So out of all the topics I generally write about, rarely will I discuss Web browsers. However, this week, the way I access the Web, both on my home PC, and on my work Mac, has completely changed for the better. The way I had my desktop set up until this week was that Chrome was my default browser on my PC and Safari was on my Mac. In both cases, I had Firefox installed and ready to launch whether it was on my quick launch bar or in my Mac’s dock. On my PC, I also had Internet Explorer at hand’s reach, just in case I come across one of those few leftover web pages that are displayed correctly in IE only. This week, all that changes.
My time on the Web is usually mostly dedicated to reading about the newest technological advancements in the mobile market. Lately, however, whether it is because not much is going on in that industry, or because most of the people I follow on Twitter are not as interested in mobile as I am, I have spent a lot of time researching and reviewing a totally different realm of technology. I have been trying to determine which of the many Web browsers, best suits my needs.
My conclusion is narrowed down to two browsers, which seem like they pretty much dominate the public opinion, or at least the opinion of most tweeple in twitterville. The first browser that I feel is leagues above most others is Google’s new Chrome. It will not take long for me to explain to you why I love it so much, in fact, I can pretty much sum it up in one word; speed. I read somewhere (probably in a tweet) that someone compared launching Chrome to opening Notepad or any other similar program. It is instant, and smooth. There is absolutely no delay whatsoever. Chrome is much faster than any other browser I have tested, and I think I have pretty much tested em all. So, if speed is what you are looking for in a browser (aren’t we all?), Chrome is your choice.
However, and this a big minus for me, with Chrome, what you see is what you get. I mean to say, that what makes my default browser, Firefox 3, so great, and worth sacrificing those few extra milliseconds upon launch, are the amazing add ons for Firefox. Firefox can be used with the basic configuration you get when you download it, or you can download endless add ons to enhance its functionality. The experience of downloading add ons for FF3 reminds me of the experience with the App Store, as in, effortless, smooth, and even fun.
Just to give you a few examples of the add ons I use, which by the way, I found through a recommendation of one of my followers on Twitter (if you have not figured it out yet, I have been spending a lot of my time on Twitter, and you can expect a lengthy detailed review of why I love it so much, some time in the very near future). Here they are:
- TwitterFox: A really great add on that came very close to replacing all my desktop clients that I use to access Twitter. The only issue for me was, and this is not a function of this specific add on, rather a characteristic of Firefox, when I am watching a movie, or do not have Firefox on the front of my screen, I can not receive Twitter notifications. You do not expect me to go an hour and a half without knowing the happenings of Twitter, do you?
- IE Tab: This add on is borderline genius. In the time I have been using Firefox, there have been many instances where I could not view a web page or a video the way it was meant to be seen, because of all sorts of compatibility issues. Some sites still only work on Internet Explorer. This add on gives you three options. You can seamlessly change your current page from Firefox to IE, without closing it and reopening it in IE. This is the option I do most. You can also open a new tab in IE, and then type whatever URL you want to visit in the address bar. The third option is you can click on any link and open it in IE. It’s a great add on that I have used many times since I installed it.
- FoxyTunes: One of the coolest add ons available. Basically, this add on gives you the ability to control your music player from your browser. You can rewind, fast forward, skip songs, adjust the volume and more, without opening iTunes, or whatever music application you use. Very useful.
- Screen Grab: A simple but practical add on. It is as it sounds. It enables you to take a screen capture of an entire screen or a selected area, without ever opening up another program.
Those are just a few examples, but all my add ons make it impossible for me to use any other browser. If you are deciding what browser to use, here is how you decide. For starters, x out IE, it just is not in the same league. If you are trying to decide between Firefox and Chrome, it really is an easy decision. Just think about your needs. Do you want a browser that is blazing fast and gives you the basic functionality that a Web browser is supposed to give you? Or do you want a browser that is really much more? Are you a basic Web user or do you do more on the Web than just read interesting articles and blogs? I think these browsers really target different audiences. Google, as usual, managed to make a simple, but extremely impressive browser, while Mozilla, really revolutionized the browser world, by creating a browser that is a Jack of all Trades.
When you’re on a website and you want to email the URL to a friend, why does it take so many steps? You need to copy the address, open Gmail, paste the address, add the name, and send. Alternatively, if I want to add a meeting to my calendar, I have to open Google Calendar, add an event etc. Come on! We are in 2008, there has to be an easier way.
Ubiquity is the answer, its brand new from from Mozilla Labs. The technology uses open APIs to create a really easy-to-use command program. The shortcut keys are really amazing and very intuitive. It provides you with a set of commands, that when typed, activate certain actions that would have generally taken many more steps.
For example I could type “email this page to Steve” and my Gmail opens with a link in the body, and Steve’s email address in the to field.
Another example is, if I want to search for something or get directions to somewhere on Google Maps, you can type “map my home address to the location” and then email it by writing ” email this to Me.”
The best part is that you can easily customize the commands and shortcut keys to fit your needs.
So take a look at the movie below to better understand what I am rambling about.
Try it and let me know what you think.