Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7

As most of you by now know, the world was blessed with big updates of the 2 most used browsers not long ago. Microsoft was first by introducing the much awaited Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla followed rapidly with Firefox 2. Before I get to my thoughts I feel it is only fair to share what my browser preferences are so that you can know where this review is coming from. I switched from Netscape to IE sometime during 1998 and had pretty consistently used IE up until I took this job a year ago. I had heard of Firefox and been told how much better it was, but as a creature of habit I just kept doing what was working. FF was hard to adjust to at first, but I made the switch and after that only used IE when forced to by a poorly designed website or because a patron was using it. Now we'll start with IE first because it came out first.

Internet Explorer 7
I heard it had come out and downloaded it for 3 reasons: 1) I had heard it was out and much different than 6; 2) It was a boring Friday afternoon and I didn't want to start a project that I'd have to leave til Monday; & 3) It will be pushed as an automatic security update for Windows in the near future and I know that it will come on the worst day possible and make my computer horrible to deal with until I install/restart. I decided to go ahead and get it over with.

I fully expected to be unimpressed and bored and state right here that IE 7 was just a bad imitation of FF. While it does incorporate a lot of the features that FF has been famous for (i.e. tabbed browsing, adding search engines to the toolbar, etc.) it doesn't come off as a cheap imitation. It's just a better IE with stuff that browsers should come with these days.

  • I like the little stub of a tab that opens a new tab in the tab area, this will be very user friendly for users who are new to tabs or who haven't figured out that double-clicking in the area next to a tab in FF creates a new tab. (I didn't know that until I was told.)
  • I like the way that the favorites are now organized and making Feeds and History a part of this area.
  • When you go to add a new search engine, right there on the page there's a friendly little box for creating your own in about 2 seconds. I know that you can do this in Firefox as well, but it is not nearly as simple or straight-forward.
  • Printing! This is so much improved, I would say they are superior to Firefox in this regard. The print preview is a wonder to behold! The default is "Shrink to fit," the margins are easy to move and shown right on the page, and the headers go on and off with a click of a button. But by far my favorite is the print preview being on the right-click menu. It has always been a pet peeve of mine to go to one of those "print-friendly" pages where you loose the toolbar and being unable to get a preview so inevitably the text is cut off. I know you can get an extension for this in FF, but it should really incorporated into the browser without me having to add it. Good job Microsoft!
  • On my computer the display for IE 7 is a bit muddy, I'm not sure why, it could be my settings.
  • My toolbars were more than a little temperamental to move around to get it to look like I wanted.
  • I wanted to take advantage of the cool print features by printing an article for someone from MSNBC and wouldn't you know it the browser didn't like the page. What I find amusing is that it was an MSNBC page (for those of you who aren't laughing, the MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft). See the screenshot below.

Mozilla Firefox 2.0
I downloaded it as soon as it was out of beta. I hadn't read many reviews of the betas so I really wasn't sure what to expect.

  • Spell check! I didn't utilize this until I started writing this blog post and thought I didn't really need it, but it has quickly become my favorite new feature.
  • Close tab button on the tab instead of one in the tab bar. This way you don't have to go to the tab to close it. I'm still getting used to this though and it's useful, but I'm not sure I like it.
  • Working with all of my current extensions (except which it easily offered to upgrade for me).
  • Not an update. You can't get this by checking for updates, you have to hear about it and then download it.
  • Not adding in new print features including the print preview on the right click menu. I know, I know an extension can do this, but I shouldn't have to rely on extensions all the time. I hope this may be added in a future update.
  • Not making it simple and easy to find way to create your own search engine.
Final Verdict
I give the most improved award to IE 7, it is far better than its predecessor (which wouldn't be hard). IE7 has some nice features for those of us who like to print things once in a while (which librarians need to do). I was a tad disappointed that Firefox 2 wasn't better, I guess my expectations were too high. I was most disappointed that Microsoft thought of a few things that Mozilla didn't. Overall, however, Firefox is still the superior browser and considering the fact that it is updated far more often and can be customized with so many extensions (now add-ons) I will still use it more often. I am a creature of habit and IE would have had to blow FF out of the water to get me to switch. I will probably use IE for printing, though, if I'm having problems getting something to print in FF.

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