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The default spell checker isn’t perfect, and it isn’t as good as Word or OpenOffice at always finding the correct word. But it’s thoroughly better than nothing. Firefox’s extensibility also means that dozens of spelling dictionaries for other languages are available, just in case you’re corresponding with that German or Slovakian pen pal.

A second eyebrow-raising feature is called Live Titles, based on a technology called Microsummaries. A twist on the old static bookmarks that simply give the name of the linked page, Live Titles instead displays automatically updated content from the page itself. Thus, Firefox’s bookmark for an auction’s page might display an item’s latest price, while a stock-page bookmark might show the latest share price.

This graceful blend of remote Web-page content with the browser’s own interface is similar to the original Firefox’s Live Bookmarks, which feed individual RSS headlines into the browser’s drop-down bookmarks. This feature, which allows busy readers to scan scores of headlines without visiting a new page or launching a full-blown RSS reader, has been retained and updated.

As before, Firefox users can automatically turn a Web site’s RSS feed into a Live Bookmark with a click of the mouse. But this automatic-subscription feature now offers other options, sending the feeds to a different news-reader application or to an RSS-supporting Web site, such as Yahoo, if a user prefers.

With a nod to the seedier realities of the modern Net, the browser also includes anti-phishing components (here called “forgery protection”), drawing on blacklists maintained by Google to block access to such dangers as fake bank, PayPal, and investment sites.

But the real key to Firefox’s use is the sprawling database of extensions, toolbars, and other add-ons, most freely contributed by outside software developers, that help add everything from chat and social-networking features to a calculator and calendar.

Beltzner, only half in jest, compares the browser to a Honda Civic.

“It’s sleek, efficient, and gets you there,” he says. “But if you want to do more, it’s really easy to trick out.”

In fact, the new browser brings to mind that often-updated automobile for other reasons as well. Like a new model fresh off the assembly line, this 2.0 browser is a little more comfortable, with the Web-browser equivalent of a better stereo, better shocks, and plusher seats. But underneath, it’s fundamentally the same product.

Note: Borland is a longtime Firefox user, but he always keeps a copy of IE on hand in case of emergency.

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