Firefox Update

So, I've been using Firefox as my default browser for about a week, both at home and at work, and I thought I'd report a follow-up on the experience. So far, it's been completely positive. As I stated earlier, Firefox does indeed rock. I have not had a single crash or had a single site fail to load (the latter happened to me all the time in the most recent incarnations of Safari). Firefox is fast and responsive. My window positions are remembered after quitting the app. Editing blog posts works as it should. And I have become addicted to certain features offered by Firefox that simply don't exist in Safari.

Surprisingly, one of the most addictive and useful features is the ability to mouse-wheel-click on a tab to close it. Safari gives you a little "x" in each tab, which when clicked, closes the tab. Firefox only offers an "x" for the tab you're currently in. So at first glance, there's no apparent way to close other tabs. But mouse-wheel-clicking a tab does the job, and requires far less accuracy than Safari's "x" method. There's a lot of stuff like this in Firefox. Hidden stuff that you thought only existed in Safari, but actually does exist and in many cases is implemented better, in Firefox.

Another feature I love is the ability to rearrange tabs. This is something I don't often need to do. But when I do want to do it, boy is it nice. And, going back to Safari, I really miss this feature.

Another feature I really like, and which I'd swear was promised long ago in Safari, but never implemented and seemingly dropped (apparently in deference to "features" like the inability to properly load multiple pages at one time) is the ability to bookmark a group of tabs. I tend to use tabs to group articles by a particular category I'm researching. Say, NFS. I'll Google NFS, then open each article of interest in a new tab, and start reading, closing the useless articles as I go. What I'm often left with is a group of tabs I'd like to bookmark in a folder called something clever, like "NFS." To do this in Safari, I'd first have go to the bookmarks window, create a folder called "NFS," then go to each tab and bookmark it. In Firefox, I hit "control-shift-d," name my folder, and I'm done.

The page-find feature is another great implementation in Firefox. It works similarly to Safari, in that "command-f" brings up a find dialog, but in Firefox, the dialogue pops up at the bottom of your window, instead of on top of everything. It stays active 'til you're done with it, and includes a great "highlight all" function that will highlight every instance of the term in your browser window. The highlight is especially nice too, as Firefox uses its own, can't-miss-it green for highlighting results on a page. Safari uses the system highlight color, which is often too pale to locate on a busy webpage, no matter what color I use.

My major complaint -- and it's quite minor -- is that Firefox doesn't quite look as nice as Safari. Safari looks a little better. A little more Mac-like. It's true. You can do a lot to improve the appearance of Firefox. I'm using a theme called "GrApple (Eos)" and it looks very nice. I'm also using "fancy widgets" from Empty Spaces which I installed with Firefoxy. And it looks pretty damn good. But Safari just barely edges it out in the appearance category. Just barely. My one other complaint is that the Cocoa Dictionary function (hover over a word and hit "command-control-d" to see a definition straight from OS X's built-in dictionary) doesn't work, since Firefox is a carbon app. But these are minor quibbles and are largely overshadowed by all the great features I gain from using Firefox.

I've loved Safari for a long time. It's an Apple app to its core. And as such, one tends to see a trade-off between simplicity and functionality. That is the Apple way. I guess for me, I've moved beyond what Safari can offer at this point in its development history. Safari is a great browser, especially for users without a lot of specific needs, or who don't, like I do, tend to spend all day surfing the web and using web apps. It's a great beginner's browser, and understanably inspires fierce loyalty in the Mac community. But for those of us who need a more robust browsing experience, the latest version of Firefox* kicks some solid ass. And it's only an alpha.

Until Safari catches up to Firefox's feature list, consider me switched.

*Previous versions of Firefox, for whatever reason, did not hold up so well for me as this latest release.