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Monday, February 10, 2014

Firefox Browser - Why and How?

My preferred web browser is Mozilla Firefox.  This is a free browser, available online at http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/  for most platforms.

Like any software, it should be have the ability to accommodate the user's preferences. Firefox has the following functions that are easily established that I find important in a browser:
  • Tab Display: (Tools:Options:Tabs) Open multiple webpages in a single browser and switch between them by clicking on the tab displayed at the top.  Tabs can be rearranged by click-dragging. Each can be independently closed, or all but current tab can be closed.  Also, when a new webpage is opened, it can be sent to a new tab, which will automatically be displayed.
  • Selectively Remember Passwords for Web Pages - ( Tools:Options:Security ) For all but critical financial sites, it's nice to have the browser populate user id  and password fields by web page on sites I want, and not on sites I don't want. In addition, one can delete any one at any time. Furthermore, all information is stored on MY computer, not in a cloud server which could be hacked.
  • Customized Menu Bar - ( Right-click on empty area next to a tab:Customize... ) I like to have specific buttons that I use most arranged a certain way, with the web address/search field displayed at the top. Firefox enables complete customization.
  • Selective updates - ( Tools:Options:Advanced:Update )Although I will generally update my software when a new version comes out, I like the option to decline, as some releases are not an improvement.
  • Cookie Control - ( Tools:Options:Privacy )Cookies are not inherently bad. They enable information to be passed from one web page to another within the same site and I use them extensively when I create websites to simplify the user's experience. What I do not like at all are TRACKING COOKIES. These are called 3rd party cookies, which are set by code that website owners are paid to put into their websites and enable independent marketing sites to track your website viewing between sites.  Some browsers do not let you block 3rd party cookies at all; some make it difficult.  Firefox enables several features, among them Block Tracking Cookies, and Only allow 3rd Party Cookies from Previously Visited Sites.  The importance of the latter occurs with websites from many small banking or credit unions who provide services from companies like Intuit.  The web code to access these sites  is often embedded in the Financial institutions's website, and functionality is limited if all 3rd party cookies are blocked.  One can temporarily enable all cookies when first visiting these sites (if things aren't working right), and then set them so only the ones that were visited previously will operate.  Firefox is unique in this function.
  • Synced Cookies and Settings - ( Tools:Options:Sync With this option you may setup, all of your cookies are synced automatically between different computers and specific browsers on Smart Phones and Tablets (I use the Android Boat Browser Advanced, which syncs to my Firefox computers)
  • There are many more features available, including Add-On's which provide enhanced functionality.  Will report on those at some future date.
I don't care for Internet Explorer as it does not have the same functionality as above, as well as being integrated with the operating system, security risks are more likely.

Chrome is interesting, but does not provide as much customization, especially in easily enabling the undesired cookie blocking.  I don't believe you can disable Updating with Chrome. Also, Chrome uses considerably more memory than the other browsers.

Easy Configuration of Firefox
You can change the setup of your browser to fit your needs.  I've created a pre-configure script that you may use that will easily modify your configuration the way that I prefer. You may
  1. Download the following zip file to your computer  Setup Firefox  by clicking, using the File:Download link on the page opened OR pressing Ctrl-S.
  2. Close Firefox
  3. Extract the folder and files
  4. Double-click on ffsetup.bat to automatically apply the configuration to your Firefox installation.
  5.  Open Firefox
 This will not effect your existing bookmarks or other settings.

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