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IE to Firefox -- Rather Worry Than Switch?

I had a comment on the blog entry on waiting for official IE patches or not. The comment asked this: why don't people just switch to Firefox? This isn't to say that Firefox doesn't also sometimes have security issues (it does) but there are advantages to using a browser that isn't as tied into the operating system as Internet Explorer.

There are several reasons that folks don't switch, but let me address the unaddressable first: they don't want to. For whatever reason, someone likes IE better than Firefox and that's it, they don't want to switch. Okay, there's nothing really to say to that. If you don't want to switch, you don't have to.

On the other hand, there may be people who are interested in switching but they have specific concerns that they might not be able to overcome. So for those folks, let's look at three concerns about switching from IE to Firefox that I might be able to help you with.

1. I Don't Want To Learn a New Browser.

I feel for you! Just when you think you've got IE handled, along comes another browser, and who wants to climb up that learning curve again?

There are tools available to make learning Firefox pain-free or even to keep the learning requirements to a minimum. Mozilla.com (the folks behind Firefox) have a page of instructions for getting Firefox, the vocabulary differences between the two browsers, and pointers to plug-ins. This handy page is available at http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/switch.html.

Switch2Firefox answers ten questions about switching. Some of these are pretty geeky ("How do I turn off the 'Alert' dialogs?") but the questions also get into other issues like importing favorites from IE and sending mail.

BleepingComputer offers a general overview of Firefox and importing favorites. While the tutorial is pretty old (it was apparently generated in July 2004) the basics are the same and it gives a good overview of tabbed browsing.

Tech Support Alert has a more recent tutorial on installing Firefox but it doesn't go over tabbed browsing as much and doesn't use screenshots.

2. I Can't Install Software On the Computer / I Use Many Different Computers.

You may be in a situation where you're constantly using many different computers or where you can't install software on the computer on which you want to use Firefox. You don't have to. All you need is a flash drive.

A flash drive is a portable hard drive about the size of your little finger; folks often keep them on keychains or lanyards, and they plug into the USB port of your computer. (They're also called USB drives, thumbdrives, stick memory, and nerdsticks. If you have other cool slang names for them leave 'em in the comments.) Some programs are designed to be installed on these flash drives and taken from computer to computer.

... like Portable Firefox, available at http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/browsers/portable_firefox. Portable Firefox is installed on a flash drive. Then to use it you just plug the flash drive into the computer and double-click on Portable Firefox. Portable Firefox does have some drawbacks when compared to Firefox installed on a computer's hard drive (it can't run Java, for example, and some Firefox Extensions don't work) but if you want a copy of a Firefox you can carry around with you and use anywhere, this is a great option.

3. The Sites I Use Require IE.

A couple of years ago this was the reason I didn't switch to Firefox as my primary browser. I used Opera, and occasionally had to boot up IE for a particular site, complaining bitterly the entire time.

But this is less and less true as time goes by. Web developers are realizing that more people are switching away from IE, and are developing for Firefox. That is not to say that you can't find diehard sites that absolutely require IE. In that case there are two things you can do:

1) Complain. Seriously. Web wranglers won't know that there's a Firefox audience out there trying to use their site unless they're told. So tell them!

2) Take advantage of a Firefox extension called IE View, available at http://ieview.mozdev.org/. This extension will let you open pages in Internet Explorer while you're using Firefox. Furthermore, it'll let you create a list of pages that'll automatically open in Internet Explorer.

What's an extension? An extension is a program you can add to Firefox that'll add more functionality to the browser. They range from the breathtaking to the absolutely trivial. Tomorrow we'll take a look at seven Firefox extensions I really love that can make your browsing experience a lot better. But for now you've got plenty of Firefox resources to explore.
IE to Firefox -- Rather Worry Than Switch? - Monday, April 10, 2006 -

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