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Safari logoI’ve been a Firefox user for a few years now, since it came out really, and I love it. It’s a great browser and the extensions can turn it into anything you want it to be, from an FTP client to a multiplayer pong game.

Firefox logoI’ve been using a Mac for a little over a year now and while I’ve opened Safari a few times for fun, I’ve never used Apple’s built-in browser for any real length of time. I decided a few days ago to see — just for the heck of it — whether I could use Safari exclusively at home for two weeks. While I certainly do miss Firefox and all it’s great, useful extensions, the challenge is made a little easier because of Safari’s speed. I haven’t done any scientific experimentation, but it is my impression that Safari is faster than Firefox.

Here are my biggest Safari beefs, so far:

1. Safari’s tab functionality is not great. I like to have only one browser window open at any one time, with as many tabs as I need. By default, Firefox opens all pages that ask for a new window, in a new tab. By default, Safari opens them all in new windows. Very annoying. It’s easy enough to get around using cmd-click, but it’s an extra step, and you never really know when a link is going to ask for a new window, so do you have to cmd-click everything?

2. I miss my gestures. Safari does have extension-type plugins, similar to Firefox’s, but unlike Firefox most are not free.The only extensions I miss are my mouse gestures. It’s really hard to get used to not using them, once you’ve had a taste. I only used gestures for Forward and Back, but it was enough to drive me crazy the first few days on Safari.

3. Where’s the sidebar? I did look around for sidebar functionality, since I really like having my downloads list and history at my fingertips. I was surprised to find Safari does not have a built-in sidebar for anything, not even bookmarks. Still, it’s nice to have all that extra horizontal real estate usually taken up by an open sidebar.

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FF Quick Search


4. No Quick searches
. I first discovered this great Firefox time saver through this Make Use Of article How To Be More Productive with Firefox Quick Searches How To Be More Productive with Firefox Quick Searches Read More a few months ago, and I’ve been using them ever since. They’re a great, fast way to search for something on your favorite websites.

So, while there is a lot of missing functionality in Safari, it’s partly made up in aesthetics and speed. Having said that, my next project will be to install the free Safari Stand plugin which promises lots of great extras. I’ll report back soon.

Have you taken a similar Safari challenge? How did it work out for you? Did you end up going back to Firefox?

  1. Ian Orchard
    April 27, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    You can have 'fast searches' with Safari by adding Acid Search. The Google field then becomes a wide range of sites accessed from a dropdown menu, including any you care to add to the list.

    If Cmd/click is too much effort to open a link in a new tab, try scroll wheel/middle click on any multi-button mouse.

  2. Bernmeister
    April 27, 2008 at 3:13 am

    You neglected to mention which version of Firefox you have been using - I presume it's version 2.

    I don't know about Firefox on a Mac, but on a PC, version 2 did consume enormous amounts of memory. I've been using Firefox 3 (started with beta 3 and updated as new releases happen)...and I've found it to be significantly faster and low on memory usage.

    Also, I think it's unfair in the way you criticised Firefox. You did point out that Safari is missing some great features whereas Firefox provides them (tabbing, on screen search and sidebar)!

    • Jason Mayoff
      April 27, 2008 at 11:05 am

      You're right about Firefox 3. It is better and perhaps slightly faster than FF2, although I haven't really done any scientific testing. I think most FF users are still using FF2 and will be, until FF3 comes out of beta.

  3. Matt
    April 26, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    You can close Safari tabs with this SIMBL plugin by Joey Gibson. When I found this I was super excited.

    First entry on his blog - joeygibson.com/blog/index.html

  4. HTML Samurai
    April 26, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Mozilla's Camino - As fast as, if not a little faster than, Safari. Dude, try it!

    caminobrowser.org/

  5. Jason Mayoff
    April 26, 2008 at 8:50 am

    @Paulo Pereira: Maybe you have a better version of Safari than Steve Jobs put in my computer. My Safari comes without gestures or sidebars.

