Spell checking of webforms comes to Mozilla.

I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of Microsoft’s browser and email clients for my day-to-day use for awhile now. At one time in my past I was a big Netscape fan until they got bought out by AOL and pretty much dismantled. With IE becoming integrated into the OS and thus ensuring almost instant response when you opened it combined with the lack of anything new from Netscape for a couple of years, the move to using Internet Explorer and Outlook Express was pretty much inevitable and once I got used to using them again the return of Netscape wasn’t enough to convince me to switch back.

These days, however, with the almost weekly discovery of yet another vulnerability in either Internet Explorer** or Outlook Express and the rise of Mozilla thanks to AOL deciding it would be easier to let the Open Source community write their browser for them there’s little reason to continue to cling to Microsoft’s buggy code for browsing the web or reading your email.  I gave up Outlook Express in favor of Mozilla Thunderbird back in April and I haven’t looked back since. The wonderfully effective SPAM filtering it offers is worth the switch in itself and I wasn’t ready to give up Internet Explorer yet so it didn’t make much sense to install the full Mozilla suite just to use it for email. I’ve also kept the beta releases of Mozilla Firebird (which is just the browser part of Mozilla) installed on my systems mainly for testing purposes when designing new layouts for the various websites I’ve worked on. Lately I find that I’m doing most of my browsing using Firebird instead of IE because of Firebird’s built-in pop up blocker which is also wonderfully effective. In fact, about the only things I still use IE for is patching my system via Windows Update and adding entries to my blog.

The reason for still using IE for blog entries? A simple plugin called ieSpell. Hey, I can admit that I’m not the world’s greatest speller so I rely on a spell check to ensure I’m at least semi-coherent or that at least spelling isn’t the reason I’m not making any sense. This handy little plugin allows you to spell check any web form and seeing as MovableType uses web forms for adding entries it was perfect for my needs. Mozilla didn’t have anything like it until relatively recently. Looks like they’ve been working on adding the ability to spell check web forms as an extension for awhile now and they’ve made pretty good progress so I downloaded it to test it out. Getting it working is a little confusing as it actually takes three different downloads to make it work, but if you use Firebird or Mozilla to initiate them they’ll install on their own.

Presto, spell checking of web forms in Mozilla! And the last reason I had to still use Internet Explorer for anything other than patching Windows is now gone. So if you’ve been holding out on switching over for the same reason that I was you’ll probably be happy to know this. It still needs some work, it’d be nice if it ignored HTML in your entries for example, but it works pretty well all things considered.

**The link here points to an article on a particularly nasty IE vulnerability that allows people to create fake web pages that not only look exactly like a legitimate site, but also fake out the URL in the address bar and the security lock icon that appears in the status bar so you have little reason to suspect you’re not at a real website. This trick could be used by scammers who are “phishing” for credit card information by making a website that looks just like Paypal or some other legitimate site and even appears to be in a secure mode that asks for credit card information. This is the latest vulnerability that has convinced me to abandon IE altogether.

18 thoughts on “Spell checking of webforms comes to Mozilla.

  1. I’ve been using Thunderbird and Firebird for a while now and have only come across two issues.  First, the spam-filtering software on Thunderbird is just too damn good.  I find more regular emails from real people in my junk folder than I do spam in my inbox now, which means I have to go back through and hope I don’t miss any real email in all of the junk.  That’s a small issue, though - the rest is great.

    The only problem I have with Firebird - and I suspect this might actually be a problem with skins on blogs, maybe - is that on some MT blogs when I try to leave a comment I’ll type the P in picklejuice and the bottom bit of the comment box will say, “Cannot find search term ‘p’”.  Then I’ll type the I and it’ll zero in on the first I to be present in any previous commenter’s email or web address.

    Not a biggie, though, as all I really have to do is right-click the link for the comments and tell Firebird to open it in IE but still, it’s a little pain in the butt and I find myself not going through the steps to comment on those blogs.  Because I’m notoriously lazy.

    Besides those two issues, you’re spot on with your recommendations.  Used to be my IE browser would crash to the point of needing a reboot a couple of times a day but with Firebird my computers been running, what, a week or so now without needing a reboot.  The only time it crashes is when Windows tries to do something daft with it.

  2. Ultimately, the best security is behavioral.  Any browser, certificate setting, or whatever can be spoofed, gulled, or bypassed.  The best defense is thinking before you click (Does this look professionally written? Can I get to this from the vendor’s main page?  Does this make sense?)

    Assuming IE ever gets battered out of the top spot, then the spoofers and hackers and crooks will work on Firebird instead.  Or Opera.  Or whatever.

  3. Hmmm… I think I’ll give’em a try.  I’ve been thinking about switching to Mozilla lately.  I used to be big on Netscape(2 & 3), but when Communicator, or whatever they called that IE clone they put out in 98 or so, I just started using IE at home (since we had to use it at work and I didn’t notice any signifigant difference between the two for my surfing).  Yeah, the whole security thing’s been bothering me, even though I do pay attention to my updates and suspicious emails.  Paranoia can get tiring.

    As long as I can get my Hotmail in T-Bird, I’ll be happy.

