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Monday, August 21, 2006

When Worlds Collide

I love Firefox, perhaps for the illusion of safety it gives me, allowing me to ignore the vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer (so long as I also ignore the potential vulnerabilities of Firefox). Unfortunately, much of the web was "written for IE," meaning the sites are designed with IE in mind, which has a subtly different behavior than Firefox. Although the cases are rare, I do have a number of sites I frequently visit that behave badly, if they behave at all under Firefox. For those sites, I regret that I must use IE.

If you have Firefox installed as your default browser, then shortcuts to webpages will always launch Firefox, which as we just noted, is not always the best browser for the target site. Switching then involves some tedious activity of copying the URL from Firefox, launching IE, and pasting the URL in there.

Early on, a clever author of Firefox extensions simplified this process to a right-click. While visiting a page in Firefox, his extension enabled you to select "View Page in IE" via the context menu, whereupon a new IE browser was launched and the target page displayed. This was a mighty improvement.

Even better is the IETab extension for Firefox. When installed, it presents a very similar new item on the context (right-click) menu on any web page. Selecting "View Page in IE Tab" apparently converts the present Firefox tab, hosting the web page, into an instance of Internet Explorer. (What really occurs is that the IE control is hosted in the Firefox frame, and asked to load the page a second time.)

If you prefer to view the web page in a separate window, you can instead select "View in External Application".

What's really impressive is that this extension can remember those pages that you'd prefer to view under IE. From the Tools menu, select IE Tab Options. The current URL will appear at the bottom. Pressing "Add" will include it in the permanent list.

You'll also note the "External Application" tab in this dialog, where you can specify the application to launch when the "View in External Application" context-menu item is selected. By default, it's set to IE (iexplore.exe).

Through the use of IE Tab, and by configuring a few choice websites to prefer IE, one can use Firefox for primary websurfing, while still accessing IE-specific websites without disruption.


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