Posts Tagged ‘firefox’

Find your best performing browser with Peacekeeper

All the browsers claim that they’re the fastest and offer the best Internet browsing experience. However, the performance of the browsers will vary depending upon your system. Therefore, you can test which browser gives the best performance on your system using Futuremark Peacekeeper. The site puts the browsers through a rigorous test which pushes them to the limits of their capability to do such things as: render websites fast, handle multimedia, and cope with data.

Results from the browser tests performed on my laptop

Results from the browser tests performed on my laptop

Peacekeeper is rather a joy to watch; whilst it’s taxing your browser by testing its capabilities, you receive a rather dashing show of colour, text, data, and at one point a beautiful video. These are designed to test your browser’s capability to handle the demands of the modern web. Leaving the browser alone whilst the test runs is your best bet, since using other websites whilst the test runs may slow down the test slightly and therefore cause an inaccurate result. Before you run the scan you have the choice of doing it with a system scan, or without. I chose without, since this saves installing a Java plugin. The scan runs fine and is just as accurate without the system scan, since it only serves to provide Futuremark with more data for their overall statistics.

You may be wondering what the point in all this is. Other than a rather pretty display of content, it’s actually very useful in terms of finding out which browser will perform fastest for you. Since the tests conducted by websites and magazines generally only test on their computers, their results may not be as useful to you. However, being able to test multiple browsers on your PC could prove very helpful in choosing which browser you’re going to use on a regular basis.

The test takes about five minutes to complete, and after doing so you’re presented with a screen which shows you on a graph the overall rating of the browser. You can click on the bar to see a breakdown of the scores to see how well the browser did in each area. Below that graph is a list of the top scores on the top processors. This is probably not of much use other than to make you drool over the expensive processors. You can also click the ‘Benchmark another browser’ button which gives you a URL to copy and paste into another browser. This then compares the results of all the browsers you’ve tested on a graph, allowing you to see a comparison of each browser you’ve tested.

I was surprised to see that Firefox was lagging a long way behind Chrome and Safari. However, this may be partly due to the fact that I use it most often and have quite a few addons installed. However, the overall statistics show that Firefox is markedly slower than Safari and Chrome. Whilst the tests tell you about speed and performance, you should also take into account the other features of the browser which the test doesn’t take into account – such as customisation.

You can run the test from Give it a go and see what results you get.


Make your old Firefox addons work

July 5, 2009 2 comments

Since Firefox 3.5 has just come out I noticed that some of my addons were refusing to work with the new version. Having found out that this is generally down to the addon installer file containing version numbers for older versions of Firefox, I decided to embark upon a quest to make some of my older addons work with Firefox. The steps I’ve used are outlined below. However, before you start you’ll need to download and install 7-Zip (a review of this can also be read.) I’ve provided a video below which shows you how to install addons which were written for older Firefox. There’s also written instructions below in case you don’t quite see what’s happening in the video.


1. Download the addon:

Unless you already have the addon saved in your files somewhere, you’ll need to download it again. However, you’ll have to use a different browser to Firefox. This is because Firefox checks to see what version you’re using, and references this against the addon compatibility. You won’t be able to install it from within Firefox if you’ve got a newer version than the addon specifies. Therefore, use something like Internet Explorer or Chrome to download the file.

2. Open the file using 7-Zip

Since that single file contains many other files all hidden away inside a single .jar, you’ll need to open it up using 7-Zip to see the innards. Once it’s downloaded, right-click on it, hover over the item in the context menu which says ‘7-Zip’ then click on ‘Open archive’. A new window will now pop up which lists the files which make up the addon.

3. Open the install file

If the file doesn’t automatically open with Wordpad or Notepad, you will need to instruct it to. Copy the file to somewhere else (the easiest location is your desktop)  by right-clicking on the install.rdf file and clicking ‘Copy To’. Choose a location and then click ‘OK’. Now navigate to where you copied the file to, right-click on it, and click ‘Open With’ and choose Wordpad. On XP you will need to click ‘Choose Program’ in the menu which appears. In either XP or Vista, select ‘Wordpad’ and make sure you tick the box which says ‘Always use the selected program to open this kind of file’. Now click ‘OK’. You will now need to go back to your 7-Zip window, and should be able to double-click on the ‘install.rdf’ file to open it. If it doesn’t work, close 7-Zip, and open the file again as outlined in step 1. You can then come back to step 4 below.

4. Edit the install file

We now need to alter the version number in the file so it will let us install it into Firefox. In 7-Zip double-click the ‘install.rdf’ file. It should then open in Wordpad. You now need to scroll down until you see something like below:


You will need to change the second version number to this. You can miss off the final ‘.*’ on 3.5 if you wish to, but it may not work with future updates to version 3.5, eg 3.5.1.