  4. ***Dave, I agree that being careful about what you trust is the best defense, but this latest exploit is good enough to fool even tech-savvy folks let alone the average user. The test site set up at the link I provided presents you with a copy of the Symantec website that looks pretty damned impressive until you click on the Privacy Notice link and it tells you it’s a fake.

    Ragman, you can still use Hotmail with T-Bird, but you do lose the option to use the Rich Text Editing option. My mother uses Hotmail with Mozilla and it works fine other than that one feature.

  5. I too moved away from Netscape when it went AOL.  I was thriled to find Mozilla, and have been using it for about a year.  Switched from the Suite to FB and TB about 4 months ago. 

    Pop-up blocker alone is worth switching to Mozilla!

    As far as the junk mail filter goes… be sure to set “Adaptive Filtering” on.  TB will learn what to filter.  Also, be sure you turn on the “white list” option.  This will stop TB from blocking anyone who is in your address book.

  6. I’ve been using Moz full time for over a year now but I still use IE for blog entries because Moz does not see three style buttons in MT - the B.I,U buttons which I use often enough that I don’t feel like having to manually code it every time.

  7. So far so good… I got Hotmail Popper going.  I need to sit down and archive my emails before I can really jack around with it.  OE’s been wiggy when I move items from my hotmail junk folder to a local folder - it moves the item, says there was an error, then wacks all the messages in the junk folder.  Hasn’t done it to my inbox… yet…

    I started putting addys for things like ebay, amazon purchases, etc, in the collected addresses section of the TB addy book.  That way you don’t have to see them in your personal addys, but have a list for the filter to allow in the inbox.  It’s like doing the “Safe List” on Hotmail, since their junk filter sucks.  I ended up setting hotmail to restrict inbox to the addy book and “safe list”.  I’m sure their “safe list” has limited space.  I know their “Blocked List” does b/c I’ve filled it up before.  OE doesn’t do a good white list - you have to copy from your addy book into the message rule, instead of the rule checking the addy book. 

    I like FB’s bookmark organizer.  But then, I’m comparing it to IE’s bookmark mutilator.  Kinda like choosing between a cow patty and a pizza for supper.

    Pop-up blocker. 

    Actually, I used some 3.x version of Netscape up into 1999, when something (security certificates, maybe…) didn’t jive with y2k or were expiring - something like that.  Forced me off of it.  Didn’t really like Communicator as much, so I just started on IE.  Used the 3.x mail and news reader into 2000, then went to OE.

  8. Some nits with Thunderbird.

    In order to stay legal WRT the license agreement,  I will have to have to give up MS Office when I retire. Thunderbird (Tbird) looks really good as a replacement for Outlook. As a matter of fact it has some formatting features that are superior to Outlook.

    However, the documentation for Tbird is really lightweight. In order to import Contacts and Mail from Outlook, I had to reestablish Outlook as the default email client. The Intro to Thunderbird (Part 6) doesn’t cover this.

    The biggest drawback is that Tbird doesn’t have a backup or archive feature, and I haven’t had any success, yet, in locating the folders that are used to store the native and imported emails. I really need to know how to do manual backups before I cast free of Outlook/Outlook Express.

  9. VernR, valid complaints and I can only say that it’s still considered beta and that’s why the documentation is a bit light.

    That said, if you’re using Windows XP or Windows 2000 then you’ll find the data files in a folder under C:Documents and SettingsYour User IDApplication DataThunderbirdProfilesdefault. There will be a folder there with a random filename which will hold the data files associated with the email client. The “Application Data” folder is a hidden folder so you’ll need to turn on the option to see hidden folders in Windows to find it, but you type that whole path in you’ll go straight to it regardless of whether you have show hidden turned on or not. Does that help?

  10. Some nits with Thunderbird.

    I had a search running for a file/folder named Mail, and I posted prematurely by about two minutes. (If you do this, you have to sort through a lot of hits, but the folder isn’t too difficult to find.)

    I will spare you the whole path-name, because I suspect it to be different for each operating system. For XP it begins with

    C:Documents and SettingsOwnerApplication DataThunderbirdProfiles…

    A couple of more levels and you are there.

  11. Well shit. Thanks for the shortcut Brian. Just goes to show that you learn something new everyday. I really need to sit down and learn the shortcuts someday.

  12. Mozilla Backup is a utility for creating backup of Mozilla, Mozilla Firebird and Mozilla Thunderbird profiles. It allows you to backup mail, favorites, contacts, etc. It works under Windows 98 or higher.

    That web page goes on to say

    Sometimes program crashes with message “The program can not write in the backup file. Either the disk is full or you don’t have permission.”  The program will “exit” but it isn’t true.

    Well not quite. For me it really did crash. I checked out their support forum, and someone with Windows 2000 had the same problem that I have with XP. The other comments tended to be positive. So this utility might be worth a try.

  13. Well damn.  I think that registry merge pretty much only works with Java.  But… if you ever have trouble installing any plugin (java, flash, shockwave, realplayer, quicktime…) go to this link for helpful information:

    http://plugindoc.mozdev.org/faqs/phoenixwin.html

    And one other tip.  You need to open that registry file, and ensure the path is correct.  Some people install Mozilla in a unique directory, that doesn’t match that little file, so change it as needed.

    Hope this helps someone out there.

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