I’ve looked at several web browsers during this five-part series that have features more interesting than Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Safari lets you use “pinch to zoom” and remove annoying ads from long articles, making them easier to read. Opera has a turbo feature that uses compression to make pages load faster, and Google’s Chrome uses encryption to keep your data safe during synchronization operations. And Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has the most users.
They’re all great browsers, but what sets Firefox — and its 64-bit cousin Waterfox — apart from the rest is that site administrators actually optimize their content and servers for Firefox, leaving the others to founder. So, while I like using those other browsers, since many websites and pages don’t work properly with them, I can’t call them one of the two best web browsers available.
I have no trepidation whatsoever in calling Firefox/Waterfox my favorite — and the best browser available.
Firefox Had Its Beginnings in Netscape’s Navigator
Many of you may not recognize or remember Netscape and its Navigator product. It was the first truly multi-platform browser product, being originally designed for Unix, and later ported to DOS, Windows, and the Mac. The basic framework upon which it was built was derived from the Mozilla project. If you’re old enough, like me, you’ll remember sending and receiving email using Navigator’s built-in mail client and seeing the word “Mozilla” in the headers. After a few years of silence, Mozilla evolved into the driving force behind Firefox and Waterfox.
Why Firefox Beats Other Web Browsers
The simple answer to why Firefox/Waterfox (FF/WF) is/are my favorite is that it’s not from Microsoft. The Redmond giant has a bad habit of rushing faulty software to market earlier than they should, and then not really caring that the software is faulty. That’s the main reason Firefox was developed. Back then, you couldn’t read a tech-oriented website without hearing about another Internet Explorer exploit or backdoor that some researcher (or hacker) discovered somewhere.
So, the Mozilla project developed Firefox, a browser that the public could use safely, without worrying about whether or not they were opening themselves up to digital attacks. As an added plus, it was also faster than Explorer (and still is), by as much as a factor of three. Back in the day of dial-up Internet connections, this was important. Almost as important as data integrity and security and not becoming a victim of identity theft because your browser let a bad guy sniff your connection. It was also the first of many web browsers to have a built-in pop-up blocker.
Accessibility Options in Firefox/Waterfox
Like every Windows application, FF/WF is equipped with features that make the browser easier to use. These include keyboard shortcuts, mouse tricks, and quite a few others. Keyboard shortcuts allow you to navigate around a web page without using a mouse. This is helpful for people that aren’t able to use a mouse. So, let’s take a look at some of them.
Cursor Key Navigation
This lets you do all of your navigation with the cursor keys (up, down, left, and right arrows). The F7 key turns this feature on and off. There is a dialog that asks if you’re sure that can be turned off by checking the “Don’t ask me again” radio box before clicking “OK.” You can also highlight and copy text using the cursor keys.
If you’re looking for a specific text string in a web page, you can enable Text Search and start typing the string. Here’s how:
- Open the Settings dialog by clicking on the boxed star at the upper left.
- Click on the box next to “Search for te x t when I start typing.”
- The forward slash key (/) tells Firefox/Waterfox to search all the text on the page.
- The apostrophe (`) tells FF/WF to search only hyperlinks.
- Hittingand G (or F3) tells the program to find the next instance of your search string.
- does just that, removes the last character typed and finds the resulting string.
- cancels the search.
- With the option selected, just start typing. Nothing else is required.
Warn When Page Redirects
Some web pages try to redirect you to another page. Sometimes this is OK, sometimes it’s not. On the General Settings page is an option to have Firefox warn you when a page is trying to redirect you elsewhere. You’ll be given the option to stop it or allow it.
Is the text on a page too small or too big? Use page zoom to make the text easier to read and fit the page better.
- and + increases text size
- and – decreases the text size
- and 0 (zero) resets the text to the default size for the page
Set Your Own Font for All Web Pages
Yeah. Some webmasters or web designers make use of fonts that are downright painful to look at. No worries, though, you can have your web browsers override the font used by the web page and use one of your choosing.
- Open the FF/WF Settings panel.
- Click the Content tab.
- Choose your desired font(s).
- Remove the check from the “Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above” selector box.
- Click OK.
The Mozilla support page has a plethora of other ways that you can customize your Firefox web browsers to make them look better and easier to use. But you’ll want to make sure you have the fastest Internet service available in your area — for the cheapest price. Check out our “Deals” page to see what providers are offering in your area.