Firefox Freedom! Four Things Chrome Doesn’t Let Users Do
Think Chrome can do everything? Think again. Here are four things Firefox users can do easily that Chrome users basically can’t.
We write a lot about Chrome around here, seemingly neglecting what was long our favourtie browser: Firefox. It’s clear that Chrome can do a lot, but is there anything it can’t do that Firefox can?
As it turns out, yes. Note that most of the things I’m saying about Firefox below also apply to popular forks and remixes of the Firefox browser.
Don’t like Chrome’s minimalistic layout? Too bad. Outside of installing a theme and re-arranging your add-on icons, there’s not much you can change.
Don’t like Firefox’s layout? Fix it. To start: you can drag any interface element anywhere you like. I, for example, wanted to save vertical space by putting my bookmarks toolbar beside my address bar. I also wanted to remove the separate search bar. Doing so took seconds.
As you can see, Firefox even lets me drag elements to the menu – meaning if I want to use my search bar sometimes, but not see it constantly, I can do that.
And even that’s just skimming the surface: you can dig into userChrome.css to customize things even more, if you’re so inclined. For example, you can learn how to customize the Firefox orange bar menu by editing the right files.
Put simply, you can make Firefox look and act however you like – and the same can’t be said for Chrome.
Install Any Extension You Want
For years addons were the main reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome. Put simply: Firefox had what you were looking for and Chrome didn’t.
That’s changed. As Chrome’s market share grows, so does the attention developers give the browser – and it shows. Chrome users switching to Firefox will find the Evernote extension, for example, a trip back in time. I’m sure you can think of other examples: it seems like many developers release on Chrome first and on Firefox if users eventually ask for it.
So if Chrome arguably has the advantage now, why bring addons up in this article? Because Google’s been locking things down.
Earlier this year Chrome prevented users from installing any addons outside the Chrome Web Store. Recently they’ve gone even further: they’re actively deleting extensions users previously installed. Chrome is now the iOS of browsers, allowing only approved addons to run.
This isn’t entirely without reason: there’s a potential for malware in browser extensions, and some extension makers take liberties Google would rather not see (like changing the default search engine). So the filtering may be helpful to some users, but other users want control. On our own computers, we want the freedom to install whatever extensions we want – regardless of whether Google approves of them.
Which brings us to Firefox. There’s an official Firefox addon site, which offers users addons known to be safe. But you’re not limited to using it: you can install addons from any site on the web that offers them – all you need to do is click through a warning. Installing random addons without vetting them first is stupid, of course, but that’s part of what freedom means: the ability to do stupid things.
If you want that freedom, Firefox is the clear choice.
Use Advanced Addons
So Google limits your choice of addons to things they’ve approved for inclusion in their web store, but that doesn’t matter if all the addons you want are there. Are they?
Not necessarily. For good or for ill, Chrome gives extension developers less access to the browser’s core functionally. This means some Firefox addons are capable of things no Chrome extension could be.
“Basically,” wrote Maier, “this new API enables extensions to use the Chrome download manager, but doesn’t give control over the request, data streams and/or low-level details themselves.”
Popular webdev tool Firebug is in a similar situation: Chrome doesn’t give developers as much control, making it impossible to completely recreate Firebug for that browser. Chrome’s built in tools partially make up for this, as does Firebug Lite for Chrome is a mostly web-based compromise. But if you want FireBug, you need to use Firefox.
Add Search Keywords In Just A Few Clicks
Here’s a Firefox tip most users don’t know: you can add any search box to the Firefox URL bar in just a few clicks. Simply right-click the box on any site, then click “add a keyword for this search”.
You’ll see a prompt; simply name the bookmark, then pick a short keyword.
Now you can search your site of choice anytime by typing the keyword, followed by your search terms.
It’s a small thing, sure, but if there are a few sites you search regularly it can save you a lot of time. There are similar tricks out there for Chrome, but none this simple. Troll me if you don’t think this belongs here; I just thought it was useful.
There’s More… Fill Us In!
Of course, there’s more. I could talk about Firefox’s superior autocomplete functionality, or how Firefox isn’t run by a company that primarily profits by tracking users’ web activity for the purpose of showing relevant advertising.
I could, but I think it’s more fun if you make sure points in the comments below. Or, if you’re a huge Chrome fan, you can point out Chrome features fox fans are missing out on. Let the flame wars begin, but keep it civil!