BROWSERS AND OTHER INTERNET SOFTWARE
Another need on a computer is the browser. Without it you can't go on the internet. When you receive a Windows computer, your default browser is Internet explorer. Mozilla.org consists of yet another group of digital mavericks that designed an alternative browser, Firefox and an email client, Thunderbird, as well as a great personal agenda manager, Sunbird. Seamonkey ist the all-in-one internet suite of Mozilla. Mozilla recommends to use Firefox and Thunderbird as seperate applications, unless there is a good reason to have them integrated. They made rather lean versions of the software and that made Firefox a faster brower than Internet Explorer and seems to be somewhat less vulnerable to viruses. It also allows you to open different webpages in taps within the same window, but IE does that now too. Very convenient when you do a web search, so that you can combine related pages in one window. But such differences are minimal and the essence is that these guys and galls completed the required elements for a fully functional computer, completely independent of Microsoft. The Mozilla web programmes are included of course in Linux. When you install Firefox, you must set as default browser.
We use Firefox for browsing the web. It is faster than Internet explorer and it has built-in web-safety features that you can programme to your liking. If warns for malicious sites and has a antiphishing feature.
We use Thunderbird for managing our email accounts. It has a spam filter, which we have programmed to send to the junk folder. Nevertheless, it is wise to frequently check that junkbox, because from time to time a valid email ends up in that box. A new version of Thunderbird has come out, TB 3. For a while I used it and then we uninstalled it because the developers had succeeded in converting a great and simple programme into a complex non-intuitive disaster. Personally I don't like Thunderbird 3 and I went back to Thunderbird 2. In fact, I think that Thunderbird 3 is so confusing, that I recommend everybody to ignore or dump it and download Thunderbird 2, which is a great and very intuitive email client, which can be downloaded here:
The relatively new Browser from Google , Chrome is supposedly the leanest and fastest brower. Set to default Browser, you can surf the internet much faster than in IE. I tried it several times, but I find the possibilities rather limited. I want a menu bar as one finds in Firefox, which I set as default browser.
Whichever you prefer, don't simply set IE as default browser.
The MS suite has one product, that I cannot live without and that I have used non-stop since 1987, when I started designing Birdlist: Frontpage. If you need to design and maintain a mega- multipage (our combined pages number well over 2000) and well structured website, Frontpage (I think you now do it in SharePoint) has been the most user-friendly answer for organizing the site structure in a graphical programme. Front page offers a wysiwyg utility, called "navigation" in which you can graphically structure your pages by adding new pages under another and dragging it from wherever you want and hang it or a complete tree of related webpages under any other page of your choice. It shows you the entire collection of pages in a structured diagram tree. For me this is a must. I am simply NOT interested in typing out htm commands. Software is there to make my life simple, and if it doesn't I don't want it.
This screenshot (of our windows in the VMware modulator) shows what I mean: in one window you can see all your pages and their relationships to each other. When zoomed in, each page shows its name, and you can change them if you like. Moreover, you can see all the files and directories on your left. On the left it is possible to drag a file to another directory, copy paste one into it the website and then drag it to the location that you want in the page structure tree. If you want to delete a file, you do it in from the structure tree (right click) and as this is a graphic presentation, you are sure you don't delete any underlying pages by mistake.
Except NetOjects Fusion, no other programme that I ever found has this facility. OO and Mozilla lack such facility and therefore their web-design capability is useless for me, and probably any other person that wants to maintain his/her mega-multipage wegsite. I whish those guys and galls in OpenOffice and Mozilla and/or other Linux programmers would read this page, so that they can see what people - professionals that maintain websites as their own form of communication with the rest of the world. I wish something like this running in Linux would be out there. We want solid WYSIWYG software that facilitates easy graphic management of the page-structure and the file structure in one view.
MS has not replaced Frontpage with Sharepoint Designer and Expression. I downloaded both, but in Expression I could not find the navigation facility, while in Sharepoint Designer, I could. so I started testing Sharepoint Designer. Like always with new versions of MS, one loses lots of time trying to find out where these creative young software developers have hidden all the stuff you are familiar with. After days of testing, on my existing webistes, I really did not find great stuff that would significantly improve my websites. (For those that know about that sort of stuff: I don't want to redesign my website to cascading style sheets, css. The themes in Frontpage do something very similar and with a bit of creativily you can adjust them and then implement them universally on the entire website as well as all the other ones if you want that.
The great disadvantage of Frontpage and Sharepoint are that they work in a format called ASP. This is not supported by many servers, and particularly not by the Apache server that we are using. So I looked for an alternative and fund NetObjects Fusion 10which can produce webpages in both PHP and ASP, which I consider a major advantage. At $200, the price is stiff, but doable, and while I write this they offer a 50% discount. I downloaded a trial version and started playing in it. Like new MS software, I needed to find where the buttons were, but after a while I learned my way in it. It imported one of my smaller websites (ilwis.org) without any difficulty, although what frontpage call "borders" needed to be deleted and redesigned. But it was no big deal. So I thought I had a great replacement for Frontpage, and started to import Birdlist.org. That is where things went wrong. For many pages in birdlist, the software reported that they were too large to be converted. I tries another site with the same result. I let the software work for 36 hours, accepting the loss of many large pages, and it still only had managed 75%. I decided that this was not going to work for me. Our webpages are too many and too old in their design, so we are stuck with Frontpage and we will continue using it. We did learn however, that for new users, NetObjects Fusion (10) is the best solution if you want to work in a user-friendly WYSIWYG environment. There are some features in MS that I like better, but the advantage of PHP format facilitated by NetObjects Fusion outweighs those benefits. So for new users, or for users that can successfully import their existing website or who don't mind spending the extra time to re-design them, we think you are better off with NetObject Fusion.
For our almost 2000 web pages, it appears to be the only programme that allows us to do so in a WYSIWYG environment. I would not dream of having to do this through htm commands! Thanks Bill Gates, for a fabulous product! Too bad you discontinued its distribution, but for www.birdlist.org, we continue using your 2000 version. The replacing product is MS Sharepoint Designer with the same great WYSIWYG navigation design capabilities. Great programme, but it requires special modalities from your webhost for full functionality. This can be a headache.
For web administrators there are many small convenient java scripts for inserting into your website. We have used several of them a great deal in our website. We found that provides a fabulous number of scripts that vary from very useful, to funny, cool but charmingly useless.