On the Mac, there are many browsers beyond Safari: some common, some more obscure. It is not that Safari is a bad browser, or that it has a limited feature set.
Safari is Apple’s vision of the web browser and targeted at general users. Not to mention most of its feature releases tie into releases of macOS. So you may want a different focus, or want major updates more than once a year.
Here are a few good alternatives to try out.
None of these are going to be too far off your radar. One has become one of the most popular browsers on the web. Another is an open source mainstay that broke open the door for alternative web browsers. This is the short list that even power users go to when looking for a new browser.
1. Google Chrome: The Current Standard
There isn’t much to say about Chrome. It is growing far beyond almost any other browser. Is it a browser, or an OS? The answer is a little bit of both. It is one of the most extensible browsers you can use. You can get everything from password safes to full on text editors that all live right in your browser.
Even with all the additions, Chrome is a strong contender for the fastest browser.
2. Firefox: Old School and Open Source
Firefox is the original alternative browser, and one that many called “doomed” when Chrome came on the scene. Firefox is not dead, but it was touch and go for a few years there. There was a persistent idea that it was slow. Firefox has a renewed sense of relevance driven by quick updates. Performance improved by clearing out old extensions that might hurt performance.
Firefox is not the same as Chrome. You will not find an array of apps that turn your browser into an OS. You do find an excellent array of extensions that make your browser more powerful. If you are weary of the resources Chrome consumes on your system, Firefox is worth a new look.
3. Opera: Features, Features, Features
Opera is the vinyl record of web browsers. Its fans are deep and devoted, but a little outside of the mainstream. Opera was never the dominant browser on the web. Yet it was usually first to market with features that are now standards in other web browsers.
After a decade of putting Opera on everything with a CPU, the browser has a renewed focus on the desktop. The newest version has some interesting features.
The first is that there is an Opera-branded free VPN you can add as an extension. There’s also support for embedding social chat apps into the sidebar. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are standard, but you can add others as extensions. There’s a built-in RSS reader included as well. There’s even a battery saving feature included for laptops, which works by tweaking options on the page as it loads.
Opera is a great browser if you like features. Beyond its built-in ecosystem, there is an extension that allows installing Chrome Extensions. It is a solid browser, fixing many of the issues that plague Chrome. I followed fellow author Joel in making this my default browser after these tests.
4. Vivaldi: Opera Meets Chromium
Vivaldi is meant to be a reboot of Opera, stripping everything down to a bare-bones browser. That bare-bones approach to the browser is not to say that Vivaldi is generic.
You can move the tab bar to any side of the window. There are many color themes you can use, which can change based on the time of day. You can even adjust the browser theme based on your Hue light bulb settings (really life-changing stuff).
Vivaldi has built-in compatibility with Chrome plugins. Web history has in-depth analysis, allowing you to do a deep dive on your browsing habits. There’s a notebook included. You can take notes that include screenshots and attachments. Vivaldi has a good balance of features without getting in the way.
There’s also a Spotlight-like interface showing you all available commands. You invoke it by pressing Command + E. For a newer browser, it is a strong contender.
Less Common and Specialty Browsers
These browsers range from overlooked to specialized. A few of these are off the beaten path. Others are purpose-built browsers for specific situations. Not every one of these is an out and out replacement browser, but they are all useful.
5. Maxthon: An App Store Alternative
If you remember the late 90s or early 00s, browser suites were all the rage. Even Opera took the form of a suite for a while there. Maxthon combines a notebook app, mail program, a screen shot app, a password manager, and a browser. It is one of the only alternative browsers on the Mac App Store.
Beyond the range of apps built in, there isn’t anything that makes Maxthon stand out. The newest version for Mac does not even support extensions.
Yet, if you live in your web browser, have everything in one window might be helpful. You have a notebook that you can keep everything in, even your bookmarks. Rather than a sidebar app like Vivaldi, this is a full tab in the browser. Everything is passable here; it is just not distinctive beyond all being in one place.
6. Fake: Automator for the Web
If your primary way to get work done is in your brower, Fake might be worth a look. It allows you to build Automator-like workflows to take actions on web pages. This power means that you can do easy things like having an action to fill out web forms with your information.
At $30, Fake is not something you buy because you are looking to play around. You do get a free trial to see what you can make with it, but it is an investment. Fake is not going to be your daily web browser. However, if you want to automate your experience on the web, it is worth checking out.
7. Fluid: Any Page an App
There are not native apps for Facebook and other social networks on the Mac. If you want to make any web page into a native Mac app, try Fluid. You enter the URL and name. Then, tell it where to save the app, and if you want a custom icon or the favicon for the site.
After a few moments, you have a Mac app that points to the site you wanted. It works on your Mac just like a native app. In the free version, there are a few caveats. Once you pay $5 for the app, you get a few more features.
You can make your app full screen, and pin it to the status bar. Fluid is another app that is more of a utility than a daily browser. That is not shocking as it is from the same developer as Fake.
8. Tor Browser Bundle: Your Mac’s Tinfoil Hat
The Tor network is a unique way of disguising traffic by routing it through several nodes. For a long time, it was a bit tricky to get set up, but the project now offers a browser bundle that is a standalone install.
The app is essentially Firefox but with the strictest privacy settings. Your history erases between sessions. Also included is the No Script and HTTPS Everywhere plugins. These addons increase security even further. It is not bulletproof, but it should provide some sense of security.
The Tor bundle is an excellent ancillary browser. Using it ensures that your sensitive traffic is not tracked during normal browsing. If you worry about privacy, the Tor browser bundle is for you.
9. Omniweb: A Lost Classic
Before the Omni Group became the productivity gods of the modern Apple community, they made a variety of different apps. One of them was an early Mac web browser: OmniWeb. It predates every other browser on this list. Though not heavily promoted, you can still use OmniWeb on modern Macs.
If you miss the design language of the pre-Lion Mac days, OmniWeb is a great browser. Beyond nostalgia, it still has some unique features.
Each web page can have its preferences. You can save tab sets as “workspaces” allowing you to quickly open them. Workspaces can be named name and saved, then easily opened them from the menu bar. You can also see all the network traffic associated with a page via simple menu bar command.
OmniWeb is a browser great if you like unique features. Well that, or you are simply nostalgic for some classic Mac design. You also need to be okay without extensions. For newer Macs, you need to use daily beta builds, as the last stable build dates back to 10.9. The latter can run on Macs running OS X as far back as 10.4.
One of Your Most Important Apps
Browsers are probably the most-used apps on any modern Mac. Each of these options offer something unique to each user. Give each of them a spin and find out which works best for you. You’ll find that one of these browsers fits your workflow better than others.
You might find that Safari does find most of the time — it is after all the Mac’s best browser. You may only use one of these for supplemental browsing, and it never hurts to have a few options installed and ready to go.
Which browser is your favorite? Is there one we forgot to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.