Safari Alternatives: What’s Your Primary Browser of Choice and Why?

76 Comments

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?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

76 Comments

Alexicov

I enjoy Oprea (using the 10.50 pre alpha now) because
1. fastest (10.50 is faster than chrome 4 beta)
2. mouse gestures and built in features
3. User-js. Imagine firefox extentions that are ~10 kb and don’t bog down your browser. Some that don’t require restart.
4. Private tab that can be in the same window as non-private tabs (10.50)
5. The trash can. This is a deal breaker. In both FF and chrome you need to navigate several menus to reopen closed tabs and windows. Opera does it in a flash.
6. Speed dial. Safari and Chrome come in close, however I don’t like how both those browsers just stick random pages in your speed dial. That just won’t do.
7. Block ads on most sites. You can block advetrisements that appear on most sites from showing to make it look cleaner. No need for extensions.
8. Speed. Did I mention it’s faster than chrome?

Alexicov

9. Unite. A web server in your browser. You can stream music through opera without installing apache and all that junk.

Alexicov

10!
I like how i can create a search to songmeanings on the speed dial and then search for song lyrics right after I open my browser! :)

Jacob

personally, i like safari. it is very stable, and fast. i have found firefox and opera both to freeze up.

monroe stahr

favorite site is Safari.

for the simple reason that when i click on Print i get to see the layout of the pages of what i’d like to print – this allows me to ditch the last page which often is full of ads or a bio; or it tells me the article is 12 pages long and i print the first few to see if i want to read the complete article.

this may be available with Firefox and Chrome, but i haven’t bothered to figure it out.

monroe stahr

Erkenntnis

I take a minimalist approach to software. I want my software, web browsers included, to do one thing and do it well enough that I don’t have to think about the software when I’m using it. Safari is this browser for me, although it isn’t perfect and there are some bits of functionality that I wish it had.

I love inline PDF viewing. I like being able to decide whether or not I want to keep a copy of a document -after- I have had a chance to look at it. On a browser without inline PDF viewing, if I don’t want to keep the PDF, I have to trash it, and being forced to take that extra step bugs me.

I’ve never found an extension in Firefox or Chrome that I absolutely needed beyond an ad-blocker and a Flash blocker. These things are available for Safari. Plus, Glims adds a nice batch of features, and none of these plugins seems to harm the stability of the browser.

Beyond those features, I like being able to right-click on a word and look it up in the dictionary. I like the integration of Safari with the rest of the OS. I like its focuses on performance and compatibility with web standards. I like its fast start-up times. All those, plus its minimalist aesthetic, put it in first place.

That said, it has its flaws. I don’t like Top Sites. It looks fantastic, but I find that it slows the browser down; and I question the need for a feature that allows you to see whether your favorite websites are newly updated when, in fact, most of them are going to have updates. Safari also needs tabs on top. Opera 10.5 pre-alpha does this correctly, although the close button for the tabs needs to be on the left. Furthermore, it needs Chrome’s one-process-per-tab feature and the combined address/search box, and it needs better security and memory management.

But for day-to-day use, I find that no other browser is as usable. Whenever I use Firefox (for the occasional website that doesn’t seem to like Safari), I am consciously aware of using the browser. But when I’m in Safari, I just use Safari without thinking about it.

I don’t think that’s because I’m used to it. I think Safari’s UI helps the software to melt into the background so I can concentrate more on what I’m doing. Other browsers’ UIs distract me in numerous ways: Firefox’s UI feels slow; Chrome’s feels shoddy and unfinished. Opera seems to me to have the best non-Safari UI, but it has a ways to go before I can stand to look at it. Once 10.5 comes out, I might consider making it my second browser.

Kim

There is a shortcut I just learned about in Safari to look up a word in the dictionary: just hover your mouse over the word and press command-control-D!!

sonnyg

I recommend using Safari. It’s a fast browser with a lot of great features like the web inspector in webkit (chrome and safari) and the perfect integration with Mac OSX.

iHing

Safari rocks! Tried Chrome and it does not have a status bar, no favourites manager and does not work with the magic mouse. Firefox is my second choice but it does not sync my favourites with MobileMe across my Macs and PC. Currently, 72% of the readers of my iCrazee Mac blog use Safari.

Victor

I used to be a huge safari fan but now that chrome supports extensions I’ve been using that. I like the facebook skinning extension and the facebook quick update along with YouTube and wikipedia search. Not much but it’s simple. Although I absolutely hate chrome user interface, I find it absolutely appalling, I do like the tabs on top as it helps save a little bit of screen realestate. I would switch back to safari but for some reason it’s really unreliable under snow leopard. Hopefully apple issues a major safari and snow leopard upgrade in a few weeks.

