Browser Choices

I admit it.  I have a whole slew of internet browsers installed on my computers.  I keep looking for the perfect browser.  In my mind, it needs to be fast, secure, compatible with every website known to browserkind, work miracles with Flash and Silverlight, and handle Java, HTML 5, and CSS3 perfectly.  Oh, and render images perfectly regardless of format using hardware acceleration, allow me to customize it, give me a choice of search engines, let me run extensions to customize the experience, synchronize browser settings from different computers, and let me have everything that I want my way.

Is that too much to ask?

It used to be considerably easier.  Previously, I only ran Windows and had my choice of Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator.  Even when I was forced to use a Macintosh computer, there still was a version of Internet Explorer that would make me feel at home.  These good old days seem so long ago now.  These browsing experiences were fairly similar and so I had a particular mindset as to what the browsing experience was.

I then read about this browser developed in Europe called Opera.  I downloaded it and it was an eye opener for me.  There actually was a different way to think about browsing the internet.  This has started me on the search that I continue today.

So, on my computer, you’ll find instances of Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Flock, Safari, and RockMelt and I rotate through them all regularly.  As of late, my favourite has been Google Chrome, I will admit.  I’m not alone – browser share is important to the individual developers.  You’ll see them and their legions of fans scrambling to explain why a particular browser is better than the rest.



Thanks –

The real winner in all of this is us, the end user.  As each browser adds new features  to it, it pushes the whole industry along to create better browsing experiences.  For me, the timing of this post is especially important.  Microsoft is releasing Internet Explorer 9 at the SXSW Conference.  Recently, Google upgraded its browser to Version 10, Apple pushed out a new version of Safari, Firefox has a Release Candidate for Version 4, Opera is now at Version 11, and the upgrade paths continue.  What’s really nice though is that all of these browsers are adding features and making things better with each release.  These better things include making your time on the internet safer.

I suppose the biggest thing for me was the incorporation of hardware acceleration in the browser.  Microsoft demonstrated it nicely with an earlier Beta of the Internet Explorer browser and I did sit up and take notice.  With the hardware at work rather than the software at doing graphics, it flew.  I just wish that some smart developers could work their magic with Flash and Silverlight in this manner.  There’s nothing quite so warm as a computer fan picking up speed to try and cool off the i7 processor doing its best to keep up.

I don’t think there’s a bad browser in the bunch but here are my current thoughts about each.

Internet Explorer
Unfortunately, I see this browser in a downward spiral.  It used to be THE browser – nothing else came close.  But, security issues became apparent and patch after patch was pushed out to try to make the browser safe.  With a huge market share, it was the perfect target for designers of malware.  As one patch was applied, another security flaw appeared.  It’s tough being number one.  As Internet Explorer’s problems became apparent, it really presented opportunities for other browsers to get fans.  In advance of the release of Version 9, the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown was given.  It’s hard to believe that, in this world of heightened security, a ten year old browser is still seen as safe to use.  Internet Explorer 9 is build with security in mind and the promise is to make the web a beautiful thing.  I’ll be grabbing a copy on March 14 to experience it myself.  This might be enough to stop the spiral.

Mozilla Firefox
Until about a year ago, this was my default browser – hands down.  It provided a safer feeling when browsing on the web and opened the door for extensions/addons for me.  I saw the light for different ways to browse with Opera and it continued with Firefox.  I went on a mission to try and incorporate all of the things that I do on the web – blogging, Twitter, and Facebook being very important – having them built right into the browser.  It was great.  However, with subsequent updates to version 3, Firefox started to feel sluggish and my eyes started to wander.  I was intrigued with the Release Candidate of Version 4 and it now resides on my computers.  Recently, on this blog, Stephen Downes offered a suggestion for a new feature to speed up the loading.  When Firefox goes gold, I’ll give it a shot if it’s still needed.

Google Chrome
I must admit that, after playing with all the browsers, this is the default for me right now.  It loads almost instantly; I have my default pages pinned in place and a nice collection of addons in place.  Along with Firefox, the AdBlock extension is great for making things even faster by hiding many of the annoying ads that come along.  It does scream in terms of speed.  It’s fully customizable and just works so nicely.  With the promise of the Google Chrome Operating System in the offing, it can be configured by using the Google Chrome Store to be like an entire web operating system right in the browser.  I do think that I’m looking at the future with the concept of a Web OS.  Imagine just getting connected to the web and you always have the latest and greatest software and storage available without having to constantly apply patches to your computer!

I really like Opera as a browser.  It was the first piece of software that incorporated gestures.  That is a real experience for me.  Not only does Opera have extensions but it does have widgets.  Combining the two lets you dress up a browser very nicely.  Opera seems very fast but I haven’t had a great deal of luck with the ad blocking extensions.  Opera seems to do the best job of giving the most room for browsing on the screen.  It incorporates Speed Dial when you open a new tab and many other browsers have since incorporated similar features.

