Firefox vs. Safari

Firefox vs. Safari on MacI’ve been quite happy with Firefox for the past few months. Last summer and into autumn though, FF was crashing for me on a daily basis. Having 5 or more tabs open and running any sort of FTP program seemed to be the culprits, but for a Web designer who works primarily with cloudware, having 5 tabs open is about the minimum and running my browser while FTPing is basically my job.

So I began experimenting with Safari, but pre-Leopard I couldn’t get passed the brush metal look. Many find this to be silly visual preference, but one of the main reasons I like OS X compared to Windows is the way it looks. Aside from the fact that Vista looks like it was built by a colorblind 15 year old, the very essence of what a user interface looks like translates to its usability. In fact, I would argue that usability is simply how you visually present an interface. And I would be 100% correct and then some.

Anyway, my dilemma was this: continue using Firefox and all of its crashing or switch over to Safari and deal with the limitations. It’s been about 6 weeks now and I still haven’t come up to any sort of a conclusion, though I’m still more likely to be in Firefox than Safari. Here are a few observations, for the interested:

All of these Firefox plugins that make sites more useful get lost in Safari.

  • Safari doesn’t allow you to force “new windows” (target=”_blank”, which is depreciated HTML) to just open in new tabs. The whole point of having tabs is to not have new windows, and only certain popups ever need to opened in new windows.
  • Safari can’t support Remember the Milk for Gmail, basically, because it’s a Firefox plugin. I realize many people don’t care about RTM, but the point is that all of these great Greasemonkey scripts and plugins for FF that modify how websites are used get lost in Safari.
  • The Web Developer Plugin for Firefox completely blows away the Inspect Element addition to Safari. With a few shortcut key tweaks, I can use Web Developer to quickly outline any element I hover over, giving me, as a Web designer, instant access to what’s breaking my CSS.
  • Sidebars make for good times on a Mac, particularly if you want to use Google Talk. No sidebars for Safari equals no easy way to use Google Talk.
  • Safari does by default what 25% of my Firefox plugins were doing for me. Things like minimizing buttons (eg, the stop and reload buttons can be the same; they’re never able to be used simultaneously), using the address bar as an indication of how much a page has loaded, and an overall sleeker interface all make Safari a better user experience right from the start.
  • Safari is lightning fast compared to FF. Firefox has, since 1.5, been getting slower and slower, and has this nasty habit of hogging up system resources even after you close tabs or even whole windows.
  • Safari feels like a Mac application, meaning it feels stable and well-integrated with the rest of your computing experience.
  • Tragically, Safari and WordPress don’t always play nice together.

So my overall conclusion, I think, is that until I can get Remember the Milk into Gmail in Safari (or some supplemental To Do list) and I can force new pages to open in tabs and not new windows, I’ll have to stick with Firefox and hope it doesn’t crash just before I hit “Publish.”

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