Then save the file and close Wordpad. 7-Zip may pop up a message asking if you want to update the file. Click ‘OK’ to update it.

5. Install into Firefox

Finally we’ve reached the end. First you need to open Firefox, and open the addons window (Tools > Addons). You also need to locate the original location that the addon downloaded to. Ususally a downloads folder or your desktop. This is the single file that you extracted in step one. You need to drag that file over to the addons window. Firefox will then ask you to confirm that you want to install it. Click ‘OK’ and it should do it for you. You’ll then need to restart Firefox for the installation to complete.

I hope that this worked for you! Let me know if you had any trouble getting it to function. If the addon doesn’t work right, you can still disable it in the same way you would any other addon; through the addons window in Firefox.

Backing up your browser – part one – Firefox

We do an ever-increasing amount online; there’s a good chance that your web-browser is one of your most used pieces of software. However, if something goes wrong you’re at risk of losing your bookmarks, settings, and extensions. It could take quite some time to get the browser back just the way you wanted it. The other option is to back-up your browser settings occasionally, so you’ll always be safe if something goes kaput. In addition, having a backup will allow you to transfer your settings and addons to another computer, allowing you to keep your user experience consistent.

FEBE – Firefox Environment Backup Extension – is an addon which will allows you to perform backups of your profile, history, settings, addons, and other such jazz. Once installed a new item will appear in Firefox’s tools menu which allows you to fiddle with FEBE settings, run backups, or restore files if something has imploded and gone wrong.

Setting the backup options before starting the backup.

Setting the backup options before starting the backup.

I thought setting the options seemed to be the best place to start, turned out it was. Doing so allowed me to choose what I wanted to be backed up;  I selected just about everything. After creating a folder for the purpose of storing the backups, I also changed the location that FEBE saves them to. In addition, I was able to instruct it to create a time-labelled folder for each backup. This means that I can keep older backups, and have each new one in a separate folder. Therefore, if I decide to revert back to the settings earlier than the most recent backup, I can easily do so.

After I’d finished tweaking I ran the backup manually from the tools menu. The process was quite fast; it only took about 20 seconds or so, but this time will vary depending upon your computer and how much data FEBE is backing up. However, Firefox tends to feel a bit dejected during the backup, and will usually not let you browse whilst FEBE does its thing. You can also schedule backups to run automatically at specified times if you’d rather not have to remember to do it.

Restoring items is done through the same menu. The restore section lists the various areas which you can copy back into Firefox – you can choose as many or as few as you wish to depending on just how badly things have gone wrong. You could also use this feature to transfer your settings from one computer to another, making it simpler to use Firefox elsewhere.

Jolly good stuff. I suggest installing it, performing a backup, and then disabling it again until you want to run another backup or restore something. You can download it from If you get confuzzled, instructions are also available.

Part two, which focuses upon Internet Explorer,  is still to come.

Annotate with Diigo

I’ve stumbled across a smashing tiny application which allows you to add notes to webpages. This becomes very useful if doing research for homework, coursework, papers, or other such jazz. It could be used if you simply want to add notes when you find useful stuff.

Diigo adds notes and highlights to webpages - either for research or discussion with others

Diigo adds notes and highlights to webpages - either for research or discussion with others

Diigo allows you to add these notes in the form of post-its to webpages. You can either download and install the Diigo Toolbar which is a fully-featured toolbar addon for your browser; or you can simply add the Diigolet link to your bookmarks or bookmarks toolbar for easy, quick access without installing anything. With either of these options, you can add annotations to anywhere on a webpage. You can also highlight and annotate specific areas or words. You can either make these annotations public – anyone with Diigolet or Diigo toolbar running – can see them and add to them, or private – only you can see them.

You can also add this to multiple computers, allowing you to see your annotations after you  sign with your Diioglet account. It’s also compatible with just about every browser, so you won’t need to fear not being able to see your notes when using someone else’s PC. This would allow you to add notes at home, and then see them at school or work as you continue the research you were doing.

Whilst the fully-fledged toolbar adds extra functions, oddly, it seems to slow down the simple process of adding notes quickly. Rather than simply clicking the button, you must go through a small drop-down list on the toolbar in order to highlight text and add sticky notes. However, the toolbar does allow you to add things to online bookmarks, share things with others, and provides functionality similar to Internet Explorer 8’s new accelerators when highlighting text. Despite this, I would suggest that most users would be better off with the Diigolet bookmarklet, since it provides the basic functionality, but sans the hassle which the toolbar brings with it.