Flock used to be my default browser when it was build on the same code as Firefox.  In addition to the features that I enjoyed with Firefox, Twitter was built right into it.  It was my first move into a social web browser and I really liked it.  Then, there was one update that came along that didn’t like Flash well.  Hit a web page that used Flash and the fan noise seemed deafening!  There wasn’t an upgrade forthcoming and so I left Flock although I did check in periodically to see if there were upgrades.  Unfortunately, not.  I then started to hear rumblings that Flock was going to be built on the code from the Chromium project.  As soon as it was released, I downloaded it and was impressed to a certain extent.  However, I had moved to a different Twitter client and the Twitter functionality just wasn’t at the same level.  The latest news is that Flock has teamed up with Zynga.  This could result in some really exciting social media use in the future.  I’ll keep my eye on the prize.

I really like the concept behind RockMelt.  It takes the premise of a social browser like we see in Flock and adds more to it.  With Facebook integration, you can monitor everything that’s happening in your Facebook world while you browse.  It reminds me of a secretary that I had years ago with sticky notes all around her monitor with the Twitter, Facebook, and addon edges in place.  I have my copy tripped out with the same functionality as Google Chrome.

I’ll be honest.  I keep it updated but I don’t use it.  Maybe I would if I just used a Macintosh computer but I regularly work on the Windows and Linux platforms as well.  My ultimate goal is to find the perfect browser for all of my computing words and to synchronize among them all.  In my world, that rules out Safari at this time.

By the same logic, I’ll grab Internet Explorer 9 when it’s available to see the “beauty of the web”.  Maybe it will make a deep enough impact that I’ll make it the default browser on my Windows computer.  Who knows?  I am hoping to see good things with it.  The other players have made great moves in visibility and safety while this release has been under development.  I’m looking forward with anticipation.  The preview releases have indeed changed the way that Internet Explorer has always worked and felt.

How do you feel about your browser?

Flock 2.5

I awoke this morning to some exciting news.  Overnight, the folks at Flock had released version 2.5 which they’re saying is built on the latest version of Firefox.  This news came from their web ambassador Evan Hamilton.

For the longest of times, Flock was my browser of choice.  I like its clean interface, its compatibility with Firefox and the Firefox Add-ons, but most importantly, the integration of so many of the web experiences that I use regularly.  Integrated Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, WordPress, and Digg are part of my regular routine.  Flock made it so easy to pull it all together.  Built in RSS reading just puts it over the top in terms of what I need my browser to do.

As life progressed, something happened.  Out of the blue, the old version of Flock began to run a high CPU temperature and would cause chaos with 100% CPU usage.  I anguished and fought and drove myself crazy (crazier?) trying to find a solution.  About the same time, I had the same performance issues with Firefox.  Since they are developed in parallel, I tried my best to figure out what was happening to no avail.  Even doing the first recommended action which was to disable add-ons, try safe mode, etc., had no effect.  The best that I could figure is that there was a chance in OS that caused the problems or perhaps the Flash plug-in.  Eventually, the problem was resolved with Firefox and my computers ran smoothly again so whatever it was had been resolved.  I’m hoping that the new version of Flock continues to be a good actor.  I tire of trying to gather add-ons to give me the same functionality.

There are things that are uniquely Flock as well.  You can’t beat the opening My World, now with an integrated Twitter search widget.  There is so much good in this browser for my web experiences.  A particularly helpful add-on is the OpenID tool.  Rather than digging around when I get to a website that supports ID, it’s right there in the toolbar.

In support of the new release, take a few moments to watch their demo videos.  Flock’s strengths has always been in its support for social media and there are new features like their self-named Flockcast to get your information out to your networks quickly and easily.

And, for the blogger, the integrated blog editor has always been a wonderful feature.  Straight forward, it does what I need to do.  I must admit that the integrated Zemanta of Scribefire was nice.  I’ve downloaded the Zemanta extension and will give it a shot.

Anyway, so far so good.  The new version downloaded and installed and this post was created with the updated editor.  I’m going to spend some more time with the features and see what’s up.  It’s been a while since releases and so I’m looking forward to renewing my acquaintances with my favourite browser.

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Blogged with the Flock Browser

Flock 2

It was a pleasant surprise this morning.  The developers of the Flock web browser were pushing out the official release of version 2 of the web browser.

This has long been my browser of choice with its functionality and security inherited from Firefox, paired with social networking functionality.

In the beta releases, there were all kinds of features added to the full suite in place already.

  • My world
  • Built-in RSS reader
  • Integration with DIGG
  • Built in blog editor (using it right now)
  • Media browsing
  • Add Firefox plug-ins
  • Browse your friends from your Facebook, Twitter, …
  • Integrate with web email
  • Web clippings
  • Upload images from your computer
  • Share a link via email
  • and so much more

Today turned out to be a banner day.  I’m in the middle of working on something and I get a notice that there are updates to Add-ons.

This wasn’t totally unexpected.  After all, with the release of a new browser, add-on developers may have to do some tweaking to preserver functionality.  This time, one of the add-ons that had an update was CoolIris.  Sigh.  Big deal.  There have been updates to this phenomenal tool on a regular basis but they never solve the fact that it just didn’t work with Flock.  I apply it anyway.  Upon reboot, I see that the faded button now has full colour.

