Migrating from Internet Explorer to Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is a webbrowser. It’s loosely based on the Netscape source code that was released back in the days when Microsoft won the Browser Wars.

But it is not Netscape, and it is not Internet Explorer either.

Since I discovered Firefox (which didn’t happen until it got smooth scrolling, sorry to say), I’ve grown to love the browser. Not only as a comfy leisure browser, but as a browser that shows things right.

Here’s why I think you should get Firefox, right now…

Top 5 reasons to get Firefox

  1. Tabbed browsing
  2. It works wonderfully well. Just click a link with the middle mouse button, and it opens in a tab in the background.

  3. It renders HTML right
  4. … meaning, if you write your HTML code correctly, it will render exactly as it is supposed to, completely unlike bug-ridden Internet Explorer.

  5. It’s light-weight… but extensible
  6. The complete, well-working browser only caches in at 7 mb in total. Power-users can then proceed to add extensions, such as “mouse gestures” and make it work just like they want it to.

  7. Popup blocking
  8. Not only are popups simply blocked in Firefox, they are more effectively blocked than any popup stopper I’ve tried for IE, including Googles Toolbar.

  9. Integrated Search

By default, a Google search field is placed conveniently next to your address bar. But it is not limited to Google. Adding more searches is the easiest thing in the world.

Other great features include customizable themes, a great download manager, great bookmark features, and easy installation/un-installation.

Why?

Okay, so you’re maybe not completely convinced. After all, Internet Explorer is right there, and it’s so easy to access.

Well, Firefox is a quick download, a painless installation, and if you don’t like it, it’s a clean uninstall. So you have no excuse not to try it.

Step 1. Getting Firefox

Download Firefox via one of these mirrors: Firefox Download Mirrors.

Step 2. Configuring

To configure the menu bar as you want it, you have only to right-click one of the buttons on the toolbar, and select “Customize”.

I like my Firefox this way:

my_ff

Be sure also to configure your default homepage. I like to start with a completely blank browser, but it’s up to you. Configure the start page by clicking Tools > Options > General, and type in the address of your choice.

Step 3. Extending

There are some extensions, I think should simply be a part of Firefox from the beginning. Others are just extensions I got used to so fast I can’t live without them anymore.

All-In-One Gestures

The name refers to a collection of mouse gestures in one package. I wrote more about it here… needless to say, it’s a great extension that allows you to navigate faster and easier.

Get this Extension

CuteMenus

Well, this is more of a cosmetic thing. It adds small icons in your context menus.

Get this Extension

IE View

If you’re a developer, and has Firefox for your primary browser, this extension is invaluable. It adds an option to view the current page in Internet Explorer.

Get this Extension

Javascript Console Status

If you’re working with Javascript, this extension will prove helpful. It shows an error icon in the status bar whenever it encounters javascript erros. Clicking it opens the Javascript Console window.

Get this Extension

Step 4. Getting Real Player and Quicktime to work

You probably already have both. Unfortunately, the only way I know how to make QT and Real work in Firefox, is to install, or re-install them once Firefox IS installed.

Before you install Quicktime and RealPlayer—there are alternatives

Also, be sure to check out this document, elaborating on plugin support.

Installing Quicktime in Firefox

Go to Apple’s Quicktime Download site, and get the player you need. Install it, AFTER you’ve installed Firefox, and it allows you to install a Quicktime plugin for Opera/Mozilla/Netscape. Point this to the Firefox directory and it should work.

Installing Real Player in Firefox

I … really hate RealVideo. The video is crappy and jagged. It’s the only video I know that has variable framerate! The player is filled to the brink with spyware, and I wish nobody would use Real. They do, however, so go get the player at Real’s Download site.

Install it and point the Opera/Mozilla/Netscape plugin to the Firefox directory.

Alternatives

I’ve been looking through my google referrals, and a number of people have come to this page, looking for how to install either “Real Alternative”, or “Quicktime Alternative” in Firefox.

Upon investigation, it seems they are hacked versions of the real applications, posing as CODECs.

While they are likely not completely legit, they should work well.

I have found no official download websites for Real or Quicktime Alternative. You’ll have to search for them.

