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Mozilla Firebird

© August 2003 Tony Lawrence
August 2003

Mozilla's new www.mozilla.org/products/firebird/ (link dead, sorry) Firebird browser is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. I downloaded and installed both the Mac OS X and Windows versions. At this time ( August 2003) this is still at a pre-release version 0.6.1, but in my testing, there's no reason not to use it as your default browser now. The release notes do warn that the Mac OS X version is still quite rough, but I really didn't notice that to be the case at all.

You might also download Thunderbird, which is the companion mail and newsreader. I'll save Thunderbird for a separate review.

Firebird includes a nicely done popup blocker, tabbed browsing, and the typical things you expect from any browser like bookmark management, etc. The major emphasis of Firebird is speed and simplicity, but there is also a large list of texturizer.net/firebird/extensions.html (link dead, sorry) extensions that can be added for additional features.

Some of the things that I dislike about Safari on Mac OS X are more to my liking in Firebird. XML documents such as rss feeds are displayed in the same manner as Internet Explorer would show them, and FTP sites are shown within the browser (as opposed to Safari's annoying hand-off to Finder). However, Mozilla Firebird (either platform) fails miserably when presented with a large XML page like https://www.weblogs.com/changes.xml. It may eventually load, but I doubt you'll have the patience to wait for it. Internet Explorer (even the older Mac version) handles that easily. Keep in mind that this is a pre-release version; minor flaws like this will be fixed soon, I'm sure.

There's a web site I know that rather stupidly loads a movie as its first page. Firebird handled that quickly and without complaint, so its problems with large XML probably aren't related to memory handling.

I added the RSS panel extension to both the Mac and Windows versions. It was quite pleasant not to see "Windows version only" warnings at the extension site, and the RSS reader performed identically on both platforms.

The Mac Preferences and windows Options panels look identical. Advanced configuration options can be controlled by typing "about:config" in the browser.

The Search box can be changed with a click to search this page, dmoz.org, or Google. You can even add other choices to it from https://mycroft.mozdev.org/. The regular location bar does a Google "I'm feeling lucky" search on whatever you type in that isn't a web page. Type in "SCO Unix support" and you'll probably land here at aplawrence.com.

The Location bar has other tricks too: type "dict " or "webster " followed by any word you want to look up in a dictionary. You can even add your own keywords: https://www.mozillanews.org/index.php3?article=55. Any bookmark can have a keyword that calls it up, optionally passing the word to the link. Just right click (Mac control click) on any bookmark in the Sidebar and choose properties.

I happened to notice something new to me about Mozilla browsers when saving a web page. Usually browsers just save whatever the web page has in it. So if the IMG SRC= points to a relative link, then when the page is on your computer your browser will look for the image relative to where the file is. But if it is an absolute: https://www.wherever.com/image.gif, then it will look to there and in all probabilty the image will display.

But Mozilla does it differently. Mozilla Firebird and other Mozilla browsers will create a directory for images and will change references in the saved file to point there. If your page is saved as ~/fred, Mozilla creates ~/fred_files. It's more than just images, too: if the page has javascript, it puts functions in there too. In other words, it really goes out of its way to save the whole darn kit and kaboodle. Of course it offers you options to only save the html if that's your desire.

If Firebird is this good now, imagine how nice it will be when finished. Give it a try, I think you'll like it.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of Parallels Desktop 12

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Take Control of iCloud, Fifth Edition

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Take Control of OS X Server

More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

Tue Jul 26 13:31:26 2005: 873   NorCan

I believe what you're talking about here is fireFOX, not fireBIRD. Firebird is a database, fireFOX is the browser.

Tue Jul 26 13:55:23 2005: 874   TonyLawrence

When this article was written, what is now Firefox was called Firebird.

Leaving it as is helps show the age of the article - always important when you are making decisions based on web content.


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