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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser Pick of the Week
Firefox imageThe macosxhints Rating:
8 of 10
[Score: 8 out of 10]
Browsers, browsers, everywhere ... even with Safari dominating the Mac landscape, there are still lots of alternatives out there. Mozilla has long been one of my favorites (it has a spot in the hall of fame), but I'd stopped using it as my primary browser due to its strange UI on the Mac, its slow initial loading speed, and a few other such quirks. Then along comes Firefox...

Firefox is the second release (the first was called Firebird) of Mozilla's next generation dedicated browser. Whereas Mozilla (the product) was a browser, news reader, mail client, and HTML composer all rolled into one program, Firefox is just a lean, mean, browsing machine. The first time I loaded it, it took quite a while to launch, and I thought "Oh no, shades of Mozilla..." However, all subsequent loads have been quite speedy -- while it's not quite as quick to load as Safari, it's only about a half-second behind on my machine. Once loaded, you'll find all the usual "leading edge browser" features, such as tabs, tab groups, a good bookmark manager (including bookmarks in the sidebar, which I like), decent image blocking features, "type to select" link activation, and support for the most popular browser browser plug-ins (including the indispensible PDF Browser Plugin).

To test Firefox, I put it to use on my daily macosxhints' updates. I post the stories each day by working on a local copy of Geeklog and working through the submissions queue. I'll command-click 10 to 12 stories at a time, opening each on a background tab. Using Safari, this maxes both CPUs in my box for three or four seconds while it loads all the tabs, and the fans in the G5 will spool up a notch from their normal idle levels. With Firefox, the CPUs max for under a second, and I never hear the fans spool up -- this is an amazing difference in CPU utilization (previously, I had thought Geeklog/MySQL were responsible for the CPU spikes, but it seems it was all browser-driven).

One of the nice features of Firefox is its support for third-party themes. There's an extensive collection of themes available that let you customize the look of the browser. One minor issue I've found is that most of the third party themes seem to have scrollbar issues on OS X; the current exception to that rule (and my current theme of choice) is Abstract Mac. Abstract Mac has small icons (which I prefer), and since it's based on the OS X standard Firefox theme, the scrollbars work well. Themes can be downloaded and installed directly within the browser, though you'll have to re-launch it to activate a newly downloaded theme.

Just as Firefox supports third-party themes, Firefox also supports third-party extensions (153 of them as of today) that can greatly extend the feature set of the browser. As with themes, you install extensions directly within Firefox, and then manage them through the Extensions panel of the preferences dialog box. With 153 to pick from, you can probably find one to do whatever it is you think that Firefox should be doing :). Personally, I use Adblock (a powerful ad blocker), Flash Click to View (turns any Flash animation into a button that you click if you want to see it), and Download Statusbar (puts your downloads in a tabbed bar at the bottom of the browser window). Another powerful extension (though it can slow down the browser if you enable all its features) is Tabbrowser Extensions, which takes tabbed browsing to another level entirely -- for instance, you can rearrange your tabs by clicking and dragging.

NOTE: Some of the above URLs are directly pointing at the author's web pages; the easiest way to install any of these extensions is through the Extensions section of Firefox's preferences.

While there are still some inconsistent UI bits in Firefox, and the third-party themes need some help to work well with OS X, this is an amazingly powerful and fast browser. I can't say it's completely replaced Safari yet as my default, but it's only at version 0.8; by the time it hits 1.0, I suspect it may have assumed that role on my machines.
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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser | 43 comments | Create New Account
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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: tychay on Feb 24, '04 12:37:28PM
Rob,

I think this is their "third iteration" by your count: the first was Phoenix which was renamed Firebird which was renamed Firefox. There were early ports of Phoenix to Mac OS X though most people were using Chimera (now Camino) back then.

As a web developer some other plugins to menion are the Live HTTP headers and Checky. Also how could you go without mentioning the Mac OS X hints search plugin!

