I am currently sitting on the horns of a dilemma (well, actually a trilemma, but let’s not get into that again). The source of my troubles is the choice of which browser to use for my day-to-day browsing needs.
You might have heard of a little browser called Firefox: word has it that it’s fairly popular. What Firefox seems to have that recommends it over the other two browser is that
- It’s free, and
I shall assume for the moment that most of you know how useful Firefox extensions are, so I shan’t talk about them at great length. I shall merely point out that the Web Developer extension is invaluable for development work and, while I haven’t tried it yet, Greasemonkey looks very exciting.
So what’s wrong with Firefox? Sadly, as with the majority of open-source software, its main problem seems to lie in usability: not to anything like the same extent as some of the worst offenders (as previously discussed) it does lack some of the Mac Polish that I’ve come to know and love.
Ok, on to the next option: Safari. What makes Safari good?
- It’s polished
- It’s free (at least in practical terms: strictly speaking its price is included in the price of the operating system)
So far, so good. Unfortunately, what really lets Safari down for the power user is that it’s pretty lightweight on features. Want type-ahead find? Nope, sorry. Site-specific preferences? Ain’t gonna happen. That said, Pimp My Safari looks very interesting: I shall have to give it a more thorough look soon.
Now on to the third browser: OmniWeb. The bad news first: it ain’t free. The good news: it’s got some lovely Mac Polish, integrates nicely with the Mac UI and has features coming out the wazoo (or would do if there weren’t remarkably few software-based wazoo implemenations). The tab drawer (complete with itty-bitty thumbnails) is lovely, the workspaces (think saved, switchable browser sessions) are lovely, the whole thing is lovely.
Sadly, the whole thing also has a number of performance problems and guzzles memory faster than a cry of “Who’s for shots?”. Even worse, there are a number of stability problems causing the browser to occasionally crash, which is awfully annoying (although, due to the browser’s ability to remember your session details, not devastating to productivity). I think, however, it should be taken as a Sign that any browser which repeatedly crashes when visiting Weebl’s Stuff has no sense of humour.
What, therefore, is my conclusion? My conclusion is that I have no conclusion. The problem appears to be “Feature-filled, polished, free and stable: pick two (where free and stable are a single item)”. Granted, it’s not the snappiest of posers, but never mind. I’m thinking my current plan is to see whether I can get Safari up to scratch on the extension front and, if so, stick with that. Failing that, I reckon Firefox is probably the way to go. Sorry OmniWeb, but the stability and performance problems really kill you off pretty quickly.
Addendum: looks like Jon “All-Round Web Design God” Hicks has been having similar thoughts and even done a little survey of which browsers people use. He also mentions Camino, which I haven’t talked about here because I’ve never tried it. Yet.