I recently gave Firefox about a week of my life to see how I liked it. While I did not think it was perfect, it showed me that it is definitely worth exploring other browsers. So I decided to give Chrome a try, and then Opera. Chrome survived about a day as my default browser. To be honest, I really, really liked it… except for one huge problem: the tabs on the title bar. I work on two monitors, and the Web browser is almost always maximized on my main browser. About 20 years of computer use have trained me to click on title bars to switch applications, since they are larger than taskbar icons, and the application will not munge data or perform any actions when you do it. I also like to double click title bars to un-maximize. With Chrome, my behavior kept switching tabs and sometimes even closing them. Despite the fact that I really liked Chrome overall, this was a 100% deal breaker for me. So I gave Opera a download, and I saw that it took replicated this idiotic UI decision. I could force the tabs to be in their proper place, but only by also adding a useless toolbar above them, which was also unacceptable. As a result, Opera made it less than 10 minutes on my system.
Right now, I am back to using IE 8. I might give Firefox another week to see if I can deal with it, but it’s poor tab handling was driving me so nutty that all of the other things I liked about it were being overwhelmed.
At the advice of others, I’ve decided to give Firefox a one week trial (I’ve been an IE user since version 3 or 4 took me off of Netscape). I was willing to make the switch simply because IE is really, really slow. To be honest, the “usual suspect” list of reasons didn’t factor into the discussion for me:
- Security – I think that once you turn off ActiveX for public sites (the IE default for a long time now), IE gets a lot more secure. Firefox has its share of security issues, and I think a switch for security gets you little advantage in the long run.
- Stability – IE 8 has been rock solid for me. Even when Flash acts up, IE just closes the tab and if it keeps happening, IE stops it from loading on that page. Meanwhile, my Firefox using friends have been complaining about stability issues and memory leaks since version 1. In fact, it was a friend telling me that Firefox 3.6 really handles the crashing a leakages that encouraged me to try it out.
- Add ons – From what I can tell, much of the problems that plague Firefox are actually problems with add ons. So for someone to tell me that I should move to Firefox for the add ons is really not a ringing endorsement.
For me, the user experience (UX) is everything, and IE 8 has been a good user experience. Firefox’s crashing and memory leakages have been showstoppers for me, the bad UX from those issues offset any positives. But with these issues solved, Firefox became a legitimate option for me. I am now at the end of a week of usage, and I’ve found a lot to like, and a lot to dislike. I am not sure if it is enough to convince me to make the switch permanent.
- Speed – Firefox is noticeably faster than IE. I like that the most.
- Form field handling – Some sites (Facebook, WordPress’ editor that I am using right now) do not handle vertical scrolling in IE properly, and they work fine in Firefox.
- Spell checking – I love it.
- Tab handling – Firefox may have invented tabs, but IE handles them much, much more nicely in terms of grouping them with colors and where newly opened tabs appear. I found an add on that seems to make the tabs better, but it does not work with the most recent versions of Firefox.
- OneNote integration – IE’s “Send to OneNote” is much more useful than just printing to OneNote from Firefox.
- Facebook – I hate to say it, but I use Facebook a lot. And it seems to work much better in IE than Firefox, other than the large textbox issue that I have in IE.
- UI – The Firefox UI really reminds me of an X11 app, and that is not a compliment.
- Accelerators – I got very used to the “accelerators” (especially “Map with Bing”) in IE, and I miss them in Firefox. Yes, there are similar items in Firefox via add ons, but they invariably use Google services when I prefer Bing (especially maps, where Google Maps have burned me too many times).
If I could give IE 8 the spell check and speed of Firefox, or if Firefox had the better tab handling and OneNote integration, I would be happy. For me, both browsers meet my needs on the really big UX stuff now (security, crashing, resource leaks), so the details are what are important. And right now, I don’t think either browser is so superior to the other than I won’t miss something from the other.
I think what I will do is give Chrome a similar one week trial, and perhaps Opera as well. While I am not convinced that switching browsers will revolutionize my life, I do spend enough time in one for it to make my life easier or more difficult.