Installing Real Alternative or Quicktime Alternative in Firefox

The process of installing these hacks, is no different than installing the /real/ players. Just make sure you install the Opera/Mozilla/Netscape browser plugin, and point it to the Firefox directory.

Un-installing Internet Explorer

It should be possible, using XPLite or 2000Lite available here. Do this at your own risk, though.

Firefox Cons

There are only a few things where Firefox is still lacking.

Mainly Firefox’ “cold-boot time” is much longer than that of IE. This is of course because Internet Explorer is built-in to the operating system, and Firefox is not… However, with each new version of Firefox, It’ll get faster at booting. And after all, once it’s booted once, it’ll lie resident in memory and load faster the next time you start it.

25 thoughts on “Migrating from Internet Explorer to Firefox”

  1. Invader says:

    How to remove IE?

  2. Joen says:

    🙂

    The closest you would get to remove IE (guessing you’re running XP or 2000), would be to use “XPLite”. I’m not sure it’ll erase every trace of the Internet Explorer “engine”, but it’ll uninstall Internet Explorer.

    http://www.litepc.com/xplite.html

    .. by the way, good suggestion, thanks. I’m going to add it to the article.

  3. Firefox will not use “Quick launch” like Mozilla does. In fact, they actually removed the turbo (aka quick start) functionality from the code a long time ago. Their goal is for it to load as fast as possible, on it’s own (keeping it in the tray is an ugly hack if you ask me). Firefox 0.9 will be roughly 3% faster (faster in general and faster load time) than firefox 0.8, so that’ll be an improvement.

  4. Joen says:

    I agree, the tray thing was an ugly hack. And while I still think it’s a bit slow cold booting, I also agree, making it launch faster on it’s own is the way to go as well.

    Thanks for the note, I’ll be sure to fix that.

  5. James says:

    I prefer RadialContext (which turns the context menu into a pie menu) to mouse gestures. Although the simple gestures are the same, I don’t forget the gestures for things I rarely do (since I can see all the available options all the time).

  6. Tim says:

    Top 5 reasons not to try Firefox.

    1) It crashes or freezes unexpectedly. During tab changes especially.

    2) Its download manager got worse with 0.8. It slows down firefox for large file downloads.

    3) There are numerous bugs on the mozilla regarding the html rendering.

    4) Many number of sites just doesn’t work with Firefox. It is amazing but without IE I wouldn’t be able to access a quite number of important sites.

    5) Firefox is primarily developed for Linux thus it doesn’t let you do simple things like copying an image to the clipboard. For that feature you need to install a plugin.

    Here is why you really should use Firefox. When you are making a research, when you are visiting lots of web sites, use Firefox. It really speeds up the whole process through tabs etc… Also its HTML rendering speed seems to be faster than IE. Other than this reason, it is all about FUD against Microsoft and slashdot type of attacks.

  7. Joen says:

    @James

    I considered RadialContext, but I thought it was something like that software that follows Logitech mice, which annoys the hell out of me. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    @Tim

    1. I haven’t experienced one single crash or freeze using Firefox yet, not even with tab changes.—That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, I trust that it does, but maybe—just maybe that will change in the big 1.0.

    2. I haven’t downloaded really big files with the download manager yet, so you may be right. But IE doesn’t even have a download manager. One crash in IE (which DOES happens a lot, I think), and any downloads have to be re-downloaded anew.

    3. Perhaps. But there are definately more bugs in the IE html rendering engine. Don’t you agree?

    4. This is where most people would go geek and say “That’s cos the code was invalid to begin with”. I won’t. Truly, Firefox needs a better Quirksmode—that is, the way it renders invalid pages. It should be more tolerant, hands down.

    5. … but with the plugin installed (CopyImage), all is well—and for the bulk of the userbase, maybe this feature isn’t so needed? I appreciate the small download, and don’t mind adding extensions.

    I appreciate your post, and in general I agree with you—Firefox has some things it needs done still, and I myself have both IE and Firefox installed side by side. I do think some extensions should be built-in to Firefox out of the box.

    I think the bottomline is—Firefox is actually still a “technology preview”. They state clearly on the mozilla product site, that Firefox shouldn’t be “relied upon as your primary browser”.

