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?

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

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  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.

  11. 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.

  12. Firefox. Why? AdBlockPlus + NoScript + TrackMeNot

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. Mohamed Muhtaseb Friday, January 15, 2010

    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!

  17. 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.

    1. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 ;)

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

    1. 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!!

  28. 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

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

  30. 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?

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

    2. 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! :)

  31. Firefox,hands down.
    It’s slimmer can be customized and back and forward buttons ALWAYS work

  32. My use is fragmented by platform and what I am doing:
    Safari – Generic browsing on mac
    Chrome – Generic browsing on windows
    Firefox – Any time doing web development (still test in all of above on both platforms, Opera, and IE8/7/6)

  33. Safari still my first choice, with Chrome been tested and Firefox installed just in case.

  34. No mention of Flock, which I switched to and never looked back. Over the years I tried all of them. With Flock you can install Firefox extensions, it has the speed of Safari, yet is built from the ground up to make social networking a daily part of your life, which as an e-commerce owner is a very important part of my marketing strategy.

    Flock has right click spelling correction like Chrome. While I can load Firefox extensions, it doesn’t bog down like Firefox does. I regularly have 4 windows with 10 or more tabs open in each at any given time. I am a huge multi-tasker and Flock lets me be that way without bogging down my computer.

  35. CAMINO.

    Sad to see so few people supporting this in the comments. Fast, fast, fast and stable as hell. Not crashed since the day 2.0 came out. It does render my Facebook page a little strangely (considering it’s using the Gecko engine) and it would be nice if it did support the Firefox extensions, but for 99% percent of my web browsing, it’s all I want.

    Haven’t even started Safari since I got my Macbook in October. And I’m philosophically opposed to Google and won’t use beta software anyway.

  36. Chrome dev. I’ve been a browser nomad for years now, but I’ve finally settled.

  37. For surfing I use only Opera 10 – is has everything I need in a fast, stable and neat shell :) I often see that people using other browsers don’t even know what Opera can give them… And it’s a pity, and I think it’s just because Firefox is advertised everywhere (Opera isn’t :( ), which absolutely doesn’t mean that it’s better than Opera..

  38. Safari for me at the moment, but I don’t like:
    the bookmarking facilities
    search Google should be in new tab
    links should open in new tab and not in new window

    Google Chrome beta I like but it takes more CPU cycles than Safari. Features that I use Chromium on Ubuntu are not in this beta. Its not ready yet. However, on Ubuntu, Chromium has replaced Firefox for me. So on Mac OSX the potential is there and coming, hopefully soon.

    1. There is a preference for telling Safari to open links in a new tab as opposed to a new window.

  39. I use Safari primarily (Keychain integration, bookmark synchronization via MobileMe, fast rendering).

    I use Firefox when I need to use Firebug.

    I use Opera for work when I need to have many many tabs open simultaneously; the single key shortcuts are AWESOME, and it is a fast and non-bloaty browser. Before I switched to Macs I also relied on the Opera mail client.

    1. You should try Opera’s Dragonfly if you want some of Firebug’s functionality. With 10.5, you might need no other browser.

  40. I use Safari … simply the best for me

  41. I’m a safari man myself. As a web developer it’s built in tools (enabled in prefs) are hands down the best. I’ve heard that Chrome is putting up some good competition, however it does not of yet support 1password (http://agilewebsolutions.com) so I stick with safari. Firefox 3.5+ is fast, but Safari is faster IMO.

  42. I jumped on the Chrome bandwagon a few weeks ago on the Mac, noticed it’s lightning-fast and sleek. I could tell the difference in speed. But the past week, I’m back to Safari. Can’t say why … but it seems Safari is now just as fast as Chrome. Did somebody at Apple do something? So, I’ll stay put with Safari for now.

  43. Safari is fast, has a passable extension support (one word: Glims! And Cooliris is awesome, too.), is standards compliant, has a compact UI (collapsable bookmarks bar, love this on my 1024×768 PowerBook!), has a RSS reader (which I haven’t used yet, but I like it), awesome CoverFlow (really helps a lot when looking for a visited site when I don’t know the name anymore). I switched to Safari from the Firefox (addons are awesome anyway!!!) but I like both browsers. Chrome? It is a jack of all trades – good at everything, master of nothing. Plus, it means Google spying on me, at least they did on the betas. Have used it a little, but my number one choice is still Safari. Apple did it right with version 4, hope they keep going that direction. Oh, and a decent extension system would be great. ;-)

    1. *Typo: I meant “Firefox”, not “the Firefox”.

  44. Safari is my primary browser. The main reason for me is the sheer direct response of the scrolling (a swipe on the trackpad / mouse does what is supposed to, many times faster then any other broser). Using GlimmerBlocker and ClickToFlash makes my batteries last longer.

    Firefox: Firebug is the main reason FF is still with me. Slow and ugly. Like Godzilla.

