Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Why do you use this browser, not that browser?

A little while ago, Robert Nyman asked Why would anyone use Internet Explorer?

I don’t want to pick on poor old IE so I’d like to know, why do you use the browser that you currently use, whatever it is?

I use Firefox and Opera for developing – Opera because it’s fast, I believe it follows standards very well and is good for checking the increasingly important mobile market, Firefox because of the Web Developer and Firebug extensions, both of which are absolute must-haves.

On the Mac, I only use Safari for testing – I dislike it immensely for some weird reason (the odd way it renders forms, I think) and so use Opera/ Firefox for surfing there too.

Do you use your browser because of inertia (it’s a drag to move all your favourites), or because you love it?

42 Responses to “ Why do you use this browser, not that browser? ”

Comment by Roger Johansson

I use Safari for browsing because I love the way it renders text and form controls :-). Firefox for developing though – nothing beats Firefox with Firebug and Web Developer Extension.

Comment by Roy

I used to use Opera (PC) for all my day-to-day stuff; the thing I really liked was ‘Paste & Go’, ‘cos I’m a lazy s*d at heart.
Then I moved to Firefox because Opera didn’t work too well with quite a few sites that I use a lot (their fault, not Opera’s).
When building sites though I’d always use Firefox+Webdev as my main tester, with the necessary try-outs in IE6 and IE7 (usually always depressing…).

Now I’ve got myself one of them there iMacs, loving it and using Firefox all the time (but must try Opera again). Although Safari is still set as the default and I haven’t looked how to change it yet, so I frequently find I’m using Safari unintentionally. Seems OK to me.
“Plus c’est la meme chose, plus ça change”.

Comment by Matt Wilcox

I use Firefox for a multitude of reasons, but the primary one is that I’m a web designer. There simply isn’t a browser which comes close to the usefulness of Firefox for this particular type of user. Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug make Firefox indispensable for me when developing, and using them in my workflow cuts development time dramatically.

As an ordinary user, Firefox would still be my pick of the bunch. It’s interface is simple and clutter-free. It has features that I use, and any that are lacking I can install via the addons system. I can also use it on Ubuntu and Windows, which is great because I dual boot my PC – but am left with a cohesive and familiar browsing experience.

Opera I find to feel toy-like, cluttered, and generally operates in a non-intuitive manner.

Internet Explorer is a dinosaur, and feels like it too, even in it’s ‘refreshed’ version 7 guise. While I talk about 7 – the new UI is one reason why I would not use IE as an average user, I find it even more toy-town than Opera, and the re-jig of common UI elements makes it an uncomfortable experience to use.

Safari I use for testing, and if I had a Mac I’d give it a try as the default browser – but I’ve never seen a feature in Safari that has wowed me like the ones in Firefox.

Comment by Gareth Rushgrove

I’m now using Safari most of the time at home, except when I’m doing development or at work (same response as everyone probably, firebug and web dev tool bar plus tamper data).

Have to agree with Roger, Safari is fast and the text rendering is nice for general purpose use.

I also use Opera Mini on my S60 and have just started using Opera 8.5 on my new shiny N800.

mmm. I think I’m a browserphile.

Comment by Bruce

Interesting. Roger and Gareth – it’s odd, but to me, text in Safari often seems blurry (it does in IE7 too, on XP – haven’t seen it on Vista).

Roy – you’re allowed to say “sod” including the vowel on this blog!

YOU – who’s reading this; don’t lurk! Tell me what you think, please.

Comment by David Joseph

Firefox for the extensions/add-ons, 17 and counting… The usual suspects and HTML Tidy, PTTL (plain text to link) when developing and the built in functionality when not I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried right-click “search Google for ‘highlighted text'” in other browsers / tried inline search and “doh’d”

Comment by Richard Rutter

Ditto Firefox for developing, for the same reasons. I use Camino for everyday browsing because I find it faster than Firefox (cos of all the wretched extensions) and faster than Safari which tends to bog down after a while (well it certainly used to). I can’t wait for the next version of Camino to come out with decent text rendering though.

Comment by Daniel Walker

I use Opera a lot – it’s my main search-tool and also the one I have all my news websites loaded in. I just fire it up, each morning, and it restarts in exactly the state I left it in, last time. I flick along the tabs, refreshing each news site, when I have the time, during the day.

