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Computer Central

Firefox a realistic alternative to Explorer
Scripps Howard News Service


April 26, 2005

I am really liking the new Firefox browser.

If you aren't familiar with this new toy, millions of users have already downloaded it and are on their way to dumping Internet Explorer, security holes and all. What I am not sure people know is you can download Firefox and keep Internet Explorer around, so you really have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

How? Head to the Mozilla Foundation at and download the current version of Firefox. It's about a four megabyte download. After installation it will offer to import your Internet Explorer bookmarks and all. It leaves the old ones intact.

There are a few changes you need to know about.

First, some sites are coded to work with Internet Explorer, so you may need to keep it around for a while. Plus, there's no good way to uninstall the Microsoft program, so you might as well.

After install, select "Yes" to import your settings. It will take your stored passwords, cookies and more and zap them over to Firefox. If you forget to do it initially, you can do it later in Firefox by hitting "File" then "Import."

Keep in mind that are there are some terminology differences between Internet Explorer and Firefox. In Explorer, there are Favorites; in Firefox there are Bookmarks. The Address Bar is called the Location Bar in Firefox. The Temporary Internet Files folder is called "Cache" in Firefox. Finally, the Refresh button is labeled Reload in Firefox.

So what difference does it make what browser you use? Firefox is simply more secure than Internet Explorer when it comes to spyware, pop-ups, viruses and other maladies. Firefox is also a little faster than Explorer, but only by a second or two.

What does matter is it does not let in infected BHOs (Browser Helper Objects) and other junk that breeds pop-ups. One PC in our shop last week had hundreds of infected BHOs, which are very hard to get rid of.

What else is nice about Firefox? You can install all kinds of extensions and add-ons, from a monitor of Abe Vigoda's current health status to a version of Pong, the original video game of my youth. These install easily and dozens are created every week.

That's because Firefox is a project of the open-source community, which means the source code is readily available to anyone who wants to help. (This is the Internet version of a barn raising - everyone brings a little code to the table and soon you have a pretty good product.)

This also means millions of people have a little skin in the game and any security issues that do pop up will be taken care of with haste not experienced from the Microsoft folks.


WEEKLY WEB WONDER: What could happen if everyone did a little to help the world? Don't you have it in you to do a little? That's the idea behind the One Campaign. They don't want your money; they want you. See what you can do at


James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim(at)

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