Got Browser?

33 Comments

Whether you use Windows, or Mac OS X you are going to have a hard time determining which browser to use, which is right for you? Choosing a browser is basically like choosing a car, a car that will take you down the Information Super Highway. Between browsers that do nothing, to browsers that do everything. We’re about to figure out which one is right for you.

Safari – This browser is the default browser that is packaged with OS X, it’s clean cut, simple, and it gets the job done. A simple word analogy would describe this best; Safari is to OS X, as Internet Explorer is to Windows. This browser has a very intuitive and easy to use interface, and it’s fast; if not the fastest of browsers on OS X. But where you gain speed, you lose features. Safari is the bare bones of what you need in a browser; no extensions, no plugins, no themes. It’s a browser simple as that, but it does have full compatibility with OS X, becuase well…it is OS X.

Firefox – Firefox is everyone’s favorite web browser. This is that web browser, that everyone has something that they will love. I originally got into Firefox when Mozilla first came out, I hear of it on the old glorious days of TechTV, and downloaded it. Soon I heard of the project we’ve known to come and love as Firefox. I’ve used it on PC ever since, and I pretty much force my family to use it as well. Now if you noticed how I worded that I didn’t say I’ve used it on Mac ever since. That’s because it’s slower on Macs, it’s not native to Cocoa, which means it runs slower. When I first made the switch to the Mac platform it was all I knew of so I used it, but very soon after downloading it, I noticed it would crash periodically, and it ran, and loaded webpages slower than it did on PC. Of course this is no fun, especially with Firefox. When I use Firefox on the PC I have mutliple extensions loaded up, themes, the works. Of course this only slowed it down more, and made it crash even more frequently; this is when I progressed onto other browsers.

Camino – After I figured out that Firefox just didn’t feel right in OS X I learned about Camino. Camino’s slogan is “Mozilla Power, Mac style” and it is just that. It’s fast, less frequent crashes, and it has more features than Safari. However, it still lacks extensions, plugins, and skins of it’s brother Firefox. However with sites like Pimp My Camino, you can still add extended features, and skins to Camino though scripts and little tricks.
Opera – Even though I was thoroughly satisfied with Camino, and continue to use it regularly. It still missed something, that X-Factor. So I went to the next browser I heard of, Opera. First and foremost, I’m going to address what I liked most about Opera, Widgets. Opera has it’s own individual widget engine. It’s almost like the program Konfabulator is right with in the browser. At first I thought the widgets would minimize with the browser, but they don’t. They sit right atop the desktop just like any other widget, however they are not really affected by Expose. So reaching your widgets is sometimes annoying. It’s almost a reminder of the good old Windows XP days where you have to dig through all of your windows just to find your desktop or a folder or another window. However, if you close Opera, your widgets close as well; this is kind of annoying because there are a few widgets I really like, and I hate having to have a browser open just for a couple widgets. Among Opera, I’ve been using it for about a week, and it has not crashed once, and it’s reasonably fast at loading webpages, and running in general.

Omniweb – I’m not a huge fan of this particular browser, but through my time of using it, it didn’t crash. It browsed the web, and got the job done. A few thing in particular that I really liked about the browser is that it offers the ability to have open different workspaces. Now if you aren’t sure what a workspace would be, it is the tabs, windows, and pages you have open for a particular project. Now say you are working on a project, and you want to start work on something else, without totally abandoning the old project, just create a new workspace. This option will hide all the workspaces except the one you want to work on, then you can change it if you need to. The tab managment system is nice, however I’m not sure that I personally like it. Rather than a small bar at the top with tabs, it has a bar that you open and close on the side of the browser window which shows small thumbnails of each tab. I like the thumbnails, but I’m not sure how I like having to open a sidebar to access my tabs.

Shiira – In my opinion the best way to look at Shiira is an alternative to Safari; it’s simple, and works. It lacks features on the end of extentions, plugins, and skins. However it isn’t as bland as Safari seeing as it’s a bit more colorful, and it allows you to change a few minor details with how the browser looks.