    Chrome: Very stable (even now), however the scrolling is way slower then Safari (almost as slow as Firefox). With extensions & when they fix the scroll (if they fix the scroll), this will be the main browser. Has some kind of smoothness to it.

  45. I use chrome because it’s fast and reliable. It also uses a lot less memory. But, I do use firefox occasionaly for watching streaming divx stuff.

  46. I use all at one point in my week or another, but primarily run Firefox for development and general browsing; although I have been using Chrome more and more for when I want to have a speedy browsing session. FF’s extensions are both a blessing and a curse; I’m curious to see how Chrome’s performance will be affected as its add-on market matures…

  47. i’ve yet to tet chrome on a mac but it came useful when i had a site attacked and hacked with some js injection code – chrome was the only browser to alert us! Having said that i use safari mainly because it is very nimble and obviously feels mac like. Its memory management can be improved and hopefully flash might one day improve. firefox is ok on the pc but on the mac i hav to use it only when coming across certain non safari compatible sites (which for me is a blacl mark against the site.)

    when designing websites these days we generally target our preferred browser to preview it (safari or ff) then make sure it works the same way on ie 7 and 8 (which r vast improvements considerin) then we might hack it to work on ie 6. This has become less of an issue…

  48. C. Spencer Beggs Sunday, January 17, 2010

    So far, Chrome on Mac still crashes too much for me to use it exclusively. I am hoping that it can eventually combine the advanced rendering precision of WebKit with the extensibility and marketshare of Firefox.

  49. Chrome FTW!

    Safari chews up way too much RAM, at least 300-500MB after using it for a while, even after closing all tabs/windows. Chrome on the other hand is much lighter on resources.

  50. I switched from Safari to the latest Chrome Beta, mainly because of the available extensions. Something I always missed from Safari (Saft, etc nonewithstanding – they help, but it’s just not offering the flexibility of an open source community).

  51. โหลดเพลงใหม่ Monday, January 18, 2010

    I love to use Google chrom more than every program.

  52. Will put my hand up for the Webkit-based iCab. Lovely little browser. Thing I love most is its capacity to save webpages to pdf as they appear – not just as ugly blocks of text. Low on RAM. Never seems to crash. Feels faster than Safari.

  53. Camino with Safari only when a site such as my bank doesn’t work.

  54. Firefox, been using it since the dawn of time, well the dawn of firefox, on every platform I use. Can’t imagine using anything else. Except that lately it crashes a lot when writing emails in gmail. Been using Safari for gmail, which I must say, drives me nuts (not Safari, using 2 browsers).

  55. I have used Safari for some time now and have no issue with it. Fast reliable and never had a crash, hang or issue.

    Chrome seems like it has potential but not impressed enough to make a switch.

    Prior to Safari, Firefox was my main browser but had several issues with it crashing, hanging, lagging with multiple tabs open. Left it and haven’t looked back.

  56. For the time being, Firefox 24/7. Once Chrome gets extensions on Mac (and Ad Blocker Plus), it will be Chrome exclusively.

  57. All Browsers have poor Cookie management!

    Only Safari has a Plugin for that called “Safari Cookies”.

  58. I go for Opera! I’ve used it for several years and no other browser even come close to Opera.

  59. I dont really have a preference when it comes to browsers. I use three browsers; Safari, Firefox and Chrome. One at a time ofcourse. I use same bookmarklets in all browsers and I use Google bookmarks so that I can access all of my bookmarks from any browser or any machine. I dont have a preference because of the fact that 90% of my stuff resides in the cloud and works and behaves the same on all browsers.

  60. Google Chrome Beta since it’s launch.
    I’ve used opera, safari, firefox, camino, flock… I’ve used way too many browsers, but none actually gave me enough speed (either to start up or to load my pages)…
    While I was a PC user, I always used google chrome, even though ad-block plus was not available, I was happy with the switch.
    Google made a beautiful browser that not only offers speed, but elegance.
    However, I do have to mention that I miss add-ons like adblock plus.

  61. OPERA is best browser at the moment. Althought, Chrome looks faster than opera 10.10 as new version get little slow than opera 9.
    However, I love opera and I am sure they will be again faster in next version.
    Opera’s killing features most useful to me and may be all are: real-time spell checker, mouse gesture, speed dial, handy page zoom, very responsive and customizable, recycle bin to reopen closed tabs, restart opera from last closed time will all the tabs and many many more.
    There is sooooo much to like about opera that you can’t give it up very quckly.
    I suggest anyone to use opera for 1 week with positive attitude to it, and I guarantee you will never look anywhere.

  62. I use all at one characteristic in my period or other, but primarily run Firefox for employment and statesman eating; though I tally been using Chrome more and statesman for when I deprivation to know a fast reading meeting. It’s extensions are both a support and a cuss; I’m rum to see how Plate’s action gift be agonistic as its add-on activity matures

Comments have been disabled for this post