Firefox has emerged as the first browser in years to seriously challenge Internet Explorer-with good reason. Firefox has superior security and anti-scumware features, it works on Windows, Linux, MacOS X and other operating systems, and it’s free.

Best of all, Firefox offers lots of goodies for searchers, with a built-in basic Google search toolbar, as well as dozens of free extensions created by an active open-source developer community.

If you haven’t yet tried Firefox, download it here now. The download is a relatively light 4.5 MB, and the program installs quickly, without requiring any type of registration. You can also opt to have Firefox import options, bookmarks, browsing history, passwords and other data from Internet Explorer or a previous version of Firefox.

You’ll also be asked whether you want to make Firefox your default browser. Although I love Firefox and use it daily, still keep Internet Explorer as your default browser, because some web sites are designed specifically for IE. If you find that you really prefer Firefox you can always set it to be your default browser later through the options panel.

Once installed, you should have no problem using Firefox. It’s similar enough to Internet Explorer that it doesn’t need a lot of explanation.

As far as the extensions go, we recommend trying out the following…

Beef up the standard Firefox Search with this fully functional GoogleBar. Gives quick links to Local, Images, and News search as well as pagerank status.

A tool for precisely filtering certain adserving urls, and content types from being loaded into your browser. Speedup surfing by not downloading the ads.

An essential tool for developers that allows you to edit style sheets on the fly, enable/disable cookies, javascript easily, view the document tree, test different resolutions and much more.