Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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4/23/2007
02:30 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Safari Vs. Firefox On The Mac: Which Is Better?

I switched from Firefox on the Mac to the Safari browser yesterday. So far, after a couple of hours on Safari, I'm concluding that they're both fine browsers. On the other hand, each one has limitations. I really wish there were a browser that combines the best of both.

I switched from Firefox on the Mac to the Safari browser yesterday. So far, after a couple of hours on Safari, I'm concluding that they're both fine browsers. On the other hand, each one has limitations. I really wish there were a browser that combines the best of both.

Mac zealots seem to prefer the Mac's native Safari over Firefox, citing speed and the way Safari handles text as primary reasons. I've found no problems with Firefox's performance or text rendering on the Mac, perhaps because I have a new (and, therefore, relatively powerful) system.

But I switched to Safari because of my Quicksilver addiction. Quicksilver is a text interface to the Mac that's quickly become my primary way of opening documents, launching applications, and performing a whole lot of other functions. (Lifehacker has a good explanation and introduction to Quicksilver.)

One thing I hadn't been able to do with Quicksilver is integrate my browser history and del.icio.us bookmarks, so that I could start typing the name of a bookmark and have it automatically come up in Quicksilver. Quicksilver has a plug-in called Social Bookmarks which is supposed to provide that capability, but I'd never gotten it to work right. I did some googling around last night and discovered I'd only partially installed Social Bookmarks. The blog LifeClever has the complete instructions. I'd neglected to enter my del.icio.us user name and password. Silly mistake! But I corrected the error and now Quicksilver and del.icio.us integration is working great.

Next problem: Integrating the browser history into Quicksilver. Unfortunately, I discovered I was out of luck there -- Firefox history integration into Quicksilver doesn't work.

It does work in Safari, so I figured I'd give that a try.

My Safari impressions: Not really that much different from Firefox. They're both tabbed browsers, they both let you enlarge text or make it smaller for easier reading. They use the same keyboard shortcuts for critical functions: Cmd-L moves the cursor to the address bar, Cmd-T opens a new tab, and Cmd-+ and Cmd-- change the size of text.

On the plus side for Safari:

Safari does seem to display text better, but not so much as to make a big difference to my eyes.

Safari does a better job of displaying e-mail from Second Life in Gmail; for some reason, on Firefox, those messages were so wide I had to scroll left and right to read them, but that's not a problem in Firefox.

I'm enjoying the better Quicksilver integration for Safari.

Shortcomings in Safari compared with Firefox:

The menus for Omniture, the traffic-tracking service we use at InformationWeek, don't work quite right in Safari. So far, that hasn't been a problem; I have most of my favorite Omniture reports bookmarked anyway, so I don't use the menus much.

Clicking a link in Google Reader causes the new page to open in a new window, rather than a new tab as it does in Firefox. This has, surprisingly, proven to be not much of a problem; the Mac handles multiple document windows for individual applications gracefully enough that I don't mind having multiple Safari windows open.

So far, I'm sticking with Safari as my default browser, but I may change my mind at any moment.

By the way, I use the Delicious2safari application to integrate my del.icio.us links into Safari bookmarks. But I don't really use the Safari bookmarks much; I prefer to access the del.icio.us bookmarks through Quicksilver or directly by going to the site.

Mac users, which browser do you prefer?

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