I have tried Firefox many times in its life-cycle but niggling incompatibilities with some of the utilities I was using always made me give up and head back to Internet Explorer. In fact the last time I tried to give Firefox a go was just after upgrading the Fujitsu P1610 to Vista and the main web page area was unusable. It was jittery, jumping up and down a few pixels at a time, just enough to drive me batty. So I dropped the attempt to give Firefox a real try then and there.
My recent post about my mobile kit mentioned that I was using IE7 as my browser and the venerable ink blogger Sumocat left a comment telling me that I simply MUST try Firefox. Going beyond that he mentioned a few extensions for Firefox that make the browsing experience in the browser absolutely wonderful on a Tablet PC. That got me going so I decided to give it a try, and am I glad I did.
I researched the “jittery” problem and found it to be a known issue on Firefox. It seems I had the Bookmark toolbar turned on with nothing in it. Once I put a bookmark on the toolbar there was no more jitter, so I could give Firefox a serious try. I immediately grabbed the extensions that Sumocat mentioned, chief among them the Grab and Drag add-on. This turns the cursor into a hand so you can drag the web page up or down with the pen. What a great function this is on the P1610! It completely transforms the browsing experience into a really nice one. I do have a minor problem with it, the hand icon it installs on the toolbar so you can toggle the feature on and off is not sticky. When I restart Firefox it disappears and I have to manually re-enable it.
I also installed the GeckoTIP add-on, that enables the ability to ink in Firefox web pages but found it didn’t work for me. No big deal though as the Vista TIP is always on the left side of the screen for tapping and inking.
When I started using Firefox as my main browser I quickly ran into a snag that almost made me give up. I access an Exchange Server remotely through Outlook Web Access (OWA) and it is geared for IE. The experience using it in Firefox left a lot to be desired but once again, there’s an extension for that. IE Tab lets you open any web page that needs IE in a separate tab that is rendered in IE7. Voila! I can now use OWA with impunity and it displays perfectly in its own IE tab. I’m a happy camper now.
One of the greatest experiences using Firefox, in addition to how darn fast it renders pages, is checking my many RSS feeds in Google Reader. I like to check them in portrait slate mode and the Grab and Drag shines in this application. If I time the dragging of the page just right I can get the feed page to slowly auto-scroll and skim the headlines to see if something of interest is worth a closer look. Tapping on the item stops the scroll and presents it for my viewing pleasure. I can check hundreds of feed items in a fraction of the time it takes me in IE7.
I am very pleased with Firefox (can you tell) and have been using it exclusively for a few days and I can tell you I won’t be going back to IE7 any time soon. Thanks, Sumocat!