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Best Web Browser?

 


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As a budding ‘surfer’ (back in the days when surfing the web still seemed mysterious and vaguely appropriate), I never took to Internet Explorer. I think it was because every time I opened a link in a new window it always managed to position it somewhere annoying on the monitor. Then again, maybe I just preferred the Netscape Communicator loading button. Either way, from the beginning I was a fan of using programs that didn't come with Windows, and it's a trend that I've followed to this very day.

It's not that I enjoy jumping on (or off) the Microsoft bandwagon - they're too easy to hate and it's even easier to forget that Windows has provided most of us with the majority of our computing experiences to date. It's just that if there are features in parts of Windows that annoy me, I turn them off, or find ways to do what I want without being driven into a blind, keyboard ruining rage. . . damn you, Office Assistant Paperclip!!!

Of course, Netscape is now defunct (though I still amuse myself with a Netscape skin now and then), and at any rate, if I shove nostalgia to one side and let honesty step in, I stopped using it years ago. There is, to my mind, a very obvious replacement, but there are quite a few browsers out there vying for a bigger share of the market. As far as the number of users is concerned, Internet Explorer is and will no doubt remain the King for a long time, but what genuine alternatives are there?

Mozilla Firefox

In my opinion, nothing will beat Firefox. They can rip off ideas but they'll never take its crown.

Recently in the headlines for setting the Guinness World Record for the most downloaded software in a day, Firefox does what I want it to do without irritating me about it. It introduced me to the idea of tabbed browsing, it's fast, it lets me choose if I want to view content or not and it has a large community making the applications I want. The idea behind Firefox was to create a stripped down browser that users could add what they liked to it, and for that alone it beat Internet Explorer hands down. I've never been able to look back since I discovered tabbed browsing. In short, it's great, and it saddens me that it still only has a market share approaching 20%. Looked at in another light, however, when you consider that the vast, vast majority of PC's come with Internet Explorer installed as standard, this is quite a feat, and one that will no doubt impress further as Firefox 3 gains momentum.

The jury is still out somewhat for Firefox 3 - it looks better than Firefox 2, I like the big back button and the new browsing options. But it just doesn't feel different enough, and I've come across a few irritating styling issues with it that didn't crop up with v2. Still, I'll be used to it before long, and a few small glitches here and there are to be expected with any new release.

Opera

Opera is a very close contender to Firefox in my mind. Maybe Firefox 3 will lose out to it in the long run, but I just can't get my head around the position of the home button in the browser (mainly because I don't trust the Google toolbar , and I never will) - it's not mixed in with the back, forward and refresh buttons. I like a very minimalist browser, and Opera isn't set up to have that one button where I want it. Small annoyance, I know, but there you are.

That said, I love Opera's style, it seems very quick, I appreciate the ease of installing new apps (doesn't require restarts), and I think the speed dial is a marvellous thing, a far better way of using bookmarks. I like the little page previews that pop out of the tabs and for some reason I like the name. The ability to set up automated page refreshing is nice, too - it's uncluttered, modern, and I like it, a lot. Home button! Why!

Maxthon

Maxthon is a free browser that is based on Internet Explorer. That is, it effectively runs a heavily modified version of it. And by heavily modified, I mean a lot, lot better.

Maxthon is quite close to Opera in many ways. Like Opera (and Firefox 3) you can use mouse gestures to perform simple tasks, but unlike both of them, Maxthon draws your gesture on the screen and this makes it a lot easier to work out what you're doing. It is full of little innovations that I like - for instance, if you highlight some text and then drag and drop it anywhere on the page, Maxthon ‘Google's’ it immediately. You can rearrange the toolbars and buttons with a drag and drop as well, and it has a nice, clean look and a decent speed. Sadly, it seems a lot of the community behind Maxthon is based in Asia, and so for that reason alone it comes behind Opera - just. For now!

Flock

Just as Maxthon is based on Internet Explorer, Flock is based on Firefox. The browser itself seems to be overly graphical to me, so I find it annoying, but Flock is a bit different to most web browsers. A self-styled ‘Social Web Browser', Flock is designed for those who just can't get enough Facebook, Blogger and YouTube in their lives.

And this is where Flock comes in to its own. A special sidebar displays all the latest social network updates once you've logged in to your accounts, and it enables you to upload large amounts of photos and videos to sites. It also lets you drag and drop text, links etc to your pages, and has a built in Blog editor (drag and drop again!).

So, for me, it's a bit over the top - but if your primary use for the Internet is blogging or hanging around on a social network, Flock is a browser you should definitely consider. The potential is quite astounding.

Internet Explorer

Love it or hate it, Internet Explorer is still the King, Queen and Jack of Web Browsers. I hate it less with each successive version, but the fact that every single browsing experience feels like a chore doesn't go away. I use it for Windows Update (grr) and irritating forays into Hotmail that require me to paste links into a better browser. And by the time they fix it I'll still be using something else - even the tabs idea is badly implemented. I'd rather use Safari.

Safari

No I wouldn't. My Safari experience: I want to install Safari. No, Safari, not QuickTime. I don't use QuickTime if I can help it, go away. No, I don't want to install iTunes. I don't have an iPod. And I don't want to install iTunes and QuickTime. No. Yes. I want to install Safari. Thank you. That was quick, ah, good. Do I want to search for updates. Okay, why not. Oh. Do I want to install QuickTime or iTunes.

Close. Uninstall. Last place.

So. All round I can't recommend any web browser as much as Firefox. I'm interested by Maxthon, and like to dabble with Opera, and I think the idea behind Flock is excellent (it's also based on Firefox, so I like it a little bit more). Though it will always be a case of horses for courses - some people actually prefer Safari. . .

You can view the article in its original format - as well as other handy guides and features - here: http://www.nublue.co.uk/blog/

  • Ewan MacLeod
  • NuBlue Web Solutions
  • http://www.nublue.co.uk
  • (1351)

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