Could it be?

Oh yeah!  CoolIris and Flock 2 are now happily working with each other.

Browser wise, I’m incredibly happy.  My favourite browser is now out of Beta and one of my favourite add-ons now works.

Does it get any better than this?

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, download the official release of Flock and kick the tires.  You may be another convert.

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A Bunch of Add-ons

I had a couple of Add-on updates available when I started my Flock browser this morning so I thought that I’d share my list of currently installed add-ons.  The last time I did this, readers confirmed that I had made wise choices and I got a couple of new suggestions.  So, it was very helpful for me.  While Firefox is a solid release, Flock is still at Beta Two.  While Flock is my primary browser, there are still a couple of add-ons that I use regularly that keep me reverting to Firefox.

Here goes.

Adblock Plus: Want to speed up your browsing experience?  Install this add-on.  Now, anything that looks like advertising with all the flashing and annoyance to get you to click here, just never show up in the first place.  You’ll speed up your online experience as well as advertising can take more time to download than the page content itself!

BetterSearch: If you think search engines like Google and Yahoo! are good now, enhance the results that they return with this better search.  You’ll see previews right away to help speed up the process of finding exactly what you want to find.

Blocksite:  This is a brilliant add-on that lets you block certain tracking or advertising websites when you visit them.  They might appear as adverts or just hidden code that you don’t realize when you hit the webpage.  Block ’em with this add-on.

CustomizeGoogle: If you’re using Google, imagine being able to tweak how it returns results to you.  Customize Google does it.  And, if you don’t find what you want at Google, you’re just a click away from doing the same search on many other popular search engines.

Delicious Bookmarks
: Delicious users will really enjoy this add-on.  Keep your bookmark library up to date just by clicking the Tag icon and enter the information from the current page in your browser.  Another button gives you quick and easy access to everything that you’ve already bookmarked.

ExternalIP:  I really liked this utility.  In the status bar, it lets you know your current IP address.  Currently, it’s disabled as not being compatible with Flock.

Fast Dial: Sure, you can have multiple pages set as the default, but Fast Dial lets you see them all at one!  Click the one you want and away you go.  No more locating the appropriate tab.

Flagfox: Remember “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego”?  Where is that website you’re currently visiting from?  You’ll see it in the status bar with the flag of the country.

Forecastfox: From Accuweather, get the current weather and the updated forecasts.  Really helpful to plan for the weekend.  It easily connects to Accuweather if you need to check the weather in another location.

Google Notebook: I really like the ability to make myself a quick note while browsing.  With Google Notebook, it’s easily done and saved for you.

Google Toolbar for Firefox: Search bars and tool bars are becoming standard for browsers.  I use the Google one and really appreciate the convenience of having it right up front.

Minimap Addon:  This is a great add-on.  Find an address in a webpae and drag it to Minimap and it’s instantly mapped for you.  This add-on used to be called geoFlock.

PDF Download:  I like having control over how I handle PDF files on the web.  Rather than letting the browser do a default action for me, this add-on lets me have total decision making powers.

PicLens: This is awesome.  View images as a wall of preivews and click on the image that you want to see.  Flock says that it’s installed but it doesn’t work.  I keep going back to Firefox to use this as it works like a real champ there.  It’s now how I search for images given its access to the image search feature of a number of search engines.

Tab Effect: I miss this add-on.  It added a three dimensional swinging door effect when you changed tabs.  Not really functional but it sure brings out the “Wow” factor in browsing.

I’ve experimented with a number of video downloading add-ons but still haven’t found the perfect one yet.

So, there’s my list.  What do you think?  Are there others that you would highly recommend?

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Blogged with the Flock Browser

Browser Memory Requirements

Have you ever wondered why your computer gets slower and slower over time?

One of the reasons is that your RAM (Random Access Memory) fills and your computer starts to use your computer’s hard drive’s cache as a way to extend the memory so that you can continue to work.  This can result in memory contents swapping forth and back from the hard drive to primary memory so that the program continues to function.

Periodically, you should reboot your computer to get a fresh start.

As more and more of what we do turns to web based applications, it makes sense to take a look at web browsers to make sure that they are efficiently using your computer’s memory.  After all, what’s the point of having a great web application if you have to wait forever for the simplest of things to be done.  If your computer’s hard drive is thrashing away whenever you hit the web, you might find the following post of interest.

Here, you’ll see the results from one researcher as he puts several popular browsers through their paces and monitors memory use.  As promised with the release of Firefox 3, it excels in managing memory.  If you’re in for a technical read, here’s why.

If you’ve been wavering about switching browsers, this might serve to convince you.

Does this mean that I’ll be using only one browser?  Well, not just yet.  There are times when I need to work with Active-X stuff and you can’t beat the ease of Internet Explorer for this.  There are times when I want to snag an object on a web page.  You can’t beat Safari’s Activity option for that.

But, for the application that I leave open all day long, this confirms the decision that I made a long time ago that there are other options.  As noted in the article, Firefox and Flock handle memory nicely and are good for the long browsing haul.

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Blogged with the Flock Browser