---
MyCasa Network, Inc
Spinodal Systems, LLC

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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: bentucker on Feb 24, '04 01:58:53PM

Actually, if you're counting by name change, this is the fourth:

1. m/b
2. phoenix
3. firebird
4. firefox



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Firefox, Tabbrowser Extension
Authored by: jonwiley on Feb 24, '04 12:46:27PM

I'm having trouble with Firefox and the latest Tabbrowser Extension on my Powerbook (Panther).

The tabs show the site icon but not the title and are squished as small as can be.

Deleting and re-installing does nothing. Switching on the "use another appearance for Mac OS X" preference doesn't fix it.


May I also recommend, for web developers, the appropriately named Web Developer extension.



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Web Developer Extension
Authored by: jonwiley on Feb 24, '04 12:48:46PM

Hmmm... messed up the link. Let's try again:

Web Developer Extension



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Firefox, Tabbrowser Extension
Authored by: MordEth on Feb 24, '04 08:58:31PM

you're going to need to use a theme other than the Pinstripe theme which Firefox uses as the OS X default...for some reason its tabs are hideously broken with TBE. personally, i recommend Aaron Spuler's Smoke theme...i think that it goes very nicely with OS X. you can find it at mozthemes.tk. he even has a specific OS X version of it, that keeps Aqua's scrollbar. you could also check out the offerings on texturizer.net, which archives a great collection of Firefox themes, extensions, and help. just make sure that the theme says that it's for Firefox 0.8, and not an older version of Firebird.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: fds on Feb 24, '04 12:48:06PM

If only I could open links in a new tab clicking the middle mouse button. :(

Like I could in Safari, or in Firefox on Windows, for that matter. No, I'm not willing to reprogram my middle button to simulate a keypress instead just for Firefox on Mac OS X.



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Agreed!
Authored by: stewby on Feb 24, '04 03:27:29PM

That drove me insane after about a minute of giving Firefox a try as a Camino replacement, and I had to give up that idea. I was hoping I was just missing something, but I couldn't find anything that explained why it doesn't work.

Firefox is definitely my browser of choice on Windows, but the lack of middle-clicking makes it unusable for me as a Mac browser.



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Works for me?
Authored by: broderik on Feb 25, '04 08:57:37AM

I don't know anything special that I did.... but my middle click (aka scroll wheel) does exactly that with Firefox... (open links in a new tab)



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: jsebrech on Feb 25, '04 12:17:41PM

Type about:config in the url bar and see if browser.tabs.opentabfor.middleclick is set to true. Change it of not (and possibly restart the browser, though I'm not sure about that).



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: rajulkabir on Aug 30, '04 04:09:11AM

In my Firefox (0.9), browser.tabs.opentabfor.middleclick was already set to true and the middle button doesn't work (does work in Safari). So I'm not sure that there's anything else I can do, but like the other poster, this is a show-stopper for me. 50% of the time I click a link I want it in a new tab, and doing the little contextual menu thing is way too slow, especially when I'm opening 8 or 10 at a time (news articles off news.google.com or something).

Guess I'm staying with Safari...



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: Wuffty on Dec 03, '04 07:33:30AM

Hmm, what about when this entry doesn't exists ??

I could not find it in my preferences (about:config). Maybe it is possible to simply add it?

Wuffty



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: argh128 on Feb 24, '04 01:03:10PM

I like Firefox (although I think the name should have stayed at Phoenix).. however their are a few things I really don't like.

1) Doesn't support Services very well, or automatic spell checking. You can't even use it on a case by case basis like in the original safari.

2) The latest version does not have find implemented correctly. Setting wrap in the find dialog doesn't work for me.

I haven't had a chance to narrow that second bug down.. (ie trying it on a different machine)

However the first item is serious enough for me to not use it as my primary browser. (that and I like the Quartz widgets used by Safari vs the generic ones in Firefox)

---

A completely SANE Canadian.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: atverd on Feb 24, '04 01:05:30PM

I like Mozilla and Firefox is not bad, but I'll consider it as "backup when safari crash" browser till they learn how to use Mac OS X keychain for passwords. Nothing can force me to retype all my passwords on all sites and keep them unencrypted in Firebox profiles! Old good Mozilla at least has master password - feature totally missed from all dedicated offsprings.
And I want that super feature Zoom from Safari too - hate oversized windows!