    @Morgaine: The second part of my challenge is to try out Safari Stand. I installed it a few days ago and will report back soon.

    @John Jones & AdamC: There is a preference setting to "Open links from applications in a new tab in the current window" and there are instructions about using ⌘-click and shift-⌘-click to open links in new tabs, but there's no option to open EVERYTHING open in a new tab, regardless of what the site designer wants. I have noticed there is that functionality, though in Safari Stand.

    • Paulo Pereira
      April 26, 2008 at 10:42 am

      I was referring to Opera 9.5, not safari.

      • Jason Mayoff
        April 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

        Oops sorry. I didn't see that.

  6. AdamC
    April 26, 2008 at 6:51 am

    I had used firefox for a few days and the main problem is it gets slooooooower as you surf but not with Safari. Anway the extensions are great but I don't miss them.

    Tweak the preference as John Jones had mentioned and you can have 1 window and multiple tabs.

    Anyway to each his own but make mine the webkit.

  7. John Jones
    April 26, 2008 at 12:51 am

    You can easily solve problem #1 by looking at the preference settings in Safari.

    In fact, you should just browse through all the preference settings and see what other possible changes you might like to make.

  8. Morgaine
    April 25, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Safari Stand will add your sidebar functions, more or less. I can't stand FireFox - it's too slow and clunky. I try other browsers now and then and always come back to Safari - the speed is addictive. FireFox also "hangs" a lot, and I don't like that. The extensions are nice, but they tend to make it even slower than it is to begin with.

    Most of what you'd want Safari to do is available in an extension. I recommend Inquisitor to jazz up the search function. And Safari has one option most browsers don't that is essential for me - an "arrange in front" option (hold down the option key and look under the WINDOW menu.) I usually have a lot of windows open and once in a while, I need them all sorted so I can see where I am. I also love the way Apple's dictionary function works within Safari - it saves me a lot of time. No extension necessary. As with most things Mac, it just works.

    I get pretty steamed when sites like Stumbled Upon (and Google and Yahoo...) have special tools that only work with IE or FireFox - why should I be expected to use an inferior browser? If they want to deal with MAC users, they need to accomodate Safari. It's simply the best browser out there. If you try it exclusively for two weeks, my bet is that you won't be able to go back to Firefox because it will seem to crawl too slowly.

  9. Adi
    April 25, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    I couldn't use Safari for 2 continuous days, when I tried once, few months ago.
    It was just out of place except that its faster than its counterparts.
    But now I have to see if it works on a 2 weeks basis.

  10. Jason
    April 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    I've tried Opera before, but you're right, maybe I should try a two week challenge

    • Paulo Pereira
      April 25, 2008 at 8:59 pm

      Without extensions, it has: gestures, sidebard, tabs, quick find, custom searches, better transfers manager than firefox.
      Ctrl+tab cycles in used order, and in beta2 when you close a tab it goes to the next one (as firefox does).
      Yeah, i miss Firebug and one or another extension, but Opera's faster and the interface is much more customizable. I use mine without any navigation button (gestures rock) and without menu. Just tabs and address bar. Oh, and a button to del.icio.us.

  11. Paulo Pereira
    April 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    You should try a "two week Opera challenge". try 9.5 beta 2.

  12. John
    April 25, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Well, I feel a bit out of place then... I prefer IE7. And Safari over Firefox when on a mac... so... i dunno.

  13. Greek_Eagle
    April 25, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I have used the Safari browser the last few weeks and I did noticed the difference in speed but I missed a lot of the add-ons on features that other browsers offer.

  14. Mulder
    April 25, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    You can easily add sidebar functionality to Safari with SafariStand. Not only does it add the ability to see your history of sites and downloads, you can search it, and it also lets you toggle a sidebar showing a thumbnail of your open pages, and let you rearrange them. And it lets you tell Safari to open new links in a new tab. You can get it here: hetima.com/safari/stand-e.html

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