Preference Personnelle
Friday, May 21
After having been an Opera partisan for many years (like, since 3.62), I've recently switched over to Mozilla Firefox (this was touched off in equal degree by the Mozilla install on my work computer and the glories of the AdBlock extension, which will serve me well if I ever wean myself from the increasingly-dated Junkbuster proxy that runs on my router).

It took a while, but, for me, the Gecko-based browsers are finally ready for prime time. Among the many benefits relative to Opera are more sophisticated ad-blocking, wider customization options (via extensions) and, maybe most notably, a GPL license (that's 'free as in speech' and 'free as in beer.'). Opera is wonderful, especially if you don't want to screw around with downloading a bunch of extensions (that's also why I still use Trillian instead of GAIM), and it's got some power-surfer tools that are as yet unmatched, but the only thing that disturbs me more than looking at ads is paying for software. There is a third option, of course, but while I'm happy to give Microsoft the ol' screw-job, I'm not so thrilled to be doing the same thing to Opera.

There might be other Opera fans who feel the same way. Some of them might have become Mozilla extension developers, which leads directly to Operaesque Firefox extensions like 'Reload every' (great for news sites and webcams) and 'Add bookmark here' (great for basically anyone who tries to organize their bookmarks). One can even mimic Opera's 'Single Document Mode' with 'Tabbrowser Extensions,' which I use, or 'Tabbrowser Preferences,' which is lighter. This single-window functionality nullifies one of my biggest Mozilla beefs--tabbed browsing isn't nearly as useful when half the links one clicks open new browser windows. Other people (which is to say, other Mozilla users) can have their separate windows full of related tabs--I'll just keep 'em all in one, thanks.

There's some weird synergy going on here, between the Opera-style Mozilla extensions on one hand and people trying to make Opera more like Firefox on the other (here's one effort). There's also a lot of partisanship and fanboyism from both sides. It's kind of a shame, if only because the Opera browser is such a good product, but I think this is a battle Opera is destined to lose. Their mobile and embedded browsers still get top ratings (and seem to be the best indication of where the company's efforts are focused these days), but the regular browser is losing ground fast, and I'd attribute most of that to the advantages of open-source. It's like BeOS and Linux, kind of.

Opera has always been a browser for power users and customizers, people who don't mind reading documentation and slogging through huge option lists. Unfortunately for Opera's business model, these folks are also pretty likely to have little patience for advertising--and, dare I say it, these same power users that... well, if they're not more likely to use cracked software, they're at least more likely to know how to find some. And while Mozilla's large set of Preferences and plugin-central architecture are daunting for Joe AOL (the dumbed-down, XP-esque Firefox prefs are a step in the right direction, at least when it comes to marketing to this crowd), the Opera heads in the house will likely be undaunted.

(A brief soliloquoy about IE: I wouldn't even consider it. I don't think anyone else should either. Microsoft has been dragging its feet on tabbed browsing for years, and anyone expecting Redmond to come out with ad-blocking, popup-blocking and easy privacy settings is living in fantasyland--they can't even properly secure the damned thing. Uninstalling IE entirely is, for most home users, more trouble than it's worth. I could say the same thing about actually using it for browsing.)

(A few sentences about email clients: Mozilla's Thunderbird, from what they tell me, is pretty nice. I haven't used it (I've never used Opera's mail client either. I like The Bat. But it's not free, in any sense of the word). And Outlook/Outlook Express--well, take the things I said about IE, and multiply 'em by about a kajillion.)

(A sentence about newsgroup readers: See above, except substitute Forte Agent for The Bat.)

(Some bookmark-related information to ease the migration process: Both Opera and Mozilla automatically import IE bookmarks upon installation. There's a program called Bookmark Priest (yeah, I don't like the name either) that can export between Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox, Opera and IE. It's not perfect, but it's the best I've found. There used to be a page that would take an Opera bookmarks file and produce a Netscape/Mozilla style html list, but it seems to have vanished.)

So, to summarize: If you use Windows, and you're using Opera, you should really give Mozilla (or, better yet, Firefox) a try. If you're using IE, what the hell's wrong with you? Get Firefox. Do it now. That's not a joke--I'm at least as serious as Bill Hicks telling people in advertising to kill themselves. If you're using OSX, try Camino--I've never used it, myself, but what do you have to lose? If you're using Linux, or something else, and you haven't tried Mozilla (or Opera for that matter), give it a shot.

And, if you're using Mozilla, you might enjoy trying out some of my favorite extensions (all available here or here):

AdBlock: Without it, Mozilla's ad-blocking is pretty good. With it, it's better, by far, than any other in-browser solution I'm aware of. Wildcard filters enable you to block, say, all those stupid Livejournal mood icons, or Google AdWords.
Mycroft: Search plugins. In Mozilla, these appear in the sidebar, which is okay, but in Firefox, they appear in the built-in search bar. I find myself searching with Gamerankings and All Music Guide nearly as often as I do Google, and now all three are just a drop-down list away. And there are hundreds more Mycroft search plugins where those came from.
Firesomething: Give your browser goofy randomly-created names.

Add Bookmark Here: A key component in any Operaization attempt, this allows filing bookmarks without opening cumbersome bookmark-management windows.
Mouse Gestures: Mouse gestures are one of those things, like tabbed browsing, that, once you get used to it, you won't be able to go back.
Tab Scroller: Move between tabs with scrollwheel-and-button combinations. Another mouse gesture, another Opera feature replicated.
Focus Last Selected Tab: Another good Opera idea, this does exactly what it sounds like--other extensions do the same thing, but none in so small and unobtrusive a footprint.
Tabbrowser Extensions: A key component of Operaization, this extension contains within it, among many other features, the secret of single-window mode. (Note: this extension doesn't seem to cooperate well with Multizilla--which is okay, as I think Multizilla's kind of broad-grained overkill anyway. Ditto All-in-One Gestures. Both, however, could be nice for the new user.) Tabbrowser Preferences claims to do the same thing, and in a smaller file size, but I have yet to try it.
CopyImage for Windows: Allows copying an image to the clipboard, rather than just an image URL. Very useful for graphics work, and fun for IMing.

BlogThis: It installs as a right-click context-menu option, which is for me more intuitive than a bookmark and less obtrusive than a button. Plus, I just love right-clicking.
Deepest Sender: A Livejournal client. The name's an anagram.
Download Sort: Default save folders for different file types. Put the images in the 'Images' folder, the mp3s in the 'Music' folder and the warez in the 'Warez' folder, all automagically.
Launchy: Another right-click context-menu kinda thing, Launchy lets you easily open files with the appropriate program. I like it for opening .mp3s in Winamp, and opening .torrents and similar with Shareaza, but those are just hints. Simple and powerful.
Nuke Anything: Like AdBlock for the short term. Is that looping animated .gif driving you nuts? Is that photo proving too distracting? Is poor design rendering a site unusable? Kiss it all goodbye.
Things They Left Out: Does Firefox's artificially-limited option set make you feel like you're wearing bondage snow pants? Here's a partial remedy.
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