Firefox & Thunderbird

January 10th, 2006 by Potato

I’ve been a long-time fan of Mozilla (now known as SeaMonkey). Except for those few sites that have poor HTML compatability or use ActiveX (or just don’t work for no reason at all, like Yahoo Launchcast), it works really well. I love tabbed browsing, since even in the Netscape 3.0 days I had a billion windows open, usually flowing over into the second level of my start menu (how my 486 handled it, I’ll never know).

Things I love about Mozilla:

    1. Tabbed browsing. ‘Nuff said.
    2. Tabbed bookmarks: I can open a bunch of tabs, and bookmark them all together. This is handy first off for essentially saving your session if you need to shutdown and reset, but also for streamlining daily browsing. Every day, I read Dilbert, check the weather, check the space weather, check the news, some other comics, etc. Rather than going through my bookmarks one at a time, I simply click on the tabbed bookmark and it opens all of them at once in separate tabs.
    3. Not having to always second guess what I’m opening. True, you have to have some modicum of common sense when surfing, since no platform is invulnerable, but it’s nice not having the software compeletly riddled with security holes, and moreover, not having it so intimately tied into the operating system.
    4. A decent email client. It does everything I want it to, and again, I don’t have to worry quite so much about what viruses I might get sent, since it’s not outlook.
    5. Password/form saves that are protected by a master password.

Oddly enough, despite being such a big fan of the full Mozilla suite, I’ve never quite made the shift to Firefox. The minor differences in Firefox never really appealed to me. For example, since it’s more of a browser for the masses, the configuration options are more limited (at least the ones through the menu: you can still tweak everything by going into the prefs.js file). One thing that really irks me is that when I bookmark a group of tabs, I have to do one more step to get them all to open up (previously it was simply bookmarks->morning_reading now it’s bookmarks->morning_reading->open in tabs). It does have some things not present in the old suite, such as live bookmarks (which don’t work for my own site due to the way I tried to ensure I could survive a change in IP — the live bookmark requires some absolute URLs where I have relative ones). They’re kind of neat: you access a site’s RSS feed to see what’s new so you can tell if it’s been updated before you even open the link.

It’s also a bit leaner, so it loads faster. But other than that, I’m not hugely impressed with Firefox vs. the full Mozilla suite. Sadly, they’re no longer maintaining the full suite (at least not to the same degree, from what I understand the SeaMonkey project, aside from a horrible new name, doesn’t have the same resources as before).

For email, I’m using Thunderbird. I find it’s actually an improvment over the mail package of the full suite, largely in the ability to search messages (not just by sender or subject or within current message, but you can do full-text searches of all your messages when looking for that one archived email). However, I miss having them integrated. True, it makes those rare browser crashes a little more graceful, but I miss being able to right-click on a link in my email and choosing whether to open it in the current window, a new one, or bookmark it. Ah, well, I suppose I’ll learn to live with it.

Both of these packages are highly expandable with add-ons, which is handy. One that is hilarious and completely useless is Bork Bork Bork! an extension to view webpages as though read by the Swedish Chef. One that I’m fond of is the calendar extension… for the old Mozilla suite. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work with the current Firefox or Thunderbird, and has somehow perversely spun off into its own stand-alone program Sunbird. One sad downside of this spin-off is that since it no longer has a bundled email client, the email reminders no longer work. These were great for using my calendar at home to email me reminders while I was at work. The only problem was when I forgot to put my meetings in the calendar in the first place.

Correction: If you search for the calendar on its own, rather than from the Thunderbird extensions, you’ll find the days-old update that does work with the current version of Thunderbird. Sadly, it didn’t automagically import the events from my old calendar install. Everything else seems to work just fine, though. Another disappointment is that in the old Mozilla Suite, the calendar had a start menu icon of a calendar, now it shares the same icon as Thunderbird.

So I don’t really know what I’m going to do now. Tonight I installed Firefox & Thunderbird, and this is the first blog post I’m writing on it. These are all minor problems, and I still prefer this over IE/OE, but I have a feeling I might slip back towards SeaMonkey. Of course, I can see how for many people, the stand-alone Firefox is better. After all, many people only have webmail accounts now, and so have no need for a POP/IMAP client like Thunderbird. Plus, separate programs (even though they are incestually related in their rich content message rendering) is the way Micro$oft does things, so why shouldn’t Mozilla follow that lead?

Some quick tips for new Firefox/Mozilla users:

  • F11 will get rid of the title bar and status bar, making your viewable page area as large as possible. F11 again to bring it all back.
  • CTRL-T opens a new tab; CTRL-N for a new window.
  • CTRL-click a link to open it in a new tab.
  • The bookmarks toolbar is a handy way to keep those most essential dozen or so bookmarks readily available. If you don’t really need it though, then you might as well uncheck it from the “view” menu and give yourself another line of viewable page space.
  • You can use Thunderbird to subscribe to blogs and get them automagically downloaded to your computer just like an email message. It’s not as pretty, but it can be faster. Note that this does work for my site, unlike the live bookmarks. I’m in the process of writing a quick tutorial on it, watch the page pane on the right for more.

One Response to “Firefox & Thunderbird”

  1. netbug Says:

    I use IE and Outlook.

    I shouldn’t.

    But I do.

    I need a new PC. I think I mentioned this.