    Even so, Firefox is a damn good browser, even in it’s current state. It’s the best alternative I’ve ever, ever seen to Internet Explorer which is a dominant Leviathan. This is quite an achievement, considering it is a “technology preview”.

    I was sceptic at first, and back when Firefox was Firebird and didn’t even have smooth scrolling, I wouldn’t ever consider migrating.

    But Firefox has grown on me, despite my scepticism. I like surfing in Firefox, and since I work with the web, and use the Internet every day, that makes a major difference.

  8. Tim:

    http://www.mozilla.org/projects/firefox/charter.html

    Firefox is primarily designed for Windows, not Linux. You can copy an image to the clipboard if you use a recent nightly build; you will be able to with Firefox 0.9 (“One Tree Hill”)

    I’d say there’s more FUD against Firefox and the like, rather than against Microsoft. A lot of Microsoft-bashing goes on, but that’s just cos Internet Explorer’s rubbish 🙂

  9. Jeff Walden says:

    Firefox 0.9 Feature Alert!

    Tabwarning will be redundant because the functionality will be built into the browser.

    Copy Image will work on Windows (possibly Mac as well).

    Extensions will be so much better with a new manager. Want to uninstall one you never use? Feel free to do so.

    Built-in Help for those who might get confused by a new program.

    Ever accidentally set an image as your desktop wallpaper before in Windows? With 0.9 you’ll get a dialog prompt that lets you choose how – stretched, tiled, or centered.

    Firefox cold boot is always being improved, and with enough RAM there’s little difference. My 450MHz (!) PC with 384MB RAM load Firefox about half a second slower than it does IE, and I’m even running resource hog WinXP. If you think it’s slow, more RAM may help. (That’s not saying to get more RAM just to try a new program, though. That’s saying that you should try Firefox out again when you next get a new computer – the difference in startup time between a semi-old computer and a new one could be amazing.)

  10. Joen says:

    @Jeff,

    Thanks for the feature alert. Tabwarning was one of the things that should’ve been in from the start.

    About the cold boot—I have 512 mb ram, and I still “feel” like Internet Explorer boots much faster. But with a few speed improvements i’ll be a happy camper.

    Now there’s just one thing Firefox still needs—the option to be exclusevely single-window tabbed browser, that is, to have an option to make all _blank popups open in tabs.

  11. @Tim:

    Your point number 4 might be a point only in the situation Joen writes: Quirks mode could be made a little bit more flexible.

    However, very often, it’s not because the HTML is invalid, it’s because the author DECIDED to exclude browsers other than IE, by making some browser detection and/or by using a feature of IE which cannot be implemented in Mozilla, I name ActiveX.

    You could argue that ActiveX should be implemented in Mozilla (actually there is an add-on trying to do that), but for me, the main reason to use a Mozilla based browser is exactly the lack of ActiveX, since that “feature” is imho the reason of the biggest security holes in that piece of software.

  12. James says:

    @Joen,

    The Tabbed Browser Extension allows you to force everything into a tab (as well as a lot of other tabbed-related functions). I don’t think this functionality will make it into the Firebird core since there’s quite a few different ways you can interepret “force everything into a tab” – _blank I definitely agree should die, but what about javascript popups? These days I middle-click just about everything, so it’s always in a new tab regardless of the supposed target.

  13. Joen says:

    James,

    Very valid point, I’ll check out the extension.

    The main reason for my suggestion with regards to forcing popups to open in tabs, is a usability issue.

    Currently, the layman user will read that Firefox is a tabbed browser, perhaps install for this reason alone.

    Upon first launch, most users may not notice the tab features, since they are hidden away.

    In other words, new users may think tabbing doesn’t work, simply because the tab features aren’t apparant.

    My suggestion as to how this could be solved would be to provide two settings. The default, is how Firefox works now. The second option, would be with exclusive tabbing. This would open _blank links in new tabs, but treat javascript popups as usual (good point though, I didn’t think about it).

    The browser mode, default / tabbing, should be chosen during the installation, with two small screenshots & a radio check box.

