So why switch?

Even now there are a ton of reasons, and since development on Firebird is very active, expect tons more in the future.

Pop-up blocking - Firebird blocks dreaded pop-ups "out-of-the-box" Its default behavior is to place an icon on the status bar alerting you that it has blocked a pop-up. Clicking it allows you to whitelist domains that should be allowed to use pop-up windows, if you need them. To be fair, Microsoft recently announced that Internet Explorer will finally support pop-up blocking in Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Search on Navigation toolbar - Among the coolest features of Firebird is a small separate prompt on the navigation toolbar solely for the purpose of search queries. It defaults to Google, but you can add your own. After adding other engines, you can conveniently select them from a drop down list. Popular add-in-engines include sites like Ebay, The Internet Movie Database or Hundreds of engines are available, even one for Kuro5hin, though it won't really do anything until comment search is fixed. *ahem*

Tabbed browsing - Firebird supports tabbed browsing, which essentially allows you to load separate internet pages using only one application window. The primary benefit to this is that the Windows taskbar doesn't get as cluttered. The tabs are also more descriptive and more easily accessible than alt-tabbing or clicking the taskbar to switch pages, especially if you have many other applications open. Another brilliant feature of Firebird is to simultaneously open all sites in a bookmark (favorites) group in separate tabs, with just one click.

Download window - New with version 0.8, all downloads in Firebird are sent to a a single dedicated window. This single window is shared by all files currently being downloaded, and can be closed without stopping them. It also keeps track of previously downloaded files, making it much easier to track them down if you've forgotten where you've placed them.

Type-Ahead Find - Somewhat of an esoteric feature, type-ahead find (keyboard shortcut: /) allows you to dynamically search for a string in a page, typing one letter at a time. So, for example, if you type "b-a-n" it may find the word "ban". And if you type another "a", it may find "banana". Who knows, this feature may be useful for people who aren't entirely confident of their spelling. Additionally, you won't have to type any more than the minimum needed to find what you're looking for. Type-Ahead Link Finding is also supported (keyboard shortcut: ' - single quote) This could be useful for people on laptops who would prefer to follow links by typing, rather than fuss with the pointer. The status of the search is shown at the bottom on the status bar, and ESC ends either of these searches in progress.

Themes - Firebird supports theming, and there is already a small collection to choose from. This is a screenshot of the Chaturbate theme I'm using right now, and shows you what you can expect. (Also featured in that screenshot is the download window previously mentioned) One caveat to themes is that occasionally newer versions of Firebird don't support older themes, and that can be frustrating if you've grown attached to a theme that you can no longer use because you've upgraded.

Extensions - Firebird supports something called extensions, which allow nifty changes to its features, or in some cases, completely new features. For example, in the previous screenshot an extension called CuteMenus is featured, which allows you to have small icons in Firebird's pop-up menus. Another powerful extension I've grown fond of is AdBlock. Taking the blocking of annoying ads one step further, adblock allows you to block images based on domain (allowing wildcards or regexps) A nicer feature though, is that AdBlock will allow you to block Flash animations, or temporarily disable all flash on a page. The current list of extensions for Firebird are too numerous to mention, so finding other good ones is an exercise left up to the reader.

Security - Though Firebird may not necessarily be any more inherently secure than Internet Explorer, the fact that the vast majority of people use MSIE makes it a much more attractive target for people exploiting bugs and security flaws. Additionally, Microsoft has become lax on fixing MSIE's security flaws. They've even gone as far as suggesting that users manually type in URLs (rather than clicking) to ensure security.

It's Completely Free! - Last, but not least, Firebird is completely free, and open source. It is also neither adware, nor spyware. Though if you choose to, you may donate to the project.

These are just a few of the more obvious features that Firebird offers. Though, either through curious clicking, or through word-of-mouth, the Firebird user is certain to stumble upon many other useful features. This page does a nice job of describing features in more detail, along with supplying some good screenshots.

Installing Firebird 0.8 on Win32

So if you've read this far, you're probably ready to dump MSIE and give Firebird a try. At the time of this article, the last milestone release of Firebird is 0.7, which unfortunately had a problem rendering pages too wide for the screen. Thus, I don't recommend running 0.7.

Until 0.8 is actually released, I suggest downloading one of the nightly builds (FTP) and going with that. Right now I'm using the January 24th build of 0.8 which seems pretty solid so far, which I obtained from here.

I definitely do not recommend using Firebird for any actual work, since it's still in pre-release, and stability is obviously not guaranteed. I recommend MSIE for anything work-related, and switch to Firebird for casual browsing. Truthfully, Firebird has crashed on me several times, though this doesn't happen often. And then again, I have seen MSIE 6.0 crash more than once as well.

Currently, they're working on an installer for Firebird, and I would expect that when 0.8 is released, it will have an automatic installer. Should you download a build without an installer, it will probably come in an archive (self-extracting or plain ZIP) of a single root folder with a name of "Mozilla" or "MozillaFirebird". For the sake of simplicity, I would extract that folder to C:\ Then using the file explorer, you can switch to the newly created Firebird directory, and double-click on MozillaFirebird.exe to start Firebird for the first time.

After that, it will then ask you if you want to make it the default browser. Even if you aren't sure at this point, you should still say "Yes" because if you change your mind, you can run MSIE again. MSIE will then ask you if you want to make it the default browser, and you can say "Yes" if Firebird doesn't appeal to you. Otherwise, you should tell MSIE not to be the default browser. You can also untick the box to always check to make sure MSIE is the default browser, so that it doesn't continually hound you everytime you need to use it.

If you would like to have MozillaFirebird's icon on the desktop or the start menu, you can right-click drag it from the explorer folder and copy it as a shortcut. Again, all of this will probably be handled automatically by the 0.8 installer, and if you're not used to doing these things with Windows XP you may want to wait for the actual milestone release.

