Firefox updatedFirefox 2 is here and so was Internet Explorer 7. Need I say who is going to emerge the winner in this battle of the browsers?

Microsoft implicitly accepts that the previous versions of IE were neither easy nor secure. And IE 7 plays copycat by including the popular features in the existing Firefox like tabbed browsing and inbuilt search. Well, IE 7’s feed reading abilities look to be better. But this post isn’t about Firefox vs IE. Though the stranglehold of the latter remains and it is fast loosening. This post is to further loosen the hold. No, I’m not anti-IE, just pro-Fox (unless Gates, Ballmer and Ozzie think the Bush way – “You’re either with us or against us”). I still use Windows, but might one fine night move over to Ubuntu.

But it is hard to steer away from the comparisons. Only highlighting Firefox’s benefits wouldn’t do any good unless they are put side-by-side with IE. I wouldn’t go into the details but only a few basic pointers.

* Firefox 2 weighs only 5.6MB (for the Windows version and 9.2MB for the Linux one), while IE 7 weighs an obese 14.8MB.
* Firefox is also available in Gujarati, Punjabi and 40 other languages (Belarusian is yet to come); IE is available in only five languages.
* Firefox’s minimum requirements are Windows 98 and 64 MB of RAM. IE needs Windows XP and a minimum of 87 MB of RAM.

Now onwards I’ll speak strictly Firefox. Visually speaking there is not much of an overhaul in Firefox 2. The refresh and the home button icons have changed. So has the go button on the address bar. The search bar has an additional search button (for those who hate to hit enter) and a few more changes here and there.

The major improvement seems to be in enhanced tabbed browsing. Previously there was only one close tab button at the far right, which often confusingly closed unintended tabs. Now each tab has its own and exclusive close tab button. To the far right (where the close tab button existed) there’s now a tab strip that lets the user scroll through open tabs.

What impressed me the most (and also disturbed a little) is the session restore feature.

The Session Restore feature restores windows, tabs, text typed in forms, and in-progress downloads from the last user session. It will be activated automatically when installing an application update or extension, and users will be asked if they want to resume their previous session after a system crash.

It lets you pick up where you left before things went wrong. A great feature for people like me who have unstable OS and PCs at their workplaces (or homes). It will also resume interrupted in-progress downloads. But the worry comes in multi-user machines. If there is an improper closure of active windows/tabs and someone else and not you accesses the system next (unless you’re using different password protected user logins as in 2000 or XP), he/she can access whatever you were doing last, including your email which you hadn’t signed off).

Otherwise Firefox 2 comes security packed with phishing and spyware protection. And yes, the old favourite, for all you surreptitious web-browsers, clear private data (Ctrl+Shift+Del) tool is fully functional. You don’t have to rub the shit on the doormat; Firefox will do that for you.

Another good news is for us poor spellers. Firefox 2 has built-in spell checking. A red underline to tell you where you mixed up the ‘i’ and the ‘e’ and a right click to show you the possible correct options. In case you don’t know what you are looking for, the search bar would provide you with suggestions.

You can also easily customise your browser with add-ons which can change the look, feel and functionality to satisfy your tastes. You can incorporate extensions, themes, search engines and plugins. Moreover, new windows would open by default in new tabs, instead of adding to the clutter of additional windows (this was a suggestion that I originally had in mind).

If that is not enough you have web feeds (aka RSS), live bookmarks, and live titles for sites using microsummaries (another word to my tech lexicon).

If this isn’t enough for you. Stick to whatever you’re using and watch this space for something new. Others can go here to download and install the software I’m talking about.

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