Browser Showdown Pt. 2

11 01 2010

Welcome to part two of our Browser Showdown! Today, we’re going to take a look at a very important factor in browsers: Features. Keep in mind that we’re comparing the newest versions of these browsers. Also, since this is a much less technical aspect of the browsers, I’ll be working mostly from personal experience here. Please bear with me.

First out of the starting block will be Internet Explorer. This browser clearly lost last time in terms of speed, but will it make a comeback today? Let’s see. For further reading besides, check out the official Microsoft site. Anyway, on to the main event. What is so great about IE? Well, I would say the most attractive feature of this browser is something Microsoft calls “accelerators”. It’s this nifty tab that pops up when you highlight text, that lets you quickly do things like search for the highlighted text, E-Mail it to a friend, even translate it into a different language! And if the feature you’re looking for isn’t already installed, then there’s a gallery of downloadable accelerators. Also, there’s a new feature with IE8 called Web Slices. It’s basically a quick way to get RSS feeds from a website (if you don’t know what an RSS feed is, read this), arrange them in a toolbar, and get updates when something new appears. There’s also the issue of compatibility. Most things that you find on the web will work with IE without a hitch. This is because it’s still probably one of the most popular browsers out there. Finally, IE has updated it’s address bar to search through history, favorites and RSS feeds when you start to type in it. Saves a lot of time, especially if you have a lot of favorites. There are many other features besides, but these are the ones most worth noting.

Now for Firefox. I have a bit less experience with this browser, although I do use it fairly often. To see all the features of Firefox 3.5, check out the Mozilla page (they make Firefox). Now, right off the bat be have a similar feature. That is the address bar, which does much the same thing as IE’s. The major difference, it seems, is that Firefox’s doesn’t just search the addresses, it will look at the name (and perhaps the content, I’m slightly unsure) of the site as well, so you don’t even have to type an address if you don’t want to. However, that’s not the main draw of Firefox (in terms of features). The main draw is that is uses add ons — little programs made for Firefox, mostly by third parties — to help customize your browser. It claims to feature “over 6,000 Firefox add-ons”, so I assume you could get pretty much whatever you needed. There’s even a web app, namely Fashion Your Firefox that helps you find just the add-ons for the way you like to browse. A really good idea, in my opinion.

Next I’ll get onto Google Chrome. The official page is right here. Now, the first thing we notice about chrome when we open it is the new tab page. It’s a really useful page that displays your nine most visited websites, recently closed tabs, and some other useful information. Then you see the address bar. It works like the others, searching your history, favorites, etc., but it does something else too. It automatically searches Google for whatever you start typing in, quickly displaying top results. This, in my opinion, makes the address bar in Chrome at least three times as useful as the ones in the other browsers. And to add onto all of this, we have the extensions gallery, which is almost exactly like the add-on gallery for Firefox. In fact, a lot of people who made apps for Firefox then went on to make apps for Chrome. The only drawback here is that some versions of Chrome currently don’t support extensions (the Mac version, for example). However, perhaps the biggest advantage to Chrome is something that most end-users will never see. It’s the fact that Chrome is made completely open-source, with completely open-source software, allowing future browser developers to build off of the innovations chrome has made.

And now for Safari. Here is the link. Now the website claims to have 150 features, but really I think that most of them are things you would expect from a browser anyway, like the ability to zoom the page. However, there are a few unique features worth note. One of them is the fact that it integrates with Mac computers (since they’re both by Apple). This is really only useful if you use a Mac though, otherwise it’s useless. It does have Windows integration, but it doesn’t do nearly as much, and if you run Linux (or another open-source OS), you’re still fresh out of luck. Another that I found interesting was SnapBack, a button that brings you right back to the original results of your search, and very useful if you tend to get lost in the maze of web pages. Finally, like the other browsers, it runs a smart address bar. The smart address bar in Safari seems to work just like the one in IE though.

Also, on a slightly related note, I found another great blog entry comparing IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox. I agree with almost everything written here. Check it out!

That’s all for today. I know it’s a long post, but if you managed to stick through it, I hope you found it useful. Anyway, check back later when I conclude this series of posts with user friendliness (ease of use). Thanks!