Flock – As far as features go, Flock is the cream of the Crop. If you blog, upload, and find yourself totally obsessed with RSS, this is the browser for you. It has full integration with all of your Web 2.0 needs. This includes Del.icio.us integration with sharing your bookmarks, a very nice Flickr upload feature, blogging feature that works with most major blogging platforms. Great things are coming from this browser, it’s fast, it doesn’t crash, and it has more features than you could ask for. As well as the ability to add extensions. I loved the idea of this browser, and I tried using it for several weeks and convinced myself that I liked it. But it’s almost that there are too many features, and that it’s too good. I found that I still used my old ways to blog, upload, and bookmark; rather than using the great features of Flock. The plethora of features are astounding. For instance, say you are typing a blog entry, and you want to include a photo. You upload the photo to Flickr or Photobucket, tag it, then pull that photo into the blog editor, and type an entry. All in all, it’s not a bad browser by any means, it’s just a bit too much to take in at once.

I tested each of these browsers for roughly a week to 2 weeks, and there are plenty of other browsers out there for Windows and OS X. So in the never ending search for a browser to fit your needs, God-Speed.

33 Comments

Chinarut

This has gotta be one of the best replies I’ve seen in awhile – nice balanced view. I agree, I want to be able to go into Internet Cafes around the world and just use the stock browser when possible. The more we depend on plugins, the more we approach the old skool experience of not having the app you love at home on someone else’s computer syndrome. This is an issue the web browser has addressed quite nicely (and elegantly in many cases) – let’s keep it this way!

Alex Morse

Certainly I think we can agree that themes in a browser are very low on a feature priority list. I can by plugins , but I’m curious what plugins/extensions you think are necessary for a browser. It seems to be one of your main problems with several of the browsers you reviewed, so what’s missing?

When I was a PC user I primarily used FireFox, for which I only snagged a couple plugins: Flashblock being the main one I’m missing from Safari. The other plugins I grabbed for FF were to do things Safari does by default, like open external links in a new tab and force new window links to open in a tab instead. There are a plethora of plugins available for firefox nowadays, but it seems to me that they just slow the app down if not crash it.

I’m not anti-plugin, I just haven’t seen any that actually help me do work or enjoy the web more.

David Ross

What about SeaMonkey, the direct descendent of Mozilla Suite? This is lacking some of the user-interface bugs that are found in Firefox.

Pierre

Hi

As mentionned above, iCab is missing from that review, but it’s still beta and quite slow (developer says somewhere that this is due to debug code) on sites making a heavy use of CSS2, but I think it’s the more W3C compliant of all, the one that has the most extensive preferences, and like Safari, the only Mac-only browser … All the others have a cross-platform rendering engine (although Safari could be said to use the khtml linux rendering engine, but I don’t think they could be re-united).

As a web developper, I also have been testing a lot of browser, but I have to admit I always come back to Camino because it’s the only browser that I can use everyday without switching with another for doing a specific task.

Yes Opera (tested on PC and Mac up to 9, user since v3) is super-fast, has very interesting features, but it also has random problems with the Plesk Web hosting interface (used by many web host). And also not that many people are using it (PC Mac) so it’s not my primary choice for web-developping (although one may say that if your design works in Opera, it usually works everywhere). Also, and even though you may disable it, Opera can do RSS and Mail, and I prefer soft doing only one task (even Mozilla broke into Firefox Thunderbird, why does Opera go the other way is beyond me).

Safari also has random problems with Plesk, and also some problems with the way it handles SSL certificates (even though certificates are stored in keychain, Safari does not seem to be able to choose between 2 different personal certificate for a same web address like if you want 2 different user filling their income tax on the same machine).

Firefox is still a little buggy, but I use it with the WebDevelopper extension, a must ! Look and feel not that great, especially checkboxes, form fields, etc …

I tested/used the others, but for me, the important point is the rendering engine more than the additionnal features, so … I stick with Camino for the time being.

