Browsers of Choice

It’s always interesting to me to see what browsers people use. Increasingly I’m surprised by how many non-tech savvy people I notice not using Internet Explorer, something that was rare even a few years ago.  First Firefox and now Chrome have done a great job of pushing the idea that not every browser is the same.  Just the simple fact that Google hits you with Chrome ads every time you visit Google to do a search or YouTube to watch a video has led to widespread awareness of the fact that there are other options out there than what came bundled with your OS.

Our analytics show this too – our sites tend to mimic the browser reports on w3Schools – Firefox is our users the primary browser, IE8 is #2 and losing market share fast to Chrome, IE6 and IE7 are (thankfully) dying off, and of course there has been a noticeable influx of mobile browsers.  I remember a time not that long ago when it was IE6 on Windows XP and then everyone else. Certainly not the case any more!

I’ve personally settled into a nice little routine for my browsers. For testing purposes, I’ve got the latest of everything from IE9 Platform Preview right down to Opera. But for everyday use, I use the following:

  • Firefox – all work and all web development.  It’s all about the add-ons, particularly Firebug (I have a full list of the add-ons that I use in my Web Design & Development for Business essay, updated today to add a few new ones). Until something comes close to Firebug and the like – and there are a lot of ok products in the other browsers – I’m sticking with Firefox as my main development browser.  I can’t even comprehend how many hours of debugging Firebug has saved me.
  • Chrome – all of my personal browsing.  I have it open up with my most used tabs – LockerPulse, Twitter, Google Reader, and my fantasy football page.  It’s just so fast.  I love the minimalist interface. I love the way it auto-updates.  I love the way it uses Webkit and supports the latest and greatest (side note: wouldn’t the internet be a better place if every browser just used Webkit as their rendering engine? Would save us developers so much time, and saved time = better products)
  • Internet Explorer – banking sites. Some just don’t work correctly (or at all) in the other browsers.  Kind of lame.  I often wonder what people on Mac or Linux machines do when this happens…

I find that by having completely separate work and personal browsers I’m better able to compartmentalize my online life. When I’m working, Chrome is only open if I need to test something. Similarly, when I’m not working I only open Firefox is I need to jot down a quick work-related note in my task list or a Google Doc. It’s also nice to always be logged in to my personal Google account on Chrome (the one I use for Google Reader and to sync with my Android phone) while our business one (for Analytics, AdWords, AdSense, etc) and our Google Apps one (Gmail, Docs, Sites, etc) are always signed in on Firefox.

What about you – what is your browser of choice and why?  Are you like me in that you use multiple browsers on a daily basis?  If you’re a developer, is there something you like better than Firefox? If you’re not a developer, do you download and try different browsers or do you just stick with what you’ve got?

11 comments on Browsers of Choice

  1. Brad says:

    Internet Explorer is obviously the best browser…for finding and downloading another browser.

    I’m a Firefox guy myself. I just find the interface to be really intuitive. I tried Chrome a while back but just didn’t like the look and feel.

    I’ve heard the Chrome is currently the fastest browser, but haven’t tested it recently to see if there is a noticeable difference.

  2. Dave says:

    I rarely use IE any longer. I tend to use Firefox (though I always have tons of tabs open and it uses like 300+MB of memory when open) primarily, but find myself using Chrome more and more. Super happy to start seeing the stats die down in IE7 and below…as you are aware, it makes it much easier when web developing if we didn’t have to worry about those browsers.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Yes, as a designer I’m sure it particularly frustrates you to no end having to try to make something work on the older versions of IE.

      You did bring up one of the downsides of Firefox – with all of the plugins running and tabs open it takes up a ton of memory.

  3. Tim says:

    I too run the gambit on browsers for testing and accessing various sites. I am a Mac guy and use Chrome now almost exclusively. However, I have Firefox, Safari, Opera and Camino for testing and navigating some difficult sites. I have yet to run into a site or a problem that I could not handle on my Mac because of the browser or because it was a Mac. For example Paypal doesn’t always work with Chrome, in particular the deeper you dig into their features and functions.

    As a heads up, Firebug lite exists on Chrome now https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/bmagokdooijbeehmkpknfglimnifench?hl=en I have not tried it but I think it’s a good sign. I know a lot of people try Chrome but then abandon it quickly, I know I had the same problem, I tried it thought it was OK but not great so I reverted back to my 50/50 Safari/FireFox usage. When Safari 5.0 came out it was a disaster, crashed more in a week than it had in the previous 2-3 years I’ve used it. So I decided to give Chrome a second shot, with a few extensions and a new theme it’s fantastic, it’s not too plain, it looks nice, it’s fast and the extensions are really helpful and integrate well for someone who’s a heavy google products user like I am.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Tim – I did try Firebug lite when it came out and it was very much “lite” (not nearly as good as on FF). The default developer tools in Chrome are actually almost as good as Firebug, especially the javascript console. If Chrome plug-ins continue to grow and Webkit becomes #1 (as it may with things like the iPad and mobile browsers all being Webkit) I could see myself switching at some pt.

  4. Rob says:

    Chrome all the way. I am SUCH a tab abuser though. When I used firefox, sometimes “close tabs” actually gets on to my to-do list. I’m always finding sites and saving them for later. Eventually I’ll get round to bookmarking them (though I never look at my bookmarks… I have about 17k synced via xmarks). It would sometimes get to the point that I’d crash firefox because I had so much open, then it’d bring up a restore tabs page. instead of restoring them, i’d just open more, and crash it again. eventually I’d have 4 or 5 nestled levels of “restore tabs” tabs. That would take a while to sort out, because some of them were “important”.

    Anyway, Chrome has stopped me doing that. I love how fast it is, I love that it just works, and I no longer go mental with opening lots of tabs, and getting me out of that habit is awesome.

    Firefox & firebug are a great combo for developing though, unrivalled really. Pity I’m not really good enough to fully make use of all of its functionality!

    • Dave says:

      How did Chrome fix your issues opening lots of tabs?

      • Rob says:

        because it’s sleek and tidy and encouraged me to be sleek and tidy too!

        • Adam McFarland says:

          WOW 17k synced bookmarks. I too use Xmarks – I just checked and I have 313! I do purge from time to time but man, I don’t know if I’ve visited 17k websites in my life!

          • Rob says:

            What can I say, I’m a hoarder. I’m trying to be better! Seriously, if someone came and deleted all my bookmarks I’d probably only miss 5 of them. The chrome new tab most visited thingie works for most stuff, google for everything else.

            As for banks, HSBC is forcing us to install this piece of software called rapport. If you log in without it installed you’re less likely to be able to claim, should a hacker get in or you fall prey to phishing.

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