If any of you have spent any reasonable amount of time crawling around the tech sites of the internet recently you may have noticed something regarding the "preferred" choice of internet browser. That choice (at least among the proprietors of such sites) is no longer Internet Explorer. No I don't mean that these sites disallow IE users or anything silly like that... I just mean that lately Mozilla's browser product FireFox has been getting a lot of positive attention. Most of which sounds pretty good up front. Well before you go down the road that I've spent the last few months on.... read this first.
A few months ago I installed FireFox on a number of my Windows machines in an effort to 1) begin using a browser that was reportedly less insecure than IE and 2) better myself when it comes to testing out the web applications I develop on alternative browsers. I also went ahead and decided to give Mozilla's stand-alone email client, Thunderbird a shot in an effort to wean myself off of Outlook 2003. Yesterday I reached the untimely end of this testing phase when using these two products suddenly became more hassle than they were worth. Here is why:
Firefox and Thunderbird are not as secure as the pundits would have you believe. In the last few months the Mozilla team has patched a large number of critical security holes in these products of theirs. But even Mozilla's own page cannot be bothered to list more recent security holes such as the major one that hit the news today. Things have gotten so bad that apparently the Mozilla team has found it profitable to begin paying people to fix their many security holes. So much for the theory that Open Source Software is more secure by default eh?
Firefox does not play well with Windows. Thats right folks, it simply lacks some of the smooth and lovely refinements we have come to expect from professional level applications on the Windows platform. For instance when I upgraded to FireFox 0.93 from FireFox 0.91 some time ago, I did not bother to uninstall FireFox 0.91 first (most Windows installer programs handle this situation just fine). The new version installed fine but did not bother to remove the installation for the old version. Well "this is not a problem, I'll just uninstall the old version" right? Wrong. Uninstalling the old version also removed critical files for the new version. At this point I was unable to either use the 0.93 version of Firefox or uninstall it. I had to resort to a Microsoft endorsed registry hack to remove the program in its entirety from my system.
Thunderbird is a horribly broken email application. There is simply no other way to explain its shortcomings. For starters up until about three months ago, Thunderbird required that each email account have it's email stored within an entirely different set of data folders. This is stupid. Somebody finally clued in three months ago and added a new feature called "Global Mail Storage". This sounds great until you realize that this feature breaks a lot of other features such as Mail Filtering. Then once you figure this out you eventually find yourself browsing the Thunderbird Bugs Forum and you will no end to the discussion regarding the amount of bugs currently in Thunderbird 0.8.
Thunderbird can't even manage basic migration from other email programs. For instance when I converted my email directly over from Outlook 2003, it only converted the emails and completely dropped all of the attachments. It even managed to mangle the receive dates of a number of those emails in the process. Eventually I had the bright idea to import my Outlook mail into Outlook Express and then import the OE mail into Thunderbird. This worked better however it still managed to mangle the dates of a number of emails. Also when downloading new email I found that it would far too often mangle the receive date on new emails. For instance I could receive an email five minutes after it was sent today and Thunderbird might instead tell me that I received that email 18 months ago. As somebody who has religiously hoarded emails over the last four years, this is simply not acceptable in my book. I also found it odd that a number of emails that I had with inlined images did not always display correctly in Thunderbird. Typically half of the images would still be inlined and the other half could only be accessed as attachments.
For the reasons stated above, I have firmly decided to continue using Internet Explorer 6.0 (with a little bit of Avant Browser goodness) and Outlook 2003. The fact is I would rather pay for reliable email client like Outlook 2003 and put up with the lack of up-to-date standards support in IE (most notably PNG and CSS2) then spend another day using any Mozilla product on my Windows machine.