Mac Musings

There Is No 'Best Browser' for the Mac

Dan Knight - 2005.11.22 - Tip Jar

One of the nice things about free software is that there's no excuse not to try it and find out what works best for you. In my case, I use one messaging client for almost all of my instant messaging on three different services - and three different browsers to access the same Internet.

I'll take a closer look at Adium X another time, but if you use more than one messaging service (Yahoo, MSN, AOL/iChat, Jabber), it's worth a look. It doesn't support voice or video, but the convenience of a single program handling several services at once is wonderful.

The Best Browser

There is no best browser. There is a worst one, and while most Windows users use it, most Mac users gave up on Internet Explorer long ago.

There is no best browser. Some are faster. Some are smarter. Some handle bookmarks or RSS feed better. Some look better. And all of them seem to have problems with something.

My solution: I regularly use three different browsers.

Firefox

My default browser has been Firefox for quite some time. I've been using the 1.5 beta since it was first released, and I really like it. It's pretty fast, renders most pages well, has a nice tabbed interface, and has plenty of plugins available. I get to pick my own "skin" and also have the Yahoo Toolbar installed, something you can't do in Safari.

I use Yahoo Mail, play Yahoo Games, and am subscribed to Yahoo Personals, so that toolbar is very convenient.

I just like the way Firefox works and looks. My biggest complaints are the scroll bar - it has such low contrast that it's nearly invisible - and real problems with Yahoo Games. Other than that, well done.

Opera

Opera gave up on selling their browser earlier this year, and I've become a huge fan in recent months. It's fast, attractive, different, and does a nice job rendering almost everything.

Since Firefox doesn't play well with Yahoo Games, Opera is my primary browser for online euchre. While waiting for tourneys to start and between rounds, I also use it to check my Yahoo email and personals, as well as my Match.com and eHarmony accounts.

It also works well with Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Rand MacNally Maps (only Rand MacNally seems to realize that the M-6 highway next to the apartment complex is open - and has been for a year). These services are great for figuring out where the heck that town if mentioned in online personals - and how long it would take to drive there.

I used to be a big MapQuest fan, but each of these mapping services has features to commend it. Kind of like using three browsers....

The more I use Opera, the more I like it. As much as I like Firefox and have become used to it, it's possible that Opera could become my default browser at some point.

Safari

It's not my least-used browser, but that's because I hardly ever launch Internet Explorer, iCab, Shiira, or Camino. I use Safari for one reason - everyone writing about modern Macs should be familiar with it (the same reason I use Mac Mail) - and primarily for one purpose.

I got tired of using a regular POP3 email account for site-related email. Using an eMac at the apartment and a Power Mac at home, not to mention sometimes using my PowerBook elsewhere, it was a pain having emails on the wrong computer and inaccessible, so now I use Yahoo Mail for that.

This also allowed me to dispense with several email addresses, reduce the number of spam magnets, and just simplify my life. Yahoo does a pretty good job of identifying spam and of not misidentifying legitimate email. Not perfect, but pretty good. And now I can check site-related email from any computer.

That's just about the only thing I use Safari for. Yahoo Mail is set up as the home page, I log in, and I can deal with issues on our mailing lists, get feedback on the site, read (or ignore) news releases. It's really simplified my life.

Funny thing is, before spam it was having multiple email addresses that did that. Everything to listmom was about the email lists. Everything to webmaster was about the site. Everything to - well, you get the picture. And then came spam. Nowadays the fewer email addresses you use the better.

Flexibility

There's no reason to only use one browser, one email program, or one messaging program if you can't find a single program that meets all your needs. I like Adium for messaging, GyazMail for email, and prefer Firefox and Opera for browsing.

Except for GyazMail, they're all free, and a good email client is worth the price. You might like Apple's email client. You may prefer Eudora or Thunderbird or something else. Whatever fits your needs and work style.

And that's what it boils down to - choice. It's why the Mac has survived in a world dominated by Windows, why Firefox is making inroads against Internet Explorer, and why Mac users should look at alternatives to Safari instead of just using Apple's default.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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