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: steli on Feb 25, '04 09:22:18AM

I also miss Keychain integration in Firefox, but the master password thing is still there (though not easy to find...):

- in Settings->Advanced->Certificates click "Manage Security Devices"
- Select "Software Security Device" and click "Change Password"

Now you have a master password for all your data. It will be required once each session before Firefox autocompletes a form.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: syko on Feb 24, '04 01:06:17PM

Go Camino!! :D



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Agreed. My first choice as well. [n/t]
Authored by: bentucker on Feb 24, '04 02:01:57PM

.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: CkB_Cowboy on Feb 24, '04 01:19:19PM

Since I've looked at both Safari and FireFox, and consider the two browsers very similar from a UI standpoint, I like to compare them..

FireFox is definitely an improvement over Firebird in terms of GUI, but isn't as streamlined as Safari.

And of course, it still uses the Gecko engine, so it's slow dealing with complex DHTML and JavaScript. Safari is also slow compared to IE on a Windows machine, but still seems to be the fastest thing available on the Mac.

In FireFox, you can't enter a URL in the address bar and Cmd-Return or Cmd-Shift-Return like in Safari. It's nice to be able to load a new page in the background. Of course, you can Cmd-Click or Cmd-Shift-Click links in pages like in Safari.

You don't get the Cmd-1...n "Bookmarks Bar" hotkeys in FireFox, I love that feature in Safari!

Also, in FireFox JavaScript, sizing a browser window to screen.availHeight still makes the Status Bar go off the screen. Safari seems to handle this well (and so does FireFox for Windows, actually).

I'll still use Safari!

(But I have Firebird, FireFox, Mozilla, Opera, IE, and Camino installed for testing purposes)

:-)

- Cowboy

---
My ill-matic homepage:
http://rj3.net/cowboy/



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: CkB_Cowboy on Feb 24, '04 01:21:22PM

I did forget to mention something that I love about FireFox... the plugins. There are some cool ones out there!

Also, wtf is up with the super-limited Safari context menu?

heh

- Cowboy

---
My ill-matic homepage:
http://rj3.net/cowboy/



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: NaD on Feb 24, '04 02:20:17PM

But what about its sister mail application, Thunderbird, IMHO this deserves to be a "Pick of the week" far more than Firefox.

The mac already has several impressive browsers but the mail client arena lacks competition.

Although it isn't enough to drag me away from my beloved Mutt, Thunderbird is the best graphical mail client out there.

Especially for IMAP support, there is no alternative.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: b-baggins on Feb 24, '04 02:28:11PM

I use Firefox as my primary browser for one reason and one reason only: Cookie management. I'm sick and tired of every website throwing a million cookies at me from advertising sites, hitbox stat sites, demographic and browsing tracking sites, etc. Firefox lets ME decide what cookies I want on my system. Until Safari gives me that, it remains unused on my machine.



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Glad I'm not the only one
Authored by: stewby on Feb 24, '04 03:33:52PM

Here's hoping that it's on their to-do list. I understand why they have given it low priority, given that 99% or more of people don't care about cookies (and the setting to accept only from the current domain probably takes care of at least half of the remaining 1%), but I hope they don't decide that it's too much work to benefit too few people.

In every other respect, Safari is great. Between some of the interface advantages and Camino's flakiness, I'd switch in an instant if the next version of Safari added cookie management.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: syko on Feb 24, '04 05:50:55PM

CAMINO lets you decide to accept or decline cookies for every site..



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: TimBonnici on Feb 24, '04 03:30:03PM

The two features which persuaded me to switch over from Safari to Firebird were; offline browsing mode (perfect for looking at pages that you saw earlier on in the day when you're on the train) and a choice of search engines for the toolbar. If it was a touch faster and had a scrapbook mode, a la IE 5, it would be unbeatable.



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Firefox: Mozilla (almost) successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: Frederico on Feb 24, '04 05:58:33PM

I tried FireFox out for the better part of a day; it rips and tears Safari a new hole when it comes to rendering complex pages with lots of linked images (e.g., we have access to numerous commercial photo galleries we browse daily for project art; try it yourself on pages like SpyMac galleries), and other than a few differences in keystroke and bookmark behaviors, there was nothing I wasn't willing to get used to in favor of the radical speed increases.

