Firefox 4, released today, includes a lot of new features, including tabs-on-top, App Tab and a new full screen mode. All are features which aren’t present in Safari, and ones that have me eager to stick with Firefox 4 for the long haul.


I’ve tried all the browsers you can possibly think of, but I’ve always ended up going back to Safari after a while, because it offered a better experience. Today’s release of Firefox 4 may be able to change that pattern.

The latest version of Mozilla’s browser includes a lot of new features, including tabs-on-top (a feature many people missed when it was removed from the Safari beta), App Tabs (similar to Google Chrome’s pinned tabs) and a new full screen mode. All are features which aren’t present in Safari, and ones that have me eager to stick with Firefox 4 for the long haul.

Firefox's Full Screen mode offers distraction-free browsing.

Of course, there are some features of Safari which Firefox doesn’t offer; the Reader view for one, but I rarely use it anyway, and there are plugins that can take its place. I also like the fact that Safari is based on WebKit, which enables some pretty nice effects on the web such as fading and other animations, but these aren’t yet widely implemented. So far, the benefits seem to outweigh the pitfalls.

One of my favorite new features is the App Tabs part of Firefox. This allows you to pin a certain tab to the tab bar so that it has a permanent place in your browser. This is great since you can have a bunch of these open and they take up hardly any space in the tab bar.

Another new feature is the Tab Groups, which takes a bit of time to set up, but is incredibly useful once it’s done. You can organise your tabs into groups, and then those groups can be manipulated as one, letting you do things like close an entire group of tabs simultaneously. You can resize and drag groups to arrange them however you like. I find that looking for a specific tab is much easier when I have 10 or 15 tabs open if I can look in these groups. It’s nowhere near as easy as this if you’re using Safari.

Mozilla claims that Firefox 4 is significantly faster than the previous version, but I haven’t noticed much difference. However, I have noticed that scrolling in webpages seems to be a lot smoother in version 4. There are also a lot of UI effects which add to the experience; new tabs ‘slide’ into existence rather than simply appearing. Safari doesn’t offer such a smooth experience, in my opinion.

Even though Safari 5 introduced Extensions, the Firefox Add-Ons library is a lot larger and offers a greater range of add-ons than you can get for Safari. For example, the Tab Badge add-on offers something unavailable to Safari users: a badge in the tab bar alerting you to new content, such as a new message on Facebook.

Overall, I’ve found that so far, Firefox 4 offers a better browsing experience than Safari. Unless Safari gets a major update, I won’t be switching back anytime soon. Which browser do you prefer?

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  1. Safari. Hands down. Speed alone is the reason. And the reader is awesome and used all the time. Firefox is a dog. End of story.

    1. Andrew Macdonald Eric Tuesday, March 22, 2011

      Me too.

  2. Still Google Chrome for me!

  3. Terry Blanchard Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Like you, I have tried all of the browsers and always ended up coming back to Safari. That was until I tried Chrome. It’s fast, minimal UI bulk. The only feature I miss from Safari is the SnapBack to your search results.

  4. AbdulRahman Deeb Tuesday, March 22, 2011


    I am an Apple Fanboy. I’va also tried all the web browsers, and I feel that Safari is the most stable among all.
    I only use Google Chrome instead of Safari for Google websites such as Gmail and Google Docs, because its a lot faster than any other browser.

    I kept Safari as a default browser.

    It seems Apple is working on fixing security holes in the mean time, which is much important than working on improving the UI.

  5. chrome still the best.

  6. I agree that Firefox 4 is way better than Safari, but how come you dont use chrome? I find Chrome to still be faster than Firefox. I’ve switched over to Chrome exclusively about a year ago for the Mac, and even though I do enjoy Firefox 4, I still find it to be a lot slower than Chrome. I’ve come to value speed for browsers above everything else, considering all the time I spend surfing the web, and though safari seems to focus on appearance and firefox focuses more on power and customization, I’m going to take Chrome’s speed over the two.

    1. Have you really noticed a difference in speed between chrome and safari? I haven’t

      1. I KNOW chrome is faster. I’ve watched co-workers wait on Safari to load while I bring up the page completely loaded in Chrome. I know they both are built on webkit, but Google’s rendering of Javascript is incredibly fast and the one-input-area always out-performs Safari. I did notice today that Firefox’s rendering of pages has had a big jump in performance, but for me it will be a matter of whether or not it can properly manage RAM.

  7. Charles McPhate Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Why does everyone keep calling the full screen mode “new”? It’s in Firefox 3, at least on the Mac.

    I have to say, I’m not yet impressed with Firefox 4. Some sites, like Facebook, seem faster, but others are unbearably slow. When I browse to the Chicago Tribune’s website (www.chicagotribune.com), it takes ~25 seconds for FF4 to display anything at all on the screen; it’s blank until then. I can see it working, but it doesn’t load progressively. Safari displays the page in under two seconds.

    I also dislike this move, started by Chrome, to remove the bar along the bottom of the window. I just like having that border around the window. I turned the Add-ons Bar back on, but it behaves different. This pop-up location bar is distracting, and it’s one of the big reasons I don’t use Chrome.

    Finally, they still haven’t resolved all the memory leaks. I have only five tabs open, none of them heavy on JavaScript, and Firefox 4 is hogging more than 420 megs of RAM. This is even worse than FF3.

  8. Short answer: No good reason, actually. I just want lots of page views.

  9. I made the switch from Safari 5.0.4 -> Chrome at the beginning of the year.

    Had no real reason to switch except that I wanted to try it out and see what the raves were all about. Ended up staying with Chrome for a few reasons:
    1. Tab undo retains your browsing history, so you can use the back button. In Safari you only get the tab, no history.
    2. Automatic browser sync with different computers. It syncs everything, even extension, very handy.
    3. Middle button to close a tab

    The things I do miss about Safari:
    1. iTunes integrated bookmark syncing to iOS devices.
    2. Command + 1,2,3 will open up bookmarks from the bookmark bar

    1. Terry Blanchard mrks Tuesday, March 22, 2011

      I miss the Command + 1,2,3 as well. It’s listed in the keyboard shortcuts for Windows, but it doesn’t seem like it made it’s way over to Mac … yet. Hint, hint.

      Yeah, I’m looking at you Google.

  10. I really like the new fire fox. But I will decide my favorite browser when Mac OS X Lion is released. I think Apple has a chance to make Safari something great in the next OS release.

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