Head to head: Firefox vs Internet Explorer

Winner: Internet Explorer


With both IE8 and Firefox you can install plug-ins to gain extra features. But Internet Explorer's extension options are quite limited. You can download various accelerators, as detailed above, and you can install third-party toolbars that (for example) give you information about the page you're viewing. But you can't change the basic way in which the browser works.

The Firefox approach is far more versatile, allowing plug-ins to significantly enhance your browsing experience. One of the best-known plug-ins, for example, is Adblock Plus, which automatically removes intrusive advertising from web pages.

Another popular extension is Greasemonkey, which lets you insert custom code into websites to add features that the authors may never have envisaged. A huge downloadable archive of free, ready-made scripts brings abilities such as showing UK postcodes in Google Maps, accepting multiple requests at once in Facebook and highlighting films you or your friends have seen at IMDB.

Firefox plug-ins can also change the way you interact with the browser: the Optimoz extension adds gesture-based controls, so you can switch between tabs with a simple swipe of the mouse. TreeStyleTab shows your open tabs in a tree-style list, so you can see which tabs were spawned from which others. And there are plenty of plug-ins that add contextual actions to the right-click menu, just like IE8's accelerators.

These few examples represent only the tip of the iceberg of what's possible with Firefox plug-ins: the official Firefox add-ons site lists more than 10,000 downloadable extensions of various types. And, of course, businesses can write their own extensions for in-house use, enabling them to turn the browser into a customised data access application. All told, Firefox's plug-in architecture gives it a degree of power and potential that's light years ahead of what IE8 can muster.


The Firefox add-ons site lists thousands of extensions to customise your browser.

Winner: Firefox

Darien Graham-Smith

Darien began his IT career in the 1990s as a systems engineer, later becoming an IT project manager. His formative experiences included upgrading a major multinational from token-ring networking to Ethernet, and migrating a travelling sales force from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95.

He subsequently spent some years acting as a one-man IT department for a small publishing company, before moving into journalism himself. He is now a regular contributor to IT Pro, specialising in networking and security, and serves as associate editor of PC Pro magazine with particular responsibility for business reviews and features.

You can email Darien at darien@pcpro.co.uk, or follow him on Twitter at @dariengs.