I’ve tried all the browsers you can possibly think of, but I’ve always ended up going back to Safari (s aapl) 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 (s goog) 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.
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?