Also I think it’s funny, people going for Camino because is lean, and after that looking for plug-ins and extensions … same for Firefox, with plug-ins thay are re-constructing the full Mozilla/Netscape suite they said was to bloated …

bv

do some research as previously stated. i didn’t read the entire string but all i can say is flock has a future if it would be stable. if you are lucky enough to get your mits on shiro beta v2 please do. it kicks some serious ass. it lacks in the rss department but it has apple written all over it.
it’s easy on the eyes to say the least… but you better be able to speak more than english. ;)
peace.
bv.

Will Pate

Wow, you guys love testing browsers! Anything we can do to make Flock better, just let us know.

Cheers,

Will Pate
Community Ambassador, Flock

nic mitham

i’ve used safari ever since i bought my first mac. about a month ago (after some hard-drive issues) i switched briefly to firefox. i felt strange as i really got used to safari……..BUT…….having tried Camino three days ago, i am totally hooked on it….super fast, and now super pimped.

David Teare

Your dock looks as cluttered as mine — I have so many browsers it’s not funny.

The main ones I use are Camino, Firefox, Safari, and Flock, in that order. The biggest pain of switching browsers has been keeping my passwords synchronized between them. I got tired of being forced to remember which browser had my password for a particular site, so I wrote my own Password Manager that uses the keychain and provides extensions for these 4 browsers.

I have heard good things about OmniWeb and Shiira, so I’ll be adding support for them soon. I wish I could support Opera as well, but their extension mechanism is severely limited (AFAIK).

Cheers!
Dave Teare
Co-author of 1Passwd: Password Manager for Mac

Chinarut

very nice comprehensive review of browsers esp when I’ve been on the browser run myself!

I was a Camino for quite some time until a few Firefox extensions caught my attention.

Flock has really caught my attention due to its Flickr integration and ease of inserting photos into just about anything. Admittedly, Flock was overwhleming at first when I first tried it 9 months ago and as the article says, come with Web 2.0 eyes and you’ll set aside the growing pains and see the future as the integrations get worked out!

Sameer

Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 (Bon Echo) seems to work really well on OS X, and I’ve found it to be quite faster than the 1.5 stable release. Being a beta release though, it doesnt support quite a few extensions (yet) or themes that most people might have installed, but thats alright since a periodic update will re-enable most of the unsupported extensions that lie dormant.

http://www.mozilla.org/projects/bonecho/all-beta.html

Leland Scott

Sorry… this article is all opinion and no facts. Even what appear to be facts are wrong. For example, it’s been pointed out that “Safari is the bare bones of what you need in a browser; no extensions, no plugins…” is simply wrong, and anyone who’s followed the browser market as a whole for long would know this.

In fact, a similarly ignorant person would say the same thing about Camino… that it has no extensions and no plugins. It does, but they’re even fewer than what’s available for Safari. Just because there aren’t as many as for Firefox or IE doesn’t mean there are none. (Someone else already mentioned Pimp My Safari website, but there’s also Pimp My Camino: http://www.pimpmycamino.com/)

And then to leave out Opera, which is the fastest browser available for the Mac, is just inexcusable.

Finally, it’s an obvious comparison, but a misleading one, to say that Safari is to OS X as IE is to Windows. Yes, Safari is the default OS X browser now, but unlike IE, it’s also one of the very best on that platform, whereas IE at this point is about the worst.

If you’re interested in a more factual review of the major Mac OS X browsers, check out the one I did last month: http://www.musingsfrommars.org/2006/05/all-the-lovely-browsers.html

Leland

Guppie

I love iCab. At home it is my favourite browser.

It runs on Mac OS 9.1 to Mac OS X 10.4. Has a universal version out. Complies with the Acid2 test. Uses up really little screen estate.

