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A place for thought, progress, and dissent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Trying to love FireFox

I'm trying to stop using Safari. It's a great program, but a few features drive me nuts. When I accidentally hit command-q and lost a bunch of open windows and tabs, I was ready to jump ship. See, Safari doesn't ask you if you really want to lose all of your tabs, it just dumps them. (There is a hack to do this, and I installed it right away, but I was ready to give up on Safari at this point.)

So two days ago, I began using FireFox as my default browser, prompted in part by Jamis Buck, partly because version 1.5 made it feel a little quicker. I looked at Camino, and Opera, but I like FireFox the best, and I really really love the Web Developer extension, and GreaseMonkey, so if I switch, I'm going to go where I can get them.

Now, FireFox is great, and easily one of, if not the, best browser on every platform, but after two days, I'm going back to Safari. The first reason was the look and feel. I followed Jamis' suggestions and made FireFox look a lot like Safari, but it was still not quite as Mac-like as Safari. Putting close boxes on each tab is great but they're on the wrong side, and you can't click to close a background tab. Say what you want about Safari's Metal interface, but it is clean-looking.

The feature that really did it for me, however, was spell checking. In Safari, I can use the OS X spell checker to check every form on any site. I love the little red lines under words, and I love the system integration. There are ways to spell-check in FireFox, but none that I've seen that integrate with the OS X dictionary.

Another big pro for Safari is PDF support. At first, I didn't think I'd like PDFs returning to the browser (old versions, and FireFox send them to the Preview app, by default), and Safari doesn't give you much control over the PDF display. However, it is much quicker to see the PDF in the browser first, and then save or open it from there. I didn't realize how much I appreciated this in my workflow until I lost it in FireFox.

Finally, speed is a back and forth issue. Safari seems to hang a few times a day, and only a restart helps. However, it still feels faster than FireFox at dealing with windows. I don't think there is a clear winner here. Also, Jamis complained about the tab key in Safari. Maybe I've been in Safari too long, but it actually makes more sense to me than FireFox does.

FireFox will continue to live right next to Safari in my Dock, and I will open it often for testing and such, but I'm sticking with Safari. I know there are ways around a lot of the problems I've described, but if I'm going to spend time pimping my browser, I'm going to PimpMySafari.

On a final note, other browsers have come up: Opera is great, but I'm just not feeling it yet. I don't know why, but I can't get into it. Flock seems pretty cool, but has a way to go before it will be usable. Camino feels very good, but I'm not convinced yet. It will be the next one I try. OmniWeb? Sorry, I'm not paying for a browser. iCab? Seems cool, but I don't see any great benefits. All this browser-hopping is tiring.

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