That is until I found it wasn't AppleScript-able. Game over. No, JavaScript-lets will not suffice.

Oh, well. Maybe someday. Or maybe Safari will just get as good as FireFox and I won't have to bother.



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Please report and vote for any bugs you find in Mozilla/Firefox
Authored by: hamarkus on Feb 24, '04 06:07:00PM

I hope that everybody who has found a bug in Mozilla or Firefox, reported it to their bug tracking system. Remember that you can also vote for bugs reported by others as well the ones you found.
It is really nice to see how your bugs are being tested and fixed over time.



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showstopper bug for me
Authored by: mivok on Feb 24, '04 06:23:44PM

I used Firebird/Firefox as my primary browser until 0.8, and whenever my powerbook (12" 1GHz, panther 10.3.2) wakes from sleep, the bookmarks toolbar disappears, and when typing a url into the location bar, firefox refuses to load the webpage (essentially making the browser useless until I quit and restart). This also happens simply after leaving the computer on for a while (display sleeps, computer isn't set to sleep for a long while).
For now, mozilla is working almost as well (except for no pinstripe theme yet for 1.6).
The bug has already been reported to bugzilla (#233846), and I have voted for it. As of yet it is still unconfirmed however.



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showstopper bug for me
Authored by: Handycam on Feb 25, '04 09:39:55AM

Thatt's odd.

I've been using Firefox on my Powerbook (15" TiBook 1GHz, 10.3.2) and frequently wake from sleep and go on using FF just fine.

I have FF open a lot of the time, and frequently need to close the TiBook. When I reopen it, I pck up where I left off with no problem.



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showstopper bug for me
Authored by: ranker on Feb 25, '04 11:54:27AM

Do you have any extensions installed? Some of the extensions conflict with 0.8, causing the bookmarks toolbar to disappear, though for me this only happens when starting up Firefox. Once the problem extensions were disabled, everything worked fine.



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showstopper bug for me
Authored by: Handycam on Feb 25, '04 03:24:33PM

Also, every new Firbird/Firefox build I have installed I first delete my "~/Library/Phoenix" folder. To ensure no incompatible extensions or code is carried over.

Of course, I back up my bookmarks first (I copy bookmarks.html).



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showstopper bug for me
Authored by: ranker on Feb 26, '04 10:05:54AM

That's safest, although a bit extreme. I just create a new profile.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: oscillik on Feb 24, '04 07:06:32PM

i can't believe that none of you have noticed that the widgets on the webpages (buttons, drop-down boxes etc etc) all have a Windows look to them, and they can't be changed!!

i would have had this as a major browser on my system, but because of that it's made me think twice.

i want my Mac apps to LOOK like Mac when they're running and displaying webpages thank you very much!

---
we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: jonahlee on Feb 24, '04 07:46:46PM

I have been using Firebird as my browser of choice, so I was delighted to try out Firefox, but wasn't all that happy with the results. First off it breaks TabBrowser extension which to me is not only essential to any Mozilla, but it won't even open if you have it installed. And yet the Firefox home page recommends using it.

And another complaint is the pinstripe theme. I am fine with it being there, but why get ride of Qute? I am much happier with Qute, which is the standard for Firefox on all other OS's, especially since it shows the .ico icons in the menu bar. This alone makes Qute much better in my opinion, as that is one of my complaints about Safari.

And one complaint about Firebird and Firefox is that linking to anchors to web pages doesn't seem to currently work, though it works in Mozilla just fine.

---
- Jonah Lee

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TBE / link anchors / Pinstripe theme
Authored by: MordEth on Feb 24, '04 09:04:53PM

first of all: use a new profile. this will more than likely fix all of your problems. the latest version of TBE has been fixed for Mac OS X, and although the default Firefox theme for OS X (Pinstripe) has broken tabs with TBE, there are a ton of other themes that you could be using.

also...anchors DO work in Fire(bird|fox). i use them on my page, i've tested them in multiple versions of the browser, and they work perfectly fine. are you sure that the links are correctly formatted?



