A local Synchronics dealer (thanks, Doug) made me aware of this: User Agent Switcher
You could always do this manually with "about:config", but apparently in the older versions you had to enter it as an over-ride: Changing User Agent in Firefox.
With the current versions, you can just directly affect the setting - change it to whatever you like.
Of course the real reason for wanting to change this is that some website (like your bank) insists that you must use Internet Explorer and refuses to play if your browser doesn't announce itself as such. Do understand that it is entirely possible that they really do need IE and that setting this string may not actually make the site work. In many cases though, the site programmers are just Microsoft idiots, and the site will actually work perfectly well or will have only minor cosmetic glitches. Or maybe they aren't idiots, but just don't want to be bothered supporting the minor glitches they know are there, so by requiring IE they eliminate a lot of pointless calls.
What they SHOULD do is stop being so lazy and design to a common denominator of popular browsers, but gosh, then they might have to lose some whiz-bang flashy feature and marketing would be all over them.. so they take the path of least resistance. That path is going to get a bit tougher to navigate, though: Firefox users are growing by leaps and bounds. Ignoring non-IE browsers isn't going to be a smart choice much longer, I think.
Good websites don't give a darn about what you are running, and test their pages against at least a reasonable set of fairly current offerings. If you download the very latest experimental whatchamacallit, the website shouldn't get upset and let it be your problem to realize that whatchamacallit doesn't work well. The site instead should design so that extra features are useful but not necessary. For example, I know that there are browsers that don't work right with the CSS drop down menus at the top of each page here. It doesn't matter, though, because they'll still get links that will bring them to places where they can get the same choices. All web sites should at least TRY to do that, and the better ones do. Google, for example, was originally quite fussy about what you could use with Gmail - but now, you can use almost anything: My features disappeared
That's the smart way to do it.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence