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.