Simply delicious for most of my needs.

http://www.icab.de/

Pixton

Another lose vs. loose oopsie:

But where you gain speed, you loose features.

zalmy

i personally like using safari, im not such a big blogger, i tried out flock after screnncastsonline showed off all its features, but i didnt fond myself using them, so i switched back to safari, i like the way in safari you can have a folder of bookmarks which i use alot, i couldnt figure out how to do it in flock, one thing which i noticed in flock which i havent seen in any other program on mac osx, was that if u have a scrolling mouse and you click the scroll wheel, that round circle with the arrows pointing up and down showed, letting you then just move the mouse up or down slightly to scroll, i just found that very intresting, specially because i havent seen in any other app in os x.

Matt

Flock is hands down the coolest browser on the planet for the reasons mentioned above… However, one person mentioned that it was fast and maybe it is compared to some browsers, but Safari has much faster load times and page rendering. It’s also limited in the ways you set-up the local bookmarks and the way you set-up the RSS feeds. It unexpectedly closed on me a couple of times as well…

I have to remember that Flock is still in beta so I will cut it some slack and continue to use it alongside Safari. In the “every browser is only slightly different market” Flock stands out as innovative and fun.

Lios

I’ve been Opera users since version five. Mainly because I am a web developer and have founded that Operas rendering engine just kicks ass. So when I do just-for-me adminpanels, I really like what Opera can offer me.

Next best thing, is the sidepanel. I really like seeing all my bookmarks all the time. To mention third thing, Mouse Gestures, with that ability I have stripped all the buttons away. I don’t need those anymore! Click’n’drag works for me. Escpecially handy when have assigned exposé functions to mouse as well.

EuroTarheel

I discovered Flock recently, and I have quickly become addicted to it. I can’t imagine browsing any other way. I like all the integration with the various accounts : Flickr, WordPress, del.icio.us, etc…

Even the RSS feeds allow you to post directly to your blog…

My problem now is having subscribed to too many feeds…my productivity is suffering.

Dan

There are plenty of plugins for Safari, although certainly not as many as Firefox. Safari is stinkin’ fast though, faster than any other ones I’ve tested. All the features in Flock are better handled in their own applications, IMHO (ecto, cocoalicious, etc). Camino is my backup if Safari won’t render it properly, which isn’t very often. Also, if you do like OmniWeb-style thumb tabs, Safari has a plugin that will add it.

Adblock – SafariBlock or PithHelmet
Everything else – Saft
Thumb tabs and more – SafariStand

(granted, Saft and PithHelmet cost a negligible shareware fee)

Dan

I wholeheartedly agree with Camino as the browser of choice.

Until Firefox fixes this (IMO) rendering bug, I can’t stand to use it on OS X, since it crops up in probably 75% of pages in my experience.

brutal

Safari is the bare bones of what you need in a browser; no extentions, no plugins, no themes.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Safari HAS plugins. Just check PimpMySafari.

Ryan

I use quite a few plugins in safari… mostly related to adblocking and getting rid of the fugly brushed aluminum.

I’ve tried everything else on your list and just could never bring myself to totally switch. Camino is nice… Firefox is ok… Safari is my kind of girl though :p

Matt Treager

Nice article! I recently have been searching around for new browsers to explore and I’d have to agree with your comments on each of those browsers. (I settled on Camino for it’s speed.) Might I also suggest Songbird. It’s basis is Firefox with XUL and a media player integrated into it. It’s a fresh and different approach to browsers.

Poster

Shiira is fast. Very fast, in fact. One of the things I like about it is that its download window is a sidebar, unlike Firefox’s, which is a separate window. The only downside to Shiira is that it chokes on secure sites.

You also left out iCab.

Ben

You might be more fond of the powerful feature set and speed of OmniWeb if you were using version 5.5, which is currently in testing (sneaky peek builds).

weisheng

Flock has lots of potential but it takes some time to soak it all its features. It still feels a little clumsy and slow in comparison to Safari or Camino.

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