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?