Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2005

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

"Firefox Revisited"
By John Anderson

The jury is in, and everyone agrees that Mozilla’s Firefox (www.getfirefox.com), complete with its own sidekick program Thunderbird (more on that later), is a superb new web browser.

The August 2004 Technology Talk article (available on the MSBA website www.msba.org) described some of the web browser’s benefits over its competitors and some of its more features. That was back when Firefox was still in its testing phase (version 0.9.1.).

But following more than 25 million downloads (in just 99 days) of Firefox 1.0, which maintains such cornerstones of the earlier version as pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, privacy and security and easy installation, I want to dig a little deeper.

More on Tabbed Browsing
The tabbed browser feature is very intuitive. If you tell Firefox to open a link in a new tab, it will load it in the background, letting you continue what you were doing until you are ready to look at the page. Closing tabs will present you with the next-recently opened tab instead of the originating document. This is great when reviewing search results because it presents you with the next relative page rather than the search results.

Here are a few advanced tips from the Firefox website:
Homepage as tabs. Instead of setting just one web page as your homepage, Firefox enables you to make your home page several pages. Select your favorite websites and open them in a set of tabbed windows. Go to “Tools”, “Options” and select “General”. Under “Home Page”, press the “Use Current Pages” button. Now when you hit the “Home” button on the navigation toolbar, your favorite websites will load with just one click.

Bookmarking a set of tabs. You can bookmark a set of tabs when selecting “Bookmark This Page” (or Ctrl+D). Check the “Bookmark all tabs in a folder” checkbox to store all the tabs in the current window into a Bookmark Folder.

More shortcuts. While it’s easy to select tabs with a mouse, you can also cycle through tabs using the keyboard, such as using Ctrl+PgUp (or Ctrl+Tab) and Ctrl+PgDn (or Shift+Ctrl+Tab). You can also select the first tab by pressing Ctrl+1, and so on (up to the ninth tab with Ctrl+9). If you have a middle mouse button, click it on a tab to close the tab.

Smart Searching
This one took a minute for me to figure out, but here is the trick. If you frequently search webpages like eBay, Amazon, IMDB or FindLaw, using their search forms, you can create a Smart Keyword bookmark for that search feature. Place your cursor in the search box and click the right mouse button and select “add a keyword for this search”. Give it a name (e.g., “eBay Search”) and create a keyword (e.g., “ebay”), then click “OK”. Now, whenever you want to search eBay, no matter where you are, all you have to do is type ebay galoshes and hit “Enter” to be taken right to the result.

Live Bookmarks
Live Bookmarks displays RSS news and blog headlines in the bookmarks toolbar and bookmarks menu. A site is enabled for Live Bookmarks when you see an orange icon in the bottom right corner of the browser. Clicking on the icon will bring up the “Add Bookmark” dialog. Select “OK” and you will see Live Bookmarks with the rest of your bookmarks.

But what do I do with my bookmarks, you ask? Services like http://del.icio.us let you publish your own bookmarks, allowing you to share bookmarks with others or in a private area to share among multiple computers.

Firefox Add-ons
Firefox Extensions are small add-ons that allow the browser to be customized to fit the personal needs of each user. They are broken down into categories on the Firefox website, including “Blogging”, “Download Tools”, “Navigation”, “Security”, weather forecasts and dictionary searches. You can even install an extension that will automatically copy highlighted text to the clipboard. Firefox users review each extension, more of which are being added all the time.

Thunderbird
Mozilla’s Thunderbird is a desktop e-mail program with customizable views, built-in spam filters and a spellchecker.

But wait – there’s more. Thunderbird also gives you support for HTML mail, powerful quick search, saved search folders, advanced message filtering, message grouping, labels, return receipts, smart address book, import tools and the ability to manage multiple e-mail and newsgroup accounts. Thunderbird also provides security features such as message encryption, support for certificates and security devices. It will even display a small notification pop-up at the bottom of the screen when new mail arrives.

What’s nice about Thunderbird (besides the nifty name) is that it doesn’t allow scripts to run by default. This results in a more secure product than other mail clients on the market, and it helps stop the spreading of worms and viruses on the Web. And as with Firefox, you can use extensions to add useful tools and features.

Oh, and if you have AOL, Thunderbird can retrieve your mail (though it is incompatible with Netscape, WebMail or Hotmail for technical reasons I won’t go into here).

The best part about Thunderbird, of course, is its price – nothing! Like Firefox, Thunderbird is yours to keep. But if by chance you still aren’t convinced, download it anyway and give it a try. After all, you have nothing to lose!

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2005

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