Finally to download new themes or extensions for Firebird, you can usually install them directly from the browser. The bookmarks for the extensions page and themes page are already set up and accessible from the Bookmarks item on the menu bar.

Installing Flashplayer 7.0 for Firebird

Though strictly not required, and often times not wanted, it's pretty much essential to have the browser support Flash. If you see a blue puzzle piece on a site, it could be because you don't have Flash installed. Flash does not come with Firebird.

The best way to install it is to either click on the puzzle piece when you see it, or just go directly to Macromedia's site After downloading it, double-click on it, and install it to the plugins subdirectory of the Firebird directory. So if you installed Firebird into C:\MozillaFirebird, then install Flash in C:\MozillaFirebird\plugins. Restart Firebird and Flash should be working again.


MSIE 6.0 is a fine internet browser and usually does an adequate job for most people, just like your average toaster does a pretty good job at turning bread into toast. However, Microsoft has grown complacent with their tremendous lead in browser market share with MSIE 6.0. From discontinuing free future updates, to dragging their feet on fixing security holes Microsoft has determined that simply adequate is good enough.

search, middle click+tabs rocks

My favorite feature is the ability to middle click on a link and have that page open in a new tab, without that tab getting focus! I love being able to middle click on several links and get to them when I'm ready. I use that feature here at K5. I open a page to 'user comments' and then middle click on responses I wish to read. I think you meed one of the tab browser extensions for this, I'm not sure. I use that feature at slashdot also, and often users give groovy links, so I end up with oodles of tabs to read at my leisure. If I run out of time, I bookmark the set.

That is a very cool feature as well, I can open a set of tabs for Python, for example. 6 Jasminlive pages open at the same time, the tutorial, the ref. manual, examples, and so forth.

Others have mentioned MyCroft, etc., but out of the box, it features an alternative way to search. You just type a short search "key" and then what you want to find. For example, in the address bar:

This isn't limited to just google:

dict necesary

And you aren't limited to the built in search keys either:

Adding them is as simple as placing a bookmark to the search in a special bookmark folder and adding the key - any of the built in searches can serve as templates.

Yes, I know, there is already a google bar, but I find that I like to see my whole search, there isn't much room for the google bar over on the side and I also don't like the IE method of taking more vertical space. Faster than I can click and hit a drop down, I can just type a simple key and I've got what I need. I'm sure most of us here can type at least 30wpm, typing the keys easily becomes second nature and IMO, beats half the screen devoted to various blanks and such for various search engines.

I primarily use Linux but other boxes in the house have Windows, it works fine on both hot sex shows platforms.

So let me run them down for you

I notice a fair amount of you are still complaining about how firebird is worse than IE.

Google search and popup blocking -- yeah, these can be added to IE with an addon. But that toolbar takes up additional screen real estate to be there, which doesn't happen on Firebird. Your search engine isn't limited to Google either. If you like IMDB, Yahoo, AlltheWeb, or whatever, visit the Mycroft project to add other search engines to it.

In addition, the address bar and search bar have really useful shortcuts you can use to access them. CTRL-L selects the address bar, CTRL-K selects the search field. Intensely useful if you don't want to reach for that mouse.

Don't like using tabbed browsing? Then don't use it. It's a big selling point with Mozilla, but it's certainly not going to force you to use it. I find it really useful for grouping a set of pages together. Say, for example, one window will contain a couple of tabs, such as a bunch of product reviews or something, while another window (mozilla mixes MDI/SDI) can hold a bunch of CNN articles, while another can hold your general browsing tabs.

Flash ads can be blocked using the Flash click-to-view extension. Flash objects are replaced with a grey "click to view" dialog, so you don't see them animate or anything. This keeps the page flow right, while also letting you view a useful flash if you want to (whether one exists is your problem :) )

Type-ahead-find is good too, although you need to figure out how you can put it use. One example I've found is if you're looking at a long page of links/text, and you're looking for something specific. Say, the Java docs and you want to find the page on "String," type 'string' and it jumps to the first link it finds with that word in it. CTRL-G advances to the next link. Another example: the tldp HOWTO index page. Instead of scrolling to "kernel," just type it.

Themes: as most of you recognized, wholly unimportant. But the XUL aspect of Mozilla means that you can have themes without adding much overhead or requiring you to change your programs (like myie2 would)

Extensions: Take a look at a somewhat complete collection over there. Remember, all of those are 3rd party contributed and free (and generally OSS too)

For those of you complaining about Mozilla and Firebird being slow, let me ask you: when was the last time you tried it? The nature of Gecko means that it is constantly evolving, and that means continual speed improvements too. And I also ask, how fast is your computer? I haven't noticed a speed issue on any computer above 700MHz, and that's only because I don't have a computer below that and don't remember what Mozilla was like. Sure, if you've got a 300MHz K6-2, it might not perform optimally. But then again, neither will lots of other things too. Mozilla has a little more operating overhead than Firebird does too, which is part of the reason Firebird exists.

The same goes for stability. I haven't had firebird crash in ages. Of course, the risk is always there (and even heightened if you use nightlies).

I've also yet to see a single page in a long time that actually requires IE to look right (both as a result of efforts on the Gecko core and web developers), except for the obvious microoft page.

On a more ideological note, downloading and using Mozilla or Firebird actively means a vote in support of web standards, as you represent another user with a standards compliant browser (which IE does not qualify well under).

For those of you with questions about Mozilla, I recommend you download it and try it out yourself. Unlike a Windows Update or IE update, it makes no major system changes, and is even distributable as a single ZIP archive. There's almost no risk in downloading it and trying it. Almost anything you do with Mozilla can be undone with little difficulty. Questions are welcome at the newsgroups, staffed with volunteers.