Halyein

Firefox for my Mac, and I recently installed Chrome for my old Windows laptop. Firefox on the Windows machine takes years to start-up so I thought I’d give Chrome a whirl. So far I’m reasonably satisfied, but I don’t like the Bookmarks arrangement…and it just doesn’t feel right somehow. I think I might change it to Safari.

Ben Oxtoby

i prefer safari. i like the top sites, as i can have the pages i frequent most right on display on start up. The look of it is in line with all the other OS X apps (obviously) which i like as well. as for memory hogging, while it does seem to use quite a bit more, as a mostly casual user of my computer, and with 4gb of ram its not really an issue in any way

Champs

Chrome for personal use. I’ve just got Firefox weighted down too much with stuff I use, but only for development. Safari doesn’t do anything for me.

Pat

Firefox cause of the extensions and the fact that it is the same on all my devices, pc at work, mac at home, linux on netbook… I will say chrome when all the extensions I use in FF will exist in chrome ;)

Brendan

I usually use Safari because it’s fast and simple, but Firefox has become my friend recently. I like Firefox’s plugins (StumbleUpon, Firebug) and about:config. Opera, however, looks the nicest and has the best effects and widgets.

Chrome? I like it. It’s pretty fast and looks okay, but themes are limited and it needs some UI streamlining.

My drop in the ocean.

Gazoobee

I use Safari because it’s the best design, but all these browsers are (more or less) feature competitive. If you leave out MSIE, any of these browsers with a few tweaks will do the same job at roughly the same speed. IMO the whole browser choice thing is basically down to the subjective feel or the look of the thing more than anything else.

Dan

Safari is just the browser wrapper on top of Webkit. Webkit is superior to Gecko… which is why Google chose WebKit as its rendering engine for Chrome for its efficient and advanced rendering techniques.

I love the speed of Chrome, but it’s UI is pretty ugly looking. I prefer Safari for automatic Bookmark syncing to my iPhone, and for it’s superior font rendering that’s easier on the eyes.

depthondemand

I’m in Dan’s camp. My day-to-day browser is/has been/continues to be Firefox – it’s the plug ins.

I started using Chrome for Google apps – Gmail, Calendar and Docs, etc. But found that even Gmail seemed glitchy in Chrome for Mac. So while Chrome improves, I rely on Firefox.

Mohamed Muhtaseb

Safari for me is still at the top of the list, but Google Chrome is pretty impressive by starting up, opening websites, reading JS incredibly fast yet in the Beta version. And I ditched FireFox long time ago, slow, takes a lot to launch and last time I used it, it was crashing and hanging!

chrish

Firefox; I’ve been using it since the first public betas for Windows. Firebug, Weave, AdBlock+, DownThemAll… it’s the plugins.

I use Thunderbird for email, too… could never get used to the way Mail.app handles things.

– chrish

James

Safari, it was on my iMac when I switched 18 months ago and I see no reason to change having tried Firefox and Chrome. I’ve found Safari to be fast, secure, reliable and it does what I want from a browser.
IE and Vista seem like a bad dream in comparison.

Aniruddha

I prefer Chrome for its speed and simplicity. Also I do search right in the address bar.
I use Opera too for its ease and new Unite feature.

I have tried Firefox but gave up after it used to crash daily. Same for Safari due to clumsiness…It used to make my system too slow.

Byran

Chrome. Safari on Snow Leopard is the buggiest, slowest thing that Apple has put out in recent memory. Granted, I frequently have 20+ tabs open, but I do that same thing in Chrome, and it’s lightning quick. What I’ve noticed Chrome do, is wonderful memory management. When I have a lot of tabs open, and I switch to a tab I haven’t used for a while, I get a blank page; then it reloads the information from a cache it created. It takes about 1-2 seconds, but the memory footprint is ridiculously low.

And it’s extension widgets may be the best thing ever. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Woot!, and weather instantly accesible, and always available a click away? AND Keychain integration? Sorry Safari; ‘Twas a long love affair, but I’ve fell in love with someone else.

Lee

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.

Charlie Kentnor

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.

Allie Parker

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

Someone

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

Greg Lynn

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.

Dan

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).

Dave

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.

Alexicov

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

infomofo

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.

Barrett Horne

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

rascojoint

Did you miss the text…

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

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