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The Internet browser is one of the most useful pieces of software on your computer, it’s the gateway to the Internet – the main form of communication for the vast majority of the world. There are a number of browsers out there that allow you to surf the web, and if you use an Apple computer, it can be tough to choose the best browser.
The four main browsers used by Mac users are Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Here is a comparison based on five features that users across all browsers use.
Layout and use
Safari comes installed on all of Apple’s devices that connect to the Internet and is a good looking browser. With tabs, you can browse more than one website in the same window. In general, Safari is a good browser based on layout and use. It does lack a unified address bar with part of the bar being taken up by a rarely used search function.
Chrome is a simple looking browser with a clearly defined address bar and visually appealing layout. To users of other browsers, it can appear to be a little too simple. After a bit of use, many users agree Chrome is the best to use. Beyond that, it’s the most stable of the browsers.
Opera, while not having the best layout when compared with the other browsers, does have some layout features that make it great. You can group tabs together and keep them open making for structured browsing. You can also preview the content of a tab by hovering over it.
Firefox is the most similar browser to Safari, the only major difference – layout wise – is that tabs are above the address bar. The downside is that it’s the most unstable of browsers, prone to crashing at inopportune times.
Safari has recently introduced extensions, so selection is limited compared to other browsers. You still have personalization options though.
Chrome has the web store, with a large selection of extensions called apps. Many of these apps are little more than websites that can be easily accessed by clicking a link on the browser window. Some of the apps are also prone to causing problems with Google’s apps, especially apps with tasks that overlap those of Google’s apps.
Opera has useful extensions but due to a lower user base, extensions are slow to be updated, however, the browser is highly configurable which makes it a dream for users who like to tinker.
Firefox is the champion of extensions and add-ons. You can change nearly everything on the browser and there are a wealth of add-ons that make it the best browser for people who want to get more out of the Internet. The add-ons page is also easy to navigate and logically arranged.
Security is paramount to many organizations, luckily, the four browsers all warn users about websites that are scams, phishing schemes or are known to host unsecure content. Safari can quickly and easily block plugins and scripts. The only downside is, anything beyond scripts and plugins and Safari struggles to remain secure.
Opera and Chrome both have really good security options that can be customized to meet your needs. Chrome does have a few more options and is frequently updated, with updates covering exposed security threats thus setting it apart from Opera in this category. Chrome also offers private browsing which means it won’t store history, passwords and cookies.
Firefox is a secure browser, you just need to install add-ons to make it incredibly secure. Just like Chrome, you can browse in “stealth mode” and passwords, history and cookies won’t be recorded.
Speed of a browser is hard to measure as each of the browser’s developers focus on different aspects related to speed.
Safari is a fast browser in terms of navigating to pages, while Chrome is the fastest at loading pages from a URL address. If you don’t have any add-ons installed, Firefox is the fastest at loading pages with Java, this means more complex websites will load quicker. Install add-ons, extensions or themes however, and loading speeds will increase dramatically for all browsers.
Integration with OS X
Being the native browser for OS X, Safari has the best integration – out of the box – of all the browsers. With a click of a few buttons, Chrome can be just as integrated with OS X as Safari.
The other browsers – Firefox and Opera – lack the same level of integration, they don’t work too well with Keychain and the OS X dictionary, so entering new words on one will not update the dictionary of the other. With some extensions integration can improve, but still falls short of Chrome and Safari.
When comparing the browsers for everyday use, there really isn’t much of a difference and personal preference will play largely into which browser you like. We recommend that you try all the browsers and pick the one that works for you and your company. What’s your favourite browser for OS X? Let us know below, or please contact us if you’d like to know more.
Published on 8th August 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.