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 Like a modern day Diogenes.

Your Internet Browser Getting You Down?

Tired of always fighting pop-up? Banner ads taking up valuable screen real estate? This free browser may just be the cure for your browsing blues.

Mozilla is the open source browser engine behind Netscape 7.0 & many other projects. Why is open source important? With the source, programmers can find bugs, patches can be made available quickly, and programming internals aren't hidden from inventive programmers who wish to make useful extensions & games.

I personally use a heavily modified version of “Firebird”. This Mozilla derivative loads much faster & seems more user friendly than the standard Mozilla branch.

First Look

The first time you load Mozilla Firebird, it doesn't look all that much different than any other browser you use. It's got the a menu, standard buttons (Back, Forward, Reload, Stop & Home), a location bar and a quicklinks toolbar. What's new here? They've added a quick "search the internet" box to the window.

Something you may have missed thought (but maybe not), is how fast Mozilla Firebird started up. My machine is comparitively light weight (600mhz Pentuim, 128mb Ram). With only Slashdot as the homepage, I've clocked a few load times:

Internet Explorer8.13
Mozilla Firebird4.74
Mozilla Firebird*11.08

* - Second mesurement was done with the following “start group”: My Yahoo, Slashdot, My eBay & a local newspaper.

If you click on the bookmarks menu, you'll also notice that all of your Internet Explorer (IE) favorites have been imported. Much like in IE, you can rearrange your bookmarks to your liking just by clicking & moving them. For more control, click manage bookmarks.

Tabbed Browsing

My absolute favorite feature is tabbed browsing. With tabbed browsing you can load many pages in the same window instead of having to open several windows. That row of tabs that look kind of like a file folder appear at the top of your window just above the web page. To create a new tab at any time simply press "Ctrl + T". The cursor will be in the location bar, you can type your new location or select a bookmark.

Down With the Popups!

By default, Mozilla Firebird doesn't allow popups! Never again will you be annoyed by unrequested popups. To enable popups again, go to the Tools Menu > Options. The options window will open, click on "Web Features". On the right, uncheck "Block Popup Windows". Here you can also add a list of sites for which you want to allow popups. Just click the "Add Site" button & paste the site's address in the text box.

Remove Banner Ads

You have several options for elimating banner ads. If you right click on an image, select "block images from this server".

Adblock allows you to setup filters to block ads with addresses that match a certain criteria. See their documentation about how to use it

If you know what you're doing, you can edit the configuration files. This is not suggested for new users.

Keyboard Navigation

Mozilla Firebird implements many forms of keyboard navigation. Using keyboard navigation you can speed up your browsing because you don't have to touch the mouse. To go forward or backward use the "alt + left or right arrow". To go to the top or bottom of a page, use home or end. To quickly place the cursor on the location box, use "ctrl + L". For the search box, use "ctrl + K". To open your home page, use "alt + home". Press "space" to go to the next screen, or "shift + space" to go to the previous screen.

Advanced keyboard navigation also known as “find ahead type” is easy to use. To find matching link text, simple start typing. To find in all text, type "/" before you start typing.


Mozilla Firebird has a number of themes available. Though the changes are mostly superficial, some themes change the size of the toolbar icons, so get more viewable area.

My Mozilla Firebird

As I said at the begining of the article, I have customized Mozilla Firebird for my tastes. Here's what my Mozilla Firebird looks like:

To add/move/remove buttons, click on the location toolbar and select "Customize". A window will open. Simply drag items to or from the toolbar/window. You can move buttons to either toolbar or the menubar.

Adding search engines to your Mozilla installition is easier than you could ever believe. The Mycroft project makes installing search engines to Mozilla as easy as a click of the mouse. Many engines are supported, go to the download page and click "Show Entire List", then click the name of the options you would like to install. Some of my favorites are Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, IMDB.com, & Google Groups.

Download Statusbar is a nice little extension that allows you to see you're downloads going on in the statusbar of your window. After installing, don't forget to restart your browser.

The Stumble Upon toolbar works along with the website to provide you with random web sites in which you may be interested. Read all about them at their web site.

GoTo adds a menu item to your webpage right click context menu that allows you to dig throught the site's address. For example, if you right click on this page, you will get:


Mouse Rocker Navigation adds support for basic mouse gestures. Hold the right mouse button and click left to navigate back one page, hold left and click right to navigate forward.

By editing the configuration files you can make Mozilla Firebird do lots more. Take care and follow all instructions carefully.

Mozilla Firebird Problems

Are there still problems with Mozilla Firebird? What program do you know that doesn't have problems? No problem I've ever had Mozilla Firebird has made me want to stop using it. The number one Mozilla Firebird problem is that a lot of webmasters use visual tools like Front Page to create their webpage, but never do any testing with any other browsers or checking to see if the code is standards compliant. The second & more glaring problem comes from webmasters intentionally excluding browsers other than Internet Explorer, but I haven't seen this problem in quite sometime.

IE Killer?

Is Mozilla Firebird an IE killer? I say yes! With the sheer number of extensions, the ability to completely block popup ads, remove banner ads from pages, & tabbed browsing, I couldn't imagine going back to IE ever again.

Where Do I Get It?

There are many “ports” of Mozilla. If you're using Windows, Linux, MacOS X and Solaris, you can use Firebird which is what I use. You can use the “less refined” Mozilla. If you're using Mac OS X, you can use Chimera or Fizzilla. For other operating systems, check out the Mozilla ports page.

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Copyright © 1998-2006 Phillip Riley

Last Updated Sat Aug 11, 2007