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Jim's Browser Review

(Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011)

Who am I? (click for info)

    This review will need to be updated now that IE 9, Chrome 10, and Firefox 4 have been released. Come back in a couple of weeks for my walkthrough.
    Trying to recommend a browser to experienced web-savvy users reminds of the old days when there was some rough parity between word processors, before Word/MS Office took over the world. At that time (while DOS was still in use and early versions of Windows through Windows 3.11 current) if you tried to recommend a certain word processor, as I did "Wordstar," you could get quite an argument going from "WordPerfect" users, for example. It was pretty obvious that people became fond of the word processor they were used to and were understandably resistant to change to another as it meant a learning curve of "how do I do this in ______." Along came Windows, especially Windows 95, and the differences between word processors became differentiated not as by their command structure as the commands were all there in the onscreen menu, so much as by their file format. One tended to adopt a certain word processor so as to be file-compatible with what one used at the office, or with that of family, friends, or school. Microsoft won that "competition." It is another matter as to whether they "deserved" to win it! And one can certainly argue that the current version of Open Office is competitive in functionality and certainly is a better deal - FREE! Recommending someone change browsers is a bit like this situation because having used IE (because it comes on the machine) people are understandibly hesitant to change - "how do I do this in ______" is often non-trivial. Is it worth the effort to change? That will depend on whether you can see enough value in the new product to be worth the learning curve (and attendant occasional frustration). I do not recommend anyone jump ship unless one is willing to climb the hill (to mix metaphors). If you are happy with your current browser, my best wishes!
    Candidates I will discuss: Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.6, Google Chrome 6
    (Caveat: Everything I have to say here in evaluating these browsers is open to change as new versions (IE 9, Firefox 4, for example) are introduced.) Update: All three have been introduced, except Firefox 4, due in a week or so. Here is a review of them all.
    • IE 8
      IE 8 claims that it safer "out-of-the-box" than other browsers - it says so right on IE's homepage - it doesn't claim to be faster than others, only faster than it used to be or maybe faster on some sites).
    • Google's Chrome 6
      Has a lot of features to like, including improved handling of Javascript-heavy sites, like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Google Docs. No need for the Google toolbar - it's built-in! Just type search terms in the address box and press enter! Warning, if you use Century-Links web mail it is NOT compatible with Chrome. They need to fix this!
    • Firefox Browser 3.6
      Top features:
      Anti-Phishing & Anti-Malware: Enjoy the most advanced protection against online bad guys.
      Session Restore: Unexpected shutdown? Go back to exactly where you left off.
      One-Click Bookmarking: Bookmark, search and organize Web sites quickly and easily.
      Private Browsing: Surf the Web without leaving a single trace.
      Easy Customization: Thousands of add-ons give you the freedom to make your browser your own.
    How to compare browsers?
  1. Security
  2. Speed
  3. Ease of use
  4. Web site compatibility
  5. Stability
    Web site compatibility
  • Years ago almost all sites were designed primarily for IE and therefore you would expect it to continue to be most compatible. But that started to change in IE 7 and 8, so much so that MS had to introduce the so-called "compatibility view" (see little torn page icon next to location bar in IE). Although IE is still the "most popular" browser (because it is pre-installed with Windows, while FF and Crome are not), IE no longer the standard for web development.
  • Here is an example of a useful site that IE cannot load:
    In Depth Interview with Shelby Foote (C-SPAN)
    Try it in FF or Chrome.
    Speaks for itself.
  • My personal reasons for dropping IE, way back when IE was in version 6, and granted it is safer and faster now, in version 8, were a matter not only of speed, but of stability. All browsers have lock-up problems from time to time with problematic web sites or plug-ins (flash, for example). But IE was, and still is, more prone to freezing than FF or Chrome based on my own ancedotal experience. The more tabs you have open the more likely you will have a total browser crash/lock up, which is fairly common in FF. IE and Chrome supposedly protect against such. Chrome certainly seems more stable to me, especially when having many tabs open.
  • IE Add-ons Some of these work also in Firefox.
  • Chrome Extensions
  • Firefox Add-ons
      My personal favorites
    • Xmarks only cross browser (Firefox/Chrome/IE) sync program available.
    • Research Word Select a word or phrase in a web page, right-mouse click, and immediately find results in Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, online dictionaries, etc.
    • Read It Later On-click save current page to be read later - useful for news items (and other pages) that are often updated/disappear.
    • Adblock Plus Annoyed by adverts? Troubled by tracking? Bothered by banners? Install Adblock Plus now to regain control of the internet and change the way that you view the web.
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