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No more reasons to stay with Mozilla

I've moved over to Thunderbird and Firefox. Mozilla is now uninstalled; IE's last remaining purposes are to test websites and view XML files. I haven't used Outlook/Express for years now.

The last time I tried Thunderbird I stopped after a few minutes. It didn't import Mozilla mail files; that had to be done by hand (I'm aware that this is not a hard thing to do). Version 0.9 however does have an import tool. The last time I tried Firefox it crashed a lot and felt clumsy. Both apps are much improved. Hopefully this will remove a constant source of puzzlement from my work colleagues, most of whom are using at least Firefox and have been looking at me with some concern in my mail and browsing choices for some time now.

The truth is, as a Mozilla user, features like popup, cookie and junk mail controls and tabbed browsing are less exciting than if you're coming from IE/Outlook. However some things are worth pointing out about the two from a Mozilla perspective:

  • In Firefox, right-click close tab and right-click close all other tabs are not beside each other. That alone makes it worth switching, although they probably have them the wrong way around - close tab is on the bottom instead of the top (from right click I close tabs more often than I open). What Mozilla did by putting them beside each other will go down as one of the great UI bloopers.
  • In Firefox, opening a new tab puts that new tab in the background. This makes browsing much easier than the Mozilla way of bringing you into the new tab just so you can click back to the one you were on (you almost always want to stay on the original page).
  • In Firefox, the home page is a clutter-free wrapper around the Google seach form. Like my many developers, Google was my homepage, so this is good.
  • In Firefox, a search bar has been integrated into the menu area to the right of the URL bar. Mozilla used to have to take valuable real estate by using an entire sidebar to show a single seach form.
  • Thunderbird when downloading a lot of mail does not seem to perform that annoying feat of displaying mutiple icons in the system tray, which makes the entire taskbar in windows oscillate.
  • Thunderbird can be set to spellcheck before sending mail. Outlook has had this feature for years. As a terrible typist, I expect this will be something of win.
  • Thunderbird can be set to stop images being loaded into email.
  • In both, theme management is much better. I do miss the Orbit theme, but the minimalist in me really likes the 708090 theme.

And these applications are fast. I figure either to boot in a few seconds, on par with IE. Mozilla used to take an age to load (20+ seconds)

The single annoyance: Thunderbird did not import my mail filters from Mozilla. I had a lot of those.

As useful as the features and usability tweaks are, there is something much more interesting about Firefox and Thunderbird, and that is the sense you are dealing with well-polished end user applications and not collections of components. Firefox and Thunderbird represent a new breed of open source projects that are first and foremost, products. They have a clear focus on end users, well articulated missions, and critically, keen brand awareness. It will be interesting to see if and how Mozilla evolves beyond the mail/browser pair into a set of infoware-tools that move beyond the ageing and increasingly less relevant productivity suites. Desktop search, IM, media management, feed reading and music all seem like candidates.

November 14, 2004 01:42 PM


James A
(November 14, 2004 04:42 PM #)

While I'll continue using Mozilla for the forseeable future, I do see how Firefox is a good thing, and use Thunderbird for my IMAP account (never used Moz Mail though). However, there are a few things you've mentioned about Mozilla that aren't as bad as you make out:

o Closing tabs - I always middle click to close tabs, which never closes all tabs. Although I also use ctrl-w, which caused some pain when I mistyped and hit ctrl-q before they put in the warning.
o Tabs in the background - this is configurable in Mozilla as well.
o Mozilla can search from the location bar, you can turn off the search sidebar on results, and you can set up smart bookmarks (although this is easier to do in Firefox - right click in an input box and add a keyword for the search).

As for why I prefer Mozilla over Firefox, one of the big things is the history window - having it in a sidebar with almost a random sort order just doesn't cut it. Plus recent mozilla (1.8a4) also stores pages' referrers in history. The link toolbar extension also isn't quite as nice as Moz's navigation bar, which also suffices for feed autodiscovery. And Orbit is a great theme.

Dan Hinojosa
(November 14, 2004 07:22 PM #)

To James A:

History does sort in Mozilla 1.0.

Davide Baroncelli
(November 15, 2004 07:58 AM #)

For me the switch from Mozilla to Firefox is a no-go until they've ported multizilla (which by itself is worth all of the features you're talking about).

Jason Carreira
(November 15, 2004 05:46 PM #)

I was about to mention multizilla... As far as I can tell, it gives better tab features and (with the google bar) better search than Firefox. Why should I take a step back?

I haven't seen the problem you mention with email, so I can't comment. I like Mozilla mail ok... The best part is the little button at the bottom of my browser window where I can click to open it :-)

(November 15, 2004 07:02 PM #)

Just middle-click a tab or press Ctrl-W to close it, instead of right-clicking and choosing "Close Tab". :)

Jacek Kopecky
(November 17, 2004 11:12 AM #)

Is it just me, or does this blog page render weird in your mozilla/firefox as well? Each line of the post begins inside the double line between the post and the left sidebar. 8-)

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