Mozilla – Firefox 1.5 review

the increasingly popular free Web browser gets an upgrade
Photo of Mozilla – Firefox 1.5
£free

If you are a keen Web user and have not heard of Firefox by now then surely you must be living in some sort of vacuum.

Firefox is not the only free Web browser available, but it has generated a huge amount of momentum for itself. Nor is it completely flawless; there have been instances of security issues and you should always ensure you keep an eye out for updates. But those points noted, we still find Firefox is our Web browser of choice, and with over 100 million downloads under its belt we can’t be the only ones.

Firefox has just been updated, and the addition of some extremely useful new features means those who’ve not tried it before should certainly consider taking a look, and existing users should find the upgrade useful.

Tabbed browsing is probably the feature of Firefox you will most immediately appreciate. Once you are able to open several browser windows at once during a session, you’ll never want to go back. Firefox 1.5 adds the wonderful feature of being able to re-order browser windows by dragging their tabs. This is a lot more useful than you might at first think. With twenty or more windows open, being able to put them into logical groupings is really useful.

This is a feature you’ll probably be using within minutes of installation, but there is more you’ll discover as you gain confidence and experience.

For example, there’s a search box on the upper right edge of the browser window which you can populate with a whole range of different search engines by downloading them (there’s a link in the box to the ‘add engines’ Web page). A few are built in already. Just choose the one you want, then highlight a section of text within a Web page and drag it into the box, and the search runs. You can take the old fashioned route and type a search term too, of course.

If you are keen on RSS then the built-in reader will also be useful. It is easy to add feeds; just click the icon that indicates a feed is available in the address bar. The feed is added to the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder by default, and is then displayed on the toolbar where it waits to be clicked on for a quick read.

It’s not up to the standards of dedicated RSS software, and you may need to ask your RSS provider to add a little HTML to their code to get it to work, but it is really easy to use. Firefox doesn’t even bother with the RSS terminology, instead preferring to call feeds Live Bookmarks.

Security is important, and it is great that you can get Firefox to clear browsing history, forms entries, saved passwords, cookies and more, either on demand or when the browser is closed. We’d like to be able to have automatic clearing when individual tabs are closed rather than having to wait till the end of a browsing session, but it is nonetheless useful.

With improvements under the hood to things like pop-up blocking and operational speed the browser generally functions a bit better than before, too. This is particularly noticeable when using the Back button to retrace browsing steps.

Company: Mozilla


Verdict
Firefox was a good browser before this upgrade, but with version 1.5 it has become better still. Some of its benefits are immediately visible, others will become apparent over time, and we can't help admitting that we rather like it.