7th June 2008 | 08:44 AM

Walt Mossberg:

"I've been using prerelease versions of Firefox 3.0 for months, and have recently been testing a near-final version and comparing it closely to IE and to Safari. I have tested it on multiple Windows PCs and Macs, on desktops and laptops, over slow connections and fast ones. I have tried it with well over 100 Web sites.

My verdict is that Firefox 3.0 is the best Web browser out there right now, and that it tops the current versions of both IE and Safari in features, speed and security. It is easy to install and easy to use, even for a mainstream, non-technical user."

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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 09:32 AM

I am also a web design/developer and I agree with everything you said but there is one add-on that is a must for any of us in the industry that you missed.

Firebug is an add-on that lets you view all of the html, css and other necessary information on website and allows you to edit in-line and see how the changes effect your design before adding them to your local development files. I've been using it for about three years now and there is even a new version that works with Ubuntu's Firefox 3 that comes pre-installed with the OS.

Mike, I know you will love this add-on. Give it a try.

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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 10:38 AM

...in response to this comment by Ben. I've already been using Firebug since day one and other Web Dev add-ons as well. But I tried to keep this article focused toward the average user not the web developer.

This is the best of them all I reckon: http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/

Firebug is great and all but it's buggy and it kills gmail. But it's still a useful tool.

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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 10:40 AM

Oh and the second best I use is the HTML Validator add-on. I can't sleep unless my code is 100% W3C compliant :-)


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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 01:05 PM

Thanks. I didn't know about that one.

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Pete J.

Saturday 7th June 2008 | 01:11 PM

...in response to this comment by Ben. That's a worry...No web developer should be without it - unless web standards don't mean anything to them ;-)

How have you been checking your code for W3C validity?

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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 02:58 PM

...in response to this comment by Pete J.. There are many other tools that you can use to make sure your site is W3C compliant. The tool suggested is just one of many Firefox add-ons available along with many other independent programs and websites.

BTW, thanks for the assumption that I don't care about standards. In fact every site I build is not only W3C XHTML valid but also, CSS compliant for all browsers, screen readers and built on an open source platform.


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Saturday 7th June 2008 | 10:15 PM

Good one, Mike.

Once you've used the fox, you just can't go back.

Sometimes I must admit I find websites I've made don't work properly in IE and I didn't even know until someone tells me, because I forgot IE even existed!

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Nate >.>

Sunday 8th June 2008 | 09:24 AM

...in response to this comment by Rodney. "because I forgot IE even existed!"

I kinda wish it didn't, although, at least it makes you appreciate just how good Firefox is :-)

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Monday 9th June 2008 | 05:27 AM

Best Firefox plugin ever: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6067

"This plugin will alert you if you accidentally stumble onto MySpace.com, and take you back to the site you came from."

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IE is fine thankyou

Thursday 19th June 2008 | 12:06 PM

I often wonder how many people would use FireFox if it wasn't for free????

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Thursday 19th June 2008 | 12:33 PM

Found report of problem with FireFox. I am not computer saavy so I don't know if it is relevant?

Please ignore if it does not apply ...

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Johnson's Wang

Friday 27th June 2008 | 11:23 AM

You got Mozilla shares? Seriously though love your work. FF is the best.

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