I’d highly suggest signing up at and adding either the bookmarklet (bookmarks button for quick access) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, going for the whole shebang and getting the Diigo Toolbar. Give it a go and see what you think.

The future of Firefox – iFox?

I haven’t noticed the renowned Mozilla team do much useful lately; the upcoming release of Firefox 3.5 (renamed from 3.1, since it’s taken them so long to get it ready – it’s still not) doesn’t really contain anything new or innovative. The only thing I’m pleased about is the speed increase. Nevertheless, the latest developments from the thinkers at Mozilla looks rather promising, if a bit scary.

This Firefox mock-up uses the folder organisation of Apple's iTunes.

This Firefox mock-up uses the folder organisation of Apple's iTunes.

This designer has called for a reduction in tabs, in their stead comes a basic file-system type interface, which organises things like Apple’s iTunes software. Apparently this designer isn’t calling for a total removal of tabs, but for a new tab to contain a library of recently used websites and stored sites organised into dandy little folders which can be searched. I’m assuming that the idea is to store sites which you would usually leave open in tabs, in the folders. These folders would then be stored in online, so they can be safe from computer problems and, I hope, accessible from other machines. As a chronic tab-hoarder, it does seem rather snazzy that I would be able organise things into folders (I love organising) rather than having to scroll through gajillions of tabs or bound between different windows.

Another exciting addition, this one seemingly closer to being implemented, is ‘Taskfox‘. This is an improvement to the address bar, and I must say, it looks rather smashing. The mock-up shows improved search and actions from the URL bar. Viewing the screenshots will say it much better than I could. This improves upon the current beta addon, Ubiquity, which I’ve just download.

I’m not too confident about seeing either of these concepts any time soon, if at all. However, given Mozilla’s recent track record of doing nothing and doing it slowly, this loos like a metaphorical breath of fresh air. I just hope we see these and other ideas being seriously considered, and implemented in a way which benefits the user without making it too confusing for our poor, addled minds.

Has Firefox burnt out?

It seems like it’s everyone and their dog’s favourite bit of open-source software. It’s been the choice of both basic users who were pushed to change, right up to professionals who know that it’s better then Internet Explorer. However, with a horde of new browsers released recently, and a lack of updates and new features from Mozilla, is it time we doused the flames of our firey chum?

Version 3.1 might be released by the time I’m using a zimmerframe and moaning about children being on my lawn. But I wouldn’t bet on it. There’s been setback, after setback on this release, and even when it is released, no features which are not currently available in other browsers will be added. With Mozilla’s interface designer, Beltzner, now saying there will need to be fourth beta (fourth!), surely it’s time for all of us to reconsider our choice in browser?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

Chrome is faster, Safari is faster, Opera 10 is faster. The only thing slower is the elephant desperately masquerading as a browser: IE8. Speed is a key issue for many users – we’re all obsessed with it: if we can’t get there in the blink of an eye, we’re not interested. 3.1 is set to have a massive speed increase, but with current alternative browsers, or at least reliable betas, in the case of Safari, offering a massive speed increase, Firefox certainly can’t cling onto users due to its speed.

Firefox’s betas aren’t approachable to the ordinary user: it’s not linked to or even mentioned on the homepage, and the whole beta testing process at Mozilla appears to be geared towards those with an IQ higher than that of Stephen Hawking: with all the jargon and incessant technical babble, it’s difficult for an ordinary user to find the download, let alone help to improve it.

Speaking of which, Firefox isn’t targeted enough towards consumers. This is epitomized by the lack of a new tab button being present by default. When I get friends or family to switch browser, I always add a new tab button to the toolbar, and/or install an extention which adds one in a sensible location: to the right of open tabs. If users are switching from IE7, they’ll want the same simple tab functionality as they were accustomed to: they simply won’t be interested in fiddling around to add buttons or installing extensions to do something that was so simple in their previous browser. Simply adding a new tab button to the browser by default would make the whole thing more approachable to a typical convert.

Addons have long been a key reason for users sticking with Firefox. However, the average user neither knows about nor is interested in addons. Again, I draw the example from my friends and family: they only know about or use addons if install them for them, and then they just create an extra hassle due to Firefox’s cumbersome addon update methods. Certainly some users love addons, I use a fair few in my Firefox, but they’re on their way to Google Chrome, where I can get both a faster, easier browsing experience, plus addons very soon.

Mozilla hasn’t done anything new or innovative with their browser in a long time: all the new features coming in 3.1 have already been implemented by other browsers. By contrast, the newest contender, Safari 4,  released many new innovative features. I think we could well see Firefox’s browser share dropping soon unless the snail that Mozilla has become recently makes a turnaround. Fast.