  14. James says:

    Yes, that’d be an excellent thing to have in the installation. Similar to how both Mozilla and Firefox have popup blocking, but only Firefox enables it by default.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “Tabwarning

    If there is one mistake in Firefox, it is that you can have 20 tabs open in one Firefox browser. If you accidentally close Firefox, all tabs are closed with it. But not with this extension, it?ll ask you first.

    Get this Extension”

    No longer required in 0.9! It’s now built in.

  16. Joen says:

    I know, thanks! I tried updating this thread but Movable Type won’t let me. Argh, I’m switching to WordPress so soon.

  17. Joen says:

    Finally. I’ve migrated to WordPress, and I was able to edit this article to reflect what’s accurate, i.e. that TabWarning is built-in.

  18. Jasper says:

    Firefox is interesting, as an alternative to I.E. but I can’t recommend it yet because it freezes and crashes way too often, plus it has the most annoying habit of displaying each page as though it’s the first time you’ve visited there, no matter how many times you were just there. I.E. is lightning compared to Firefox, and Netscape for that matter. I know there are all kinds of open source and anti-Microsoft apologists here, but Firefox is the same as Netscape without any AOL mentions, and truthfully, both have plenty of problems. So, the verdict is that Firefox is amateurish Netscape, Netscape is Firefox with AOL crap, and I.E. has security problems. All browsers suck, therefore, and so does the internet, and this very website, and these very comments.

  19. Nik says:

    I have been running Firefox for several months now and not once has it crashed. Maybe I’m just lucky!? 😀

  20. Joen says:

    Jasper, you’d think I’d disagree with you, but no. I kinda agree with some of it.

    First of all, with your Firefox experience, it hasn’t yet actually crashed for me (can’t say the same for Thunderbird, though). It load pages fast (faster than IE IMHO). Perhaps it’s the system you’re running on?

    I must, however, agree that Firefox boots waaay slower than IE—something I can only hope will be improved eventually. I mention this in the article, by the way.

    As for your startling conclusion, that’s where I agree. The internet, as it is, sucks. The way users interface with it, is un-intuitive, and if you think about it, it’s just TeleText on steroids.

    As for these comments. Well, they’re also somewhat illogical—it’s like a conversation that’s not realtime. However, they’re open to anyone, even you. Isn’t that something?

  21. Mark says:

    Yeah, MS lusers zealots are barking. That’s good 😉

    First of all: Mozilla’s browsers family are great running on winblows but are just fantastic running on Linux.

    IE is an ancient XX century product full of bugs and security vulnerabilities and even US-CERT recommends not to use it.

  22. Holly says:

    I just downloaded Firefox 1.0, and I have to say, it beats IE, HANDS DOWN. I really love the idea that you can customize it, instead of having buttons you never, ever use! It’s alot faster that IE, and so far, I haven’t had a single crash happen – with IE, it happens all the time, not to mention, IE is incredibly slow, a lot of the time…

    I would happily recommend Firefox to anyone wanting to switch browsers. Even the new MSN browser has ‘issues’ – issues Firefox seems to laugh at, as it takes me wherever I want to go, at the fastest possible speed. 🙂

  23. Tinus says:

    Browser usage statistics (based on visitors of a large e-commerce site) of last month tell me Firefox’ share is about 4% and rising!

    Good news!

  24. Joen says:

    Yep, that’s great. I posted Firefox statistics for this website a while ago.

    49% IE users, 29% Firefox users and 22% “other” users. Not bad eh?

    Update: Actually, now it’s 47% IE, 34% Firefox, 19% “other”.

  25. Daniel says:

    I have to say that I am sold on Firefox.

    However as I am a web developer I still keep IE working side by side as I still have to test for the majority of users which is still IE. However if IE was used by less than about 5 or maybe 10% people I would never bother using IE anymore. (note that taking figures of the popularity of FF on this site may not be a very accurate representation of the actual numbers of FF)

    There is something about Firefox that makes browsing the web more easy. (kinda hard to explain). The software is not bloated like many Microsoft products, hence the small footprint.

    However only time will tell if FF is just a one hit wonder or if it will continue to be popular.

    However in my opinion (however good that may be) I think FF will last. This thread is testement to this as this article was posted on April 10th, 2004 and now my post is dated June 26th, 2005. The fact that it has lasted this long and is still going strong is a good indication of of FF success.

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