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Firefox 2.0 Officially Released!

Firefox 2.0 Officially Released!

The world's most powerful web access system has now been released in a new version: 2.0.

A few of the new features in Firefox 2.0 are:

  • In any text box you now have a SPELL CHECKER! So, if you are typing a comment in a form... you have little red underlines for misspelled words (goodness, I'm seeing them all over this e-mail. I just have to right click and fix it).
  • It's prettier for Mac and Vista people.
  • When you type in the search bar it starts to give you suggestions as to what you may be looking for.
  • Phishing protection -- Phishing is when you go to a website that says "Welcome to eBay! Give us your credit card number to continue service!". Firefox (and well most web browsers now these days) helps protect against that.
  • It handles even MORE powerful websites and intranets (Internet Explorer is finally caught up to 2003).
  • You ever want to restart your computer or just for (some odd reason and hopefully very rare reason) shut your down your computer and want to remember what you were doing? Well, now you can close Firefox and when you reopen it you have the option of continuing right when you left off (thank you Firefox 2.0 spell checker-- I could NOT spell continuing!). So, if you have 9 or so tabs open then you can have them all back when you restart your Firefox 2.0. Opera people have had this for a long time and many Firefox users had an extension that gave them this ability, but now it's finally native.

For those of you who are in a corporate environment (which is just about everyone in my target audience I suppose), to deploy Firefox in your corporate environment you won't want to install Mozilla Firefox directly, but rather, you will probably want to use FrontMotion Firefox. You can get this from FrontMotion's website. As of the time of this writing they haven't released the new 2.0 MSI (how could they... it was JUST officially released!), but in a few days they should have it posted. This Firefox is an MSI version that allows deployment via Active Directory ("AD"), which if very cool and REALLY needs to be native to Firefox anyhow. FrontMotion also provided administrative templates for your Firefox AD deployment. Their mozilla.adm template is a very powerful template allow customization of many aspects of the Firefox internal registry.

As a reminder, you can extend Firefox in any which way you want. I don't mean by using "add ons" in general, but I mean extensions. Don't like something? Fix it... Here are some extensions that I have installed everywhere.

  • All-in-One Sidebar
  • IETab
  • Download Statusbar

FrontMotion will also customize your corporate Firefox to have to extensions that you want in your MSI. What if you want to install Firefox extensions AFTER the MSI install? Well, the way to do that is simple and it does not involve a sissy GUI. Most people think that when you install a Firefox extension it's installed in the entire system. That's not true. Firefox extensions are per profile, not per operating system login nor per system. If you want to install an extension on a system use the following command.

firefox.exe --install-global-extension MyExtensionName.xpi

That will install the Firefox extension globally on the machine. This command is something you can definately package in an MSI yourself and if you know anything about MSI and AD deployment, then you know that you can set prerequisites, which will allow you to deploy the extensions after Firefox 2.0 is installed. Now, as with all properly designed software, Firefox extensions are versioned. Extension are versioned not only to have their own version, but they are versioned to work with specificially tested versions of Firefox (thats actually a Firefox extension development best practice). So, version your Firefox extension MSI packages so that you can tell AD to deploy the new versions as needed.

Given my audience, I think it would be a good idea to make a few statements about about the architecture of Firefox. This week I was at the HDC06 convention and one of the keynote speakers said something to the effect of "COM was never really implemented anywhere else other than in Microsoft operating systems" (that's a super paraphrase). Obviously that's not true... but one place it is definately not true is with Firefox. Internally Firefox has a technology called XPCOM (Cross Platform COM) that looks and feels much like Microsoft's implementation of COM (though a lot cleaner). You have interfaces and you query interfaces... blah blah blah. If you know COM, you know know what I mean.

Firefox also has it's own internal registry kinda like the Windows registry, except it's actually intuitive and it's not yet bloated to the point of complete uselessness. To access the Firefox registry, simply put "about:config" (with out the quotes) in the address bar. This allows you to customize just about anything about Firefox. As with anything, some of the really awesome stuff isn't directly seen in there (i.e. there aren't entries or "keys" for them by default), but the many Mozilla-specific websites have great documentation on how to customize and tweak your web system to your own likings. There's not really any limit to what you can do with the Firefox registry, so any documentation you see will by in some sense be incomplete, though MozillaZine's documenation is great for much of the Firefox registry defaults. You can tweak anything form the lowest geekiest component to something web developer-ish like toggling strict JavaScript mode on (... remember the Option Strict in VB? Same type of thing...) So, you may wanna dive into that depending on your needs (btw, if you see bold entries... that means they have been changed from their defaults or they have been added -- by an extension, by you, or by something else; they just aren't at their default state.) With regard to AD deployment, this Firefox registry type of stuff is what the mozilla.adm AD template will allow you to control in your AD group policy.

Lastly, for those of you have haven't seen my Firefox Web Developer videos, you can view them at the below links. Even though the videos were created using Firefox 1.0, everything in them is still true in Firefox 2.0. In the future I may released more videos, but for now what's posted is all I have prepared. I had one last video in the series , but "something" happened and it got cut in half.

So, if you haven't done so already GetFirefox.com today and help spread the goodness around the world and into your corporation

Links in this Entry

My Firefox Web Developer Video Series Link