April 27, 2005

Book review: "Firefox and Thunderbird Garage"

Author: Ryan Paul

Firefox and Thunderbird Garage
," by Chris Hofmann, Marcia Knous, and John Hedtke, can help make a reader into a Mozilla master. The book contains clear directions, informative explanations, thoughtful commentary, helpful images, and entertaining eccentricities. From installation to advanced configuration, it addresses important issues with relevant details.

Like Firefox and Thunderbird themselves, this book emphasizes security. Readers will benefit from the thorough coverage of the advanced security features provided by both applications. "Firefox and Thunderbird Garage" covers how to pacify popups, control cookies, smash spam, abolish ads, and preserve privacy. It also explores the fallibilities of Internet Explorer, and explains what Firefox does differently.

In addition to its thorough coverage of Firefox features, the book addresses general browser usage issues and provides helpful hints for new netizens. The book also presents techniques for effective bookmark management, and provides a detailed introduction to tabbed browsing that illustrates the usefulness of the feature.

My favorite part of the book was the first chapter, which contains an excellent section about the history of the browser and the events that led up to its development, along with a section
about the open source development model. It shows the power of open source applications, and helps the reader to understand the community behind Firefox and Thunderbird.

The book also includes an appendix that describes every menu item and keyboard shortcut in both Firefox and Thunderbird, an introduction to manual configuration hacking, and additional security information.

Overall, "Firefox and Thunderbird Garage" is artfully written and moderately engaging. Its amusing sidebars impart humorous stories and eccentricities, like a recipe for a "popover" confection, and instructions for Googlewhacking. While most of these extraneous oddities add flavor to the text, the authors do occasionally take them too far. For example, a chapter between the Firefox and Thunderbird sections devotes several pages to vapid speculation about how particular classic authors might have responded to the blog phenomenon.

Fortunately, the book is structured in such a way that the excessively silly extras don't diminish or interfere with the natural flow of the text, so potential readers need not fear unnecessary distraction.

The bottom line: Its thoroughness makes "Firefox and Thunderbird Garage" a valuable resource for Firefox neophytes and advanced users.

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