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: jrcarroll on Feb 24, '04 07:47:35PM

I can't figure out why, in both Firefox and Mozilla, none of the icons appear on Apple's home page. Otherwise, the programs is fast and stable -- never crashes in my experience.



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Firefox: Image blocking
Authored by: pbw on Feb 24, '04 08:32:49PM

Not sure if this will help but there's a setting in Prefs-Web Features that Loads images from originating site only. If you have that checked, then it won't load most images on Apple's site. Also, certain images may not show up if you right-click "Block images from xxx server." If so, you can unblock those servers by changing the image Permissions on the Web Features pane.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: raider on Feb 24, '04 08:33:46PM
Adblock won't install for me in Firefox. The Firefox AND Adblock forum discussions have people with the same problems as me, but the developers say they "fixed" the problems. Nope, not on Windows or OSX - Adblock won't install in Firefox.

Camino, especially the latest nightlies, is a better browser than Firefox - by far. But I can't get an answer if .xpi stuff will work in Camino - like Adblock. It doesn't install regularly, but it *should* work.

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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: robg on Feb 26, '04 11:07:14AM

AdBlock is running right now on Firefox 0.8 on my PowerBook and my desktop, so it certainly installs and runs just fine ... have you tried trashing the Phoenix directory and starting over?

-rob.



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: andyinindy on Feb 25, '04 09:56:29AM

Firefox is pretty snazzy; looks great, renders pages quickly, nice tabbed browsing, google search function, etc. However, it's Java implemetation is only at 1.3.1!! This makes it a non-starter for me, as my client needs at least 1.4.1 for their time tracking website to function properly.

Otherwise, I like Firefox. It works seamlessly with the my client's Microsoft proxy server, while Explorer crashes and Safari won't allow a login (incorrect user agent).

Update your Java, Firefox! Incidentally, does the name FireFox remind anyone of that old Nintendo game "StarFox"? Maybe it's just me...



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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: jsebrech on Feb 25, '04 12:41:49PM

See this bug for why:

http://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=197813

Apparently apple has changed api's and is using an undocumented one right now. No third party browser can use the java 1.4.x plugin (well, they can, but they don't know how).



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Firefox name
Authored by: Moofisto on Feb 26, '04 06:49:05PM
Starfox? Really? Strangely, I thought of Firefox. Does this mean that a neurolink extension is coming soon?

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Firefox: Mozilla successfully rethinks its browser
Authored by: ranker on Feb 25, '04 11:46:35AM

I've had Firefox/Firebird as my main browser for a while now. It never crashes, it has functions galore via extensions and it is updated nightly. If you find a bug, you report it and it gets fixed (usually anyway).

My main problem with Safari is opening links in new tabs. Either I'm doing it wrong or you need both keyboard and mouse to do this (command + click). This is hopeless and annoying. With Firefox you right click (or click and hold) and choose from contextual menu - no struggling to find the command key. Or if you are surfing via the keyboard you can simply type in the first few characters of the link and it is immediately highlighted - then hit return or command + return for new tab. The ability to surf from the mouse or the keyboard without having to reach for the other makes Firefox the winner for me.



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best of camino and safari
Authored by: biw314 on Feb 25, '04 12:58:56PM

I used Camino for the bookmark keywords but missed the autofill of other browsers. Now I have both.



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Camino style Go menu
Authored by: dfe on Feb 25, '04 06:57:30PM

Wow, this release is impressive!

There is but one feature I need to convince me to switch to it from Camino (yes, I'm still using Camino). That is the Camino style Go menu.

For those that haven't used it, it's really very nice. The Go menu contains Home, Search Page, ---, Back, Forward, ---, and then a list of the sites you've been to for the currently active window (well, tab actually). The list contains the most recently visited page first with a checkmark next to the one you're viewing. If you move back the checkmark will be further down the list. It's very similar to the drop down menus on back and forward buttons you find in most other browsers except it's combined into one list.

This style of Go menu is quite convenient because I don't have to think if I want to go back or forward I get to see a list of everything. Furthermore, since it's at the top of the screen Fitts law applies and it becomes an infinitely high target.



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