Macworld’s Joe Kissell observes that there are many fine Mac Web browsers to choose from, and there’s no reason not to have several installed so that you can switch among them as needed. Indeed, I virtually always have at least three up and running at any […]


Macworld’s Joe Kissell observes that there are many fine Mac Web browsers to choose from, and there’s no reason not to have several installed so that you can switch among them as needed. Indeed, I virtually always have at least three up and running at any given time.

Safari vs. Firefox

However, most folks are inclined to rely primarily on one main browser, and for that purpose, Kissell recommends using one of the two most popular ones — either Apple’s Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox  — which he says both make excellent all-around choices and work well as a default browser, which I don’t dispute, although neither are my own choice as my number one browser. Kissell notes that certain situations may make one or the other of these two browsers an especially good choice, outlining several areas where in his estimation they respectively excel. Of course such evaluations tend to be somewhat subjective.

For example, Joe likes Safari’s built-in PDF support. I’m personally not a big fan. While the built-in facility means you don’t have to switch to Preview or Adobe Reader to launch a PDF file you still have to wait while it loads in the browser window, and saving it is another step. I prefer the download and view mode, but that’s just me. Joe mentions that if you like inline PDF viewing, a free extension called Firefox-Mac-PDF will add similar functionality to Firefox.

Another Safari feature Joe likes is the ability to resize text area controls (multi-line text fields) by dragging the handle in the lower right corner of the field. This is indeed handy, but not a killer feature, in my opinion.

How Often Will You Want to Do That?

I do agree that Safari’s full-text history searches (Safari’s Top Sites view>History -> Show Top Sites) and search field for words that appeared on Web pages you viewed recently even if they’re no longer open is pretty cool, and he likes Safari’s ability to display graphics in non-Web TIFF or JPEG 2000 formats, although how often will you want to do that?

When Firefox May Be a Better Choice

However, Joe thinks there are also instances where Firefox is a better choice than Safari, such as when using Google Toolbar — another free extension for Firefox that adds a long and user-configurable list of features to the browser, including quick access to various Google Gadgets.

He also likes Firefox’s more flexible and versatile privacy setting configuration that lets you configure many privacy settings per domain, as opposed to Safari’s all-or-nothing privacy setting limitations, and praises the vast range of choice in Firefox add-ons and plug-ins compared with the lack of an officially supported plug-in API for Safari. For folks who like to tweak their browser functionality, Firefox is the way to go.

Firefox (and its sibling Gecko-based browsers like Camino and SeaMonkey) can also display inline mathematical equations, while Safari and other WebKit-based browsers only support display of linear strings of characters.

Why I Use Opera and Chrome More Than Safari and Firefox

Personally, I use Firefox more than Safari, but Opera 10 and lately Google’s Chrome for Mac each respectively get more hours of surfing on my machines than Firefox and Safari combined, and both Opera and Chrome have features I miss when using the more mainstream browsers, such as their superior download managers, Opera’s up-front and versatile Zoom menu, and Chrome’s raw speed, fast startup, and “right now” Finder response. Opera and Chrome both seem more nimble and less inclined to be memory hogs than Safari and Firefox (although the latter has cleaned up its act in that regard somewhat in recent iterations). I prefer the looks of Opera and Chrome as well, but as Joe Kissell noted, we have an embarrassment of choice in browsers these days, and everyone should be able to find a browser (or two or three) that suits their needs and tastes to a tee.

What’s your favorite OS X browser, and why?

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  1. Barrett Horne Friday, January 15, 2010

    How can you possibly write an article like this without mentioning Camino?
    The mind boggles.

    1. Did you miss the text…

      Firefox (and its sibling Gecko-based browsers like Camino and SeaMonkey)

  2. JRP Mac PC Support Friday, January 15, 2010

    Google Chrome (beta) fast and stable. QED.

    1. insufficient for a rigorous proof :)

    2. @Alexicov – hilarious! :)

  3. Now that the chrome beta for mac supports extensions, I’ve started using that.

    I do wish the xmarks integration was better, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to manage my bookmarks within chrome. Still, it’s a fast, slick browser.

    1. I’ve pushed all my bookmarks management to “the cloud” via Delicious anyway.

  4. Personally, I like safari because of two features. 1 the ability to right click a word and have it be defined in the dictionary. 2 the ability to right click and preform a google search. Those two features have saved me hours of time alone.

    1. Google Chrome has the 2nd feature you mentioned.

    2. Opera can do both of those :) It can also translate through the right click menu

  5. I am a bit of a Firefox promoter as I had the fortunate chance to work in QA on the web browser at Netscape and the first release of the open source code to Mozilla. That said, Safari is also produced by engineers who came from the same Netscape core team and is simpler, which at times I find more appealing. I feel that Firefox gets more eyeballs on the dev side so therefore is more up to date than Safari, so I trust it more and it does have more privacy settings as noted. Lately I have been trying out chrome and have found its performance to be a lure, speed is good. I tend to do most of my browsing in Firefox, but I will open a subset of sites in Safari and when I want to quickly look something up, I will use chrome’s speed. chrome though because being a Google product, privacy could be a concern because of their approach to it, but my concern is minimal right now and I do not use it for secure transactions. Camino is not on the radar enough to get coverage it seems, other opinions as to why? It also has tendrils of engineering talent derived from Netscape.

    1. Safari builds passed the Acid2 and Acid3 rendering tests long before Firefox builds ever did. Even though there are more devs on Firefox, it doesn’t make it more advanced.

      Also… Consider that Google chose Webkit over Gecko for chrome for many reasons (besides speed).

  6. You can set your preference to open PDF’s using preview or adobe reader by editing the preference

  7. I primarily use Firefox and Chrome. I like Opera as well.

  8. I use Camino all the time. It does everything I expect a browser to do. And it does it lightning fast.

  9. Charlie Kentnor Friday, January 15, 2010

    I keep trying all the alternatives and had been using Camino mostly. Then I had a problem and had to stop using it so I didn’t hear a radio program in the background that I couldn’t get rid of. Firefox just loads too slowly. I like Chrome as a second choice and it would be my first choice except for the fact I found some sites that don’t like it. Therefore, I’m back using Safari most of the time and Chrome as an alternate.

  10. I am using Opera mostly and Safari if I need too. Opera has a couple of killer features I cant live without. First it seamlessly syncs my bookmarks to all my mac’s and mobile devices, For Free. Second it has a really good note feature where you can capture anything off of a web page. The notes are sync to other computers too and search able.

    It also has a great right click menu that has among other things: search with any search engine, look up in dictionary or encyclopedia, go to highligted web address, translate to another language, send by mail.

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