I think I was conducting a training on “Windows programming using C” in a company called VeriFone Bangalore when I first saw Internet Explorer. Like Netscape, it had a logo on top right which would rotate as the page was loading. I was fascinated with the UI and thrilled that I could look up information so easily and quickly. On the other hand there was Netscape, a powerful browser which was the de-facto standard. I think Netscape was $50 while Microsoft started giving away its browser free with the operating system which led to a massive law suit and Browser wars. The browser war was good in a way because it made both companies bring host of innovation and rapid changes eventually helping the customers. Its another thing that Netscape lost the war and IE became the de-facto standard on the web. I was siding with IE thru the war as I found it to be a better browser than Netscape.
Phoenix rises from the ashes of Netscape
As Netscape lost the battle and made the source code open, the code base gave rise to another project called Phoenix (rising from the ashes of Netscape). Phoenix was however already a registered name so the team tried to rename it to Firebird, which too turned out to be registered so they finally called it Firefox. I have been using Firefox since Phoenix days but did not pay too much attention as it could not match the capabilities and features of IE. But I did keep an eye on the browser as it matured. Then one day it happened… I discovered add-ons and extension which allowed me to customize, configure and personalize the browser the way I wanted. Also, the new JS engine made its way into Firefox, speeding it way beyond IE performance.
When people don’t like or use a software, they tend to remove or uninstall it. However, IE is one software which remains on every Windows installation that it there. Why? Because you never know when you will need it. There are hundreds of site which work with IE but not Firefox. This may not be intentional but due to the fact that IE did not enforce strict adherence to HTML and web standard while Firefox always did. So a missing closing tag would still render in IE whereas it would refuse to show up in Firefox. Imagine you test your web site in IE and a day before you go live, out of curiosity you open in it Firefox and you are horrified as the page is a mess. Can’t imagine? Ask Chandrasekhar “Netscape” Vyas who earned this moniker precisely for this reason
Stop switching between FF and IE
If you use Firefox regularly but have to switch to IE because of certain sites, now you can get IE Tab Plus. What this Firefox add-on does is it loads IE in one of the tabs in Firefox. I am not talking about emulating IE, I am talking about loading the IE engine in the tab so that you can open all those IE specific sites in Firefox without having to even launch IE. Go ahead and download IE Tab Plus from Firefox Add-ons site and lets roll.
Once you install IE Tab Plus, you will see and icon in the system tray. This icon toggles between FF and IE.
Lets get to work
The number of sites which work only with IE is reducing fast but there are still some sites which either refuse to work with anything other than IE or don't work well with non IE browser. Lets take a look at such sample site.
This site flatly refuses to work with Firefox. It clearly says “Sorry, this site requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later.” Now lets switch the site to IE by clicking the FF icon in status bar.
There are variety of ways in which you can switch the engine from Firefox to IE. The easiest way is to click in icon. Another way is to right click the page which brings up Firefox context menu which allows you to switch rendering engine. If you right click on the icon, it brings up a menu (as shown in the image). You can take a call if you want to switch the engine in the same tab or launch the page in IE.
Here is a screenshot of the same site, still running in Firefox but being rendered using IE engine. As this is not simulated (browser-agent switching), you get real experience of IE. As you can see in the screenshot, if you right click on the page, you get IE context menu and not FF. To switch back, simply click on the icon back. If you require full IE interface, you are welcome to use “View Link in Internet Explorer” which will launch IE and not use FF tab.
You can configure IE Tab Plus to share cookies with FF or even allow AdBlock Plus. You can also decide in-tab switching or opening a new tab. It also allows a site filter where you can specify sites which will always open in IE (at one point of time windowsupdate was the most gruelling IE-only site).
So now you know why I haven't used IE in months