When I first bought a Mac, I installed FireFox because I was used to it from Windows Land. Then, I started to appreciate the aesthetics of the Mac and FireFox didn’t fit into that scheme. So, I installed Camino, which is like FireFox-lite for Macs. It was great. It was fast, secure and easy to use. However, it didn’t support extensions. At the time, I wasn’t too irritated by this as extensions were a pretty new and novel thing and I could live without them.
At some point FireFox started to catch up with Mac aesthetic standards and Camino fell by the wayside. So I went back to FireFox. Enter Safari 5 and I went back to that. It was super fast, easy to use and new extensions made it perfect. I loved it. MobileMe kept Safari on my Mac in sync with my iPhone and later my iPad and other Macs. Add a bookmark on my Mac, boom, it’s there on my iPhone in seconds. The extensions were great, blocking things like ads, Facebook ads, etc. I also loved the “Reader” feature.
Then Google introduced Chrome and only a few people started using it. It was new, shiny and I saw it as “another browser to support”. The extensions for it were useless and only a few hardcore geeks used it for whatever reason. I installed it, thought, “That’s nice,” and never used it again.
At some point, I don’t know when, people started to hop on the Chrome bandwagon. Extensions grew, Chrome got better from Google’s end and FireFox started to feel bloated in comparison. Chrome became the FireFox of our childhood, so to speak.
I still ignored it, thinking it couldn’t be much better than Safari. I don’t visit malicious sites, so the “it’s more secure” bit is valid and I respect it, but I don’t care.
HOWEVER, I’m a tab-hoarder extraordinaire. I never restart my Mac until it comes crashing down around me, about once ever 4-5 weeks. Usually because Photoshop did something stupid. I never quit my browser because I always have tabs open that I want to come back to later. Right now, I have two tabs open to sample code I’ve been playing with and three tabs for sites I’m referencing for various research purposes and four tabs open related to a website I’m working on for a client. This is the norm on my desktop and I suspect on many other’s desktops, too.
Safari crashed yesterday, as it is prone to do after 7-10 days of heavy use for 10 hours a day. I have Flash disabled in Safari and use an extension to load H.264 versions of YouTube videos. But, that still causes Safari to misbehave. Safari also leaks memory like the dickens. I have 8GB of RAM in this machine and Safari usually holds up to 2GB worth and never lets go until I quit it. That’s a pain and makes me lose work.
So, with one crash yesterday I lost 19 tabs of things from the past day or so I was working with. Pulling them out of my history would be hard as I don’t recall what the URLs were and in some cases what the sites were even about. I just saw them and thought, “Neat. I’ll come back to this in a bit.”
That prompted me to bump Chrome to the top-spot in my dock. I’ve been using it for a few days now and it still feels snappy, stable and is using 122MB of RAM. Safari, however, uses about 80MB just as you open it. The best part is that I have yet to break this thing even with Flash enabled. Extensions have been able to fill in the gaps where I find them – like Reader and Facebook Ad blocking. I don’t like that I can’t customize my toolbar, which seems really unlike Google, but maybe it’ll get updated soon. I’m tired of looking at the “AdBlock” button all the time.
They’re some nice UI choices in Chrome, like how the tabs show key words in the page titles, not just the first few words. And the tabs are easy to drag around. However, with a full bar, it’s very difficult for me to move the whole window. I have to grab that sweet few pixels around the Close/Minimize/Resize buttons.
I’m sure at some point I’ll miss the ability for it to sync with my iPad and my iPhone, but I’ll learn to live without it. They’re other matters about Chrome I don’t like. For instance, when I “Copy Link Address” from a Google result, instead of copying “www.justinharter.com“, it copies this:
Chrome also has the same problem as Safari where it tries to direct me to items in my history when I want to visit a new site. For instance, yesterday I did a search for “Chrome Reader Extension”. Today, if I do a search for “Chrome” it automatically fills in “…Reader Extension” and takes me to that instead. Not what I wanted at all. I have to remember to type “Chrome” + ‘Delete’ key to really tell it, “No, search for Chrome. Seriously. I mean it.”
Admittedly, Safari has the same issue, but it’s better than when it first came out. Used to be that typing an address in Safari would make it search for every random word on every page you’ve ever visited. That got real old, real fast. An update arrived and it made it smarter, but still not perfect. I do think it’s better than Chrome’s, though. This is by virtue of having the address and search bars separate. It keeps their respective caches cleaner.
I’m enjoying Chrome well enough for now. If it can survive longer than Safari under my workload, it’ll be a keeper.