January 12th, 2005

A week for new software

I am a creature of many habits...as I think we all are to some extent. But I also like to try new things as well. Contradiction? Maybe. Nonetheless, this week I've been giving some new things a shot.

First up, Trillian 3.0. I've been using it for the past 2-3 days. As I recall, I had been using 0.74. Where 1.0 and 2.0 went to, I have no idea. I poked around on their site for an answer, but didn't see anything right away and decided I didn't care that much. Someone will probably clue me in here with a comment. Netscape skipped version 5, WinAmp skipped version 4, heck...even the company I work for started at version 2.0--effectively skipping 1.0 (yes, there was a reason). So skipping version numbers doesn't really phase me all that much except that this seems like a skip of two for a product that was theoretically still beta-ish with a version number like 0.74. I will give them that this new version 3.0 is a pretty significant change. I don't know about two versions worth, but definitely major.

At any rate, I think I like it. The fresh, new look is nice. It fits well with the rest of XP...which I guess at this point is neither fresh nor new. But alas, unlike many people I know, I actually like the Whistler style. I guess that's the combination of the graphic designer in me and my child-like craving for cutesy, bubbly, happy looking things. I also like gradients. So yeah, the XP interface suits me just fine.

The level of customization in the new Trillian is also refreshing. But there was so much new all at once for me that I think I wasted a good hour or two just exploring my new options. I think I've got it to a state I like pretty well at this point. I'm a big fan of the new tabbed IM windows. When tons of people go crazy and all decide to IM me, it helps cut down on a lot of the screen clutter. This was one big reason that I haven't had IM running nearly as much in the last few months. Especially at work, it just became too much of a distraction. Not only were there lots of conversations, but managing them all became a time sucker in itself.

I'm also very pleased to see that the new Trillian also supports many more of the features of the various native IM apps. All-in-all, I really like it, it was worth the investment in getting used to it, and I look forward to using it and finding out more about it as I go.

Second up, Mozilla Firefox 1.0. I admit it, I'm an IE bigot. I first started using IE back in 3.0, having used Netscape up to that point. At version 3, there were things I liked about both Netscape and IE and both lived on my computer. 4.0 was quite a leap for IE, but was pretty disappointing to me on the Netscape side as it seemed to get slower and buggier all the time. I eventually just phased it out and started using IE exclusively. Its dominance in the market helped make that a fairly easy choice since the vast majority of sites were coded for it anyway.

However, since I do develop websites, I make it a point to have other browsers on hand for testing purposes. So I've had Netscape Navigator and even Firefox on my machine for awhile now. But today at the office I decided I'd acutally just use Mozilla all day for a change of pace, to give it a chance, and to experience first hand what all the buzz I've been hearing from my geekier friends is about.

After this little experiment, I have to say that I like it. It certainly gets the job done as far as general web browsing is concerned. It seems a bit easier to customize than IE. Of course I ironically customized things like the toolbars to be more like IE...since it's what I'm used to and I didn't want to waste time having to figure out a new place to click for features I use all the time.

I also very much like that a lot of its features for dealing with saving and dealing with things like cookies, form input, passwords, etc. are all consolidated, easy to find, and straight forward to manage. This has been a huge failling point in my eyes with IE for a long time. Lord knows I've got some crazy autocomplete entries in IE that I cannot get rid of for anything! They don't hurt anything, but they're annoying in that it keeps suggesting them even though I haven't used them in literally over a year and likely never will again. What's strangest is that I have been able to get rid of some (through extensive digging), but others still remain. So it's like it doesn't even store all those things in the same place. Asinine!

Firefox does start a bit slow the first time. Of course I realize that it's unfair to compare it to IE in this way since MS sees to it that most of IE is started with the OS so it's ready to go the first time you actually launch it. The speed that Firefox seems to be just as fast, if not faster, so I'm just fine as far as using it is concerned.

There were only a couple of sites that were broken in Firefox that work in IE. One of them was Outlook Web Access for accessing mail on an Exchange server over the web. This, of course, is a giant whore of an MS web application, so I wasn't at all surprised that it didn't work quite right. It actually did work, just not particularly efficiently. Oh well, I won't even count that as a negative.

I also understand that Firefox is a lot nicer about stopping pop-ups and spyware. Actually, I don't have trouble with either, so this doesn't concern me a lot. IE blocks pop-ups quite well in XP SP2, so I'm good there. As for spyware, I'm educated enough to know what to look for, so I've never had much of a problem. I scan periodically to be sure, but I've been good and clean. If Firefox helps novice users to this effect, more power to it.

In the end, I like Firefox just fine. IE has going for it that it's quite familiar and ubiquitous. Firefox is very strong and I like it just as well, but I don't know if that's a compelling enough reason on its own to switch. I'll probably keep using it some more over the next few days to see if something sticks out that makes me kick IE to the curb.

In the meantime, I'll enlist the help of my geek readers. IE has a keyboard shortcut that I use all...the...time. If you hit Ctrl-Tab, it jumps you to the address bar and highlights the entire current address there. This is very handy and beats the hell out of me taking my hands off the keyboard to go click up there with the mouse when I want to browse a new site. Does Firefox have a similar shortcut key?