Friends with tech inclinations have been telling me for months that I ought to move away from Internet Explorer as a browser. The most popular alternative was Mozilla Firefox. But I had so many other tasks to accomplish, and I didn’t want the headaches that were sure to come from a browser swap.
Things came to a head for me when I discovered yesterday that I had backed up (over all three generations of backups) several rather nasty pieces of spyware that my Computer Associates firewall and virus blocker had let through. I updated the firewall, and CA let me know that some other application was also trying to send information from my computer. They advised me to download a free spyware scanner to determine which application was giving problems.
I did. In addition to some virulent applications, it reported two spyware apps wrapped around the core of IE. I could reload the whole Explorer browser from scratch, or jump to a different browser. Nothing like a severe kick in the pants to move me out of my comfort zone!
I axed the IE with its trojan load, and downloaded the Mozilla 1.0+ Firefox browser, anticipating hours of tweaking to get it into a usable state. SURPRISE! Firefox downloaded in a jiffy, asked if I wanted to import bookmarks from my old favorites list, applied them, offered me a choice of home page (I picked my old one), and there I was. Surfing again.
The default interface is decidedly non-IE-like, so I went back to the Firefox site to look at “themes and extensions.” Two more downloads later (10 minutes, tops) I had an elegantly simple, comfortable interface.
Changes I love (aside from the relative security of Firefox over IE):
- A search field like the URL field that feeds directly into one of a pull-down menu of search engines. Google is the default. You can add (or remove) other favorite engines, although Yahoo, eBay, Creative Commons, Amazon.com and Dictionary.com are in the default list.
- The price. Mozilla Firefox is a free browser. Even better, its open architecture means that developers can easily create tools and applications.
- Flash animations work again. An anti-spyware selection in IE security had closed down flash animation display. Truly a minor change, but I had not even realized they were gone until I switched to Firefox.
Two changes I dislike:
- My personal assistant window in my home page refuses to open, even after I changed the Options to allow any pop-up windows from this site. I’m still working on resolving this problem, so after 2 hours of beating on the browser, this is a minor dislike.
- Three sites with collapsible “tree” menus appear with the menus completely expanded, and I haven’t figured out yet how to restore the original look.
So for very little effort and no additional dollar outlay, I finally moved into the 21st century. In my browser, at least.