Getting Firefox

What web browser are you using at the moment? Safari? Thought so. Don’t worry, most Mac people use Safari too! Thing is, it’s not the best choice for new, or experienced users. In fact, some would argue it’s one of the worst choices you can make!

Why? Well, Safari is proven to be one of the slowest browsers around, and also one of the least reliable at displaying web pages (OmniWeb, which is based on the Safari ‘engine’, has the same problem).

A great example of this flaw is that even our website doesn’t display 100% properly in Safari (see the comments on recent posts for a superb example).

But don’t worry, there’s a far better alternative, and it’s free! This alternative browser is called Firefox, and it’s used by literally millions of people. It also has some really powerful features that Safari doesn’t have, like plugins and themes.

It’s also a real Mac program, so you won’t have any problems figuring out how to use it. It looks just like a normal web browser would:

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Don’t like a particular look and feel? Not a problem. One of the best things about Firefox is ‘themes’, letting you change the look and feel of the whole application.

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My personal favorite, Pinstripe, is pictured to the right. Pinstripe can be found at this blog, and is free, like all of the other extensions and themes for firefox.

Hang on, you say, what is an Extension? Thanks for asking! Extensions are what really make the browser different from the rest of the crowd. Basically, anybody can make a little mini application, which they can then use to enhance the browser. Even better, non-programmers like us can download the extensions, again free of charge, to help better the browser.

Some of the most popular extensions are Adblock Plus and VideoDownloader. Let’s look at them in more detail

Adblock Plus

Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them.

Right-click on a banner and choose “Adblock” from the context menu – the banner won’t be downloaded again. Maybe even replace parts of the banner address with star symbols to block similar banners as well. Or you select a filter subscription when Adblock Plus starts up the first time, then even this simple task will usually be unnecessary: the filter subscription will block most advertisements fully automatically.

Adblock Plus works by targeting specific servers that serve advertisements, and blocking out the servers when you tell it not to show you an image. This filtering method is certainly not perfect, and you can get a few false positives, but it certainly does the job.

Download it here

VideoDownloader

Sites such as YouTube have lots of great videos, but you can’t always download them. The developer explains what VideoDownloader does to combat this problem:

Download videos from Youtube, Google, Metacafe, iFilm, Dailymotion… and other 60+ video sites! And all embedded objects on a webpage (movies, mp3s, flash, quicktime, etc)! Directly!

VideoDownloader add a small icon on the status bar at the bottom of your firefox window, and a toolbar button. Just click that and download the video you are watching!

VideoDownloader simply puts a small button in the bottom right of the browser window, that a user can click to display a page with a direct download URL.

Download it here

So, have you been tempted?

That’s all for my whistle-stop tour of Firefox. I’ll happily answer any questions you may have in the comments. You can grab firefox at http://www.getfirefox.com, it’s completely free, and should download and install within a couple of minutes.

If you’ve never downloaded software for the mac before, this video tutorial shows you what to do with the .dmg you download from that site:

6 thoughts on “Getting Firefox

  1. Matt

    Mark – for even greater Mac browsing fastness I use Camino. It uses the same Mozilla core code and the Gecko rendering engine that Firefox uses, but it is built as a Cocoa app for Mac. Although I’ve seen some tests that WebKit (Safari’s rendering engine) is faster than Gecko, my experience is that Camino is overall noticeably faster than Safari.

    There are a few pages Safari can’t handle, and I’ve even found a few that Camino/Firefox doesn’t handle exactly right, but they do the job almost all the time.

    With Camino, you lose a lot of the plugins and customizations that you get with Firefox – the focus is around speed and efficiency rather than plugins. Personally, I haven’t missed the plugins and I love the speed.

    I’ve been using the Camino 1.1beta for a couple of weeks now and it has been very stable, and has a few cool new features like built-in session saving and enhanced ad blocking.

    You can check out camino at http://caminobrowser.org, and the 1.1 beta at http://beta.caminobrowser.org.

  2. neil

    I’ve been using Camino quite a bit recently, too. It feels snappy, does a great job with rendering pages, and seems to have better network performance than any of the other alternatives…

    Its about to bump both safari and firefox out of my dock 🙂

  3. Matthew Hollingsworth

    be sure to try Camino 1.1beta. i’ve been using it a few weeks and it has crashed maybe twice, but it is a mit nicer than the 1.0 version. you can download it from beta.caminobrowser.com

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