Even while most of my friends and the nerds I follow on the internet have defected to Safari or Chrome, I still willingly choose to use Firefox as my main web browser.
No, I’m not a masochist.
I use Firefox, Chrome, and Safari every day. I occasionally test things in Opera and IE. As long as you’re using the latest versions of everything, they’re all mostly good, modern browsers. I really believe that you could pick any of them and be just fine.
Everyone uses their computer differently. Everyone uses their web browser differently. This is my personal preference and experience.
The amount of time and energy that has gone into making each browser is amazing and I respect the people who work on them. If any of this feels like an attack on anyone please let me know and I’ll make it right.
The awesome location bar
The awesome bar is awesome. It’s really good at finding what I want with very few key strokes—its fuzzy search works well. In other browsers I usually end up awkwardly using the arrow keys or the mouse to select something they found, but won’t bring to the top of the list for whatever reason.
This is the single biggest reason I stick with Firefox.
Keywords for bookmarks
I can assign specific keywords to launch specific bookmarks or bookmarklets. For example, to save something to Instapaper I hit Command-L to get to the address bar, type ‘later’, hit enter, and I’m done.
As far as I know Safari doesn’t have any way to do this.
Chrome has something like bookmark keywords, but it’s not as straight forward. You have to set them up as custom search engines instead of applying them directly to your bookmarks.
I keep Firefox’s favorites toolbar hidden because I don’t have to see the toolbar to use my most commonly used bookmarks.
Memory and speed
Firefox is infamous for being a total memory hog, but it’s drastically improved in the last few years. Its memory management is now on par with other browsers.
One thing that really helps is how Firefox lazy-loads tabs when restoring a previous session. It’s beautiful. If I have, say, 50 tabs open (something that happens a lot) and I restart the browser it won’t destroy performance while everything loads at once. Instead, it only loads the active tab (as well as any pinned tabs). Other tabs load when you activate those tabs again.
Minor issues with Safari
I am not a fan of Command-Z to undo closed tabs. This used to be my number one Safari crasher, but it has improved in more recent versions. The rules around when it will undo the text you’re editing and when it’ll bring a tab back are confusing.
I miss having website icons on my tabs.
Selecting a specific portion of the URL in the address bar should be this:
- Move mouse over address bar.
- Double click.
It should not be this:
- Move mouse over address bar.
- Wait for animation.
- Move mouse to where the part of the URL I want moved.
- Double click.
Yes, it’s a tiny problem, but it’s something I do frequently while I work.
Minor issues with Chrome
Chrome’s lack of a full page title always visible somewhere is a little thing that annoys me to no end. Both Safari and Firefox1 place this at the top (at least on OS X). In Chrome, you have to place the cursor over the tab and wait for the title text to appear (which periodically fails). I want to see the full title often enough for this to be a real annoyance.
I’m a bit of a rampant, random, obsessive compulsive mouse clicker. I randomly click and right-click all over the place (in addition to randomly selecting text while I read). Yes, it’s weird. A weird side effect of my rampant clicking is tab switching. I don’t know how to reliably replicate it, but at least once or twice a day I’ll right-click then left-click and suddenly be in another tab. I have no idea why this happens. Chrome will also randomly disable the right-click all together for a tab I’m abusing with rampant clicks. It’s probably trying to tell me something.
Finally, there’s probably no real foundation to this fear, but I trust Apple and Mozilla to take my privacy more seriously than Google.
Minor issues with Firefox
It feels to me like Mozilla doesn’t really know what they want to do with Firefox. Should it look more like Chrome? Or maybe Safari? Since I’m a web developer am I supposed to be using the dedicated developer edition? I’m not really sure and I’m not sure they’re sure. Or maybe they’re entirely sure and I’m simply not getting that vibe from them.
I like the idea of strong opinions, which are weakly held2. This is how I feel today, but I’m not stubbornly attached to any of it. I might change my mind tomorrow… but probably not unless another browser improves its location bar to be competitive with Firefox’s. :)