For research purposes it can be invaluable, too, since, under each tab, is not only the webpage that was loaded in there last time, but also that page’s history – i.e. the route you took to get there. I very often find something interesting, while browsing, that I may not have an immediate use for, and so just leave the tab open, and move on: you never know… Consequently, I’ve sometimes gone back to a tab that I haven’t visited for weeks and think: ‘how did I ever end up there?‘. I then start clicking backwards through the history of that tab, and I’m reminded of a trains of thought I was following, on that day. Many of my tabs actually load half way along, in a long chain of backwards-and-forwards history.

You can guess that I tend to have a lot of these tabs open, right?

I also quite like it’s zoom facility (very like ‘Ctl-Scrollwheel’, or ‘Ctl-two fingers up and down on the track pad’, on a Mac) completely non-standard way of doing it, of course, but still good engineering – and it was a neat fix, back in the days when ‘images-as-text’ where as common as ‘Download Firefox’ links are, today. The ability to switch Opera straight into text-only mode can be useful, at times, too: see how your information linearises very easily, that way.

For most day-to-day tasks, like actual development testing, I use Mozilla – for the built in tools. IE only for final testing.

For shopping the web, I tend to use Safari on the Powerbook, mostly because I hate having to fill out forms, and 9 times out of 10, Safari’s autofill option works out the bits where my address, hometown, email address, et cetera should go, anyway.

My Real Marginal Browser, of course, is Konqueror, on my various PCs. Konqueror, because it’s just there, and it generally renders pages fine. It’s by far the fastest browser for KDE, anyway. It was also the very first browser ever to have a built in spell-checker, for forms.

On that note, I always use a browser with a spell-checker in it, for commenting in places like this (i.e. Mozilla, on Windows or OS X, and Konqueror, when I’m on the PCs). This is just so as to avoid embarrassing gaffes (shit, I just took me three goes to get ’embarrassing’ right! What was my job, again, Bruce?). After all, if you cannot say what you mean, you cannot mean what you say – and you should always mean what you say ;).

Comment by Jared Smith

I use Firefox almost exclusively. At WebAIM, we have a couple of computers set up with a variety of browsers for testing (from Netscape 4 to Konqueror), but for my own use, it’s Firefox on both my Mac and PC. I use it primarily for the extensions – I can’t live without the Mouse Gestures and Greasemonkey add-ons (among MANY others), and spell check is a lifesaver. Plus, I like to stick it to the man a bit by NOT using IE.

Comment by Chris Bloom

I’m a faithful Firefoxer since the early beta days. At first it was just to say “eff IE,” but now its simply because it’s a tremendously useful browser. I’d be lost without the built in spellchecker. And the Web Developer and Firebug extensions are must-haves for development. Not to mention the amazing portability that some of the other extensions afford me. No more synching bookmarks manually between home, office and elsewhere now that we’ve got the extension.

I can’t say that I don’t open IE from time to time, but in most cases it’s to get around an outdated, non-compliant web page. There’s no getting around the fact the IE7 loads in about 1/10th the time that Firefox does, but I chalk that up to the # of extentions I have running (currently @ 31) and I just can’t seem to part with any of em…

Other than that, I’ve got Opera installed, but I rarely use it.

Comment by ralph

I use Firefox on my Mac and on my workplace XP laptop because of the above-mentioned extensions, but also because I can tell it to automatically discard all cookies when I close the browser. Safari’s cookie handling is anemic, and is probably the main reason I avoid it.

Comment by Ross Bruniges

I use Firefox for both work and play now – as people have said the extensions available just make it too darn useful to be without. I have always had a dislike for Opera ever since my first major bug was in it; I don’t trust the thing now!!

Comment by Ian Lloyd

Blah blah Web Developer Toolbar blah blah disable stylesheets blah blah wouldn’t touch IE with a bargepole blah blah monkey blah etc

I think that about covers it for me.

Comment by Glenn

I feel like Ronnie Corbett in that 1960’s TW3 sketch (“I know my place”). I’m a regular user.

I use IE7 all the time, and it suits me fine. I used to use Firefox because I loved tabs, and it helped stop all that pop-up crap without complicated (and costly) additional software. But I recently got a new laptop with Vista and a complete set of security stuff and IE7 looks great. Firefox always took an age to load – so IE7 feels like the turbo version, even allowing for the fact that my new computer is much faster.

It has all the whistles and knobs I’m likely to need. The only thing I’d like is the Firefox spell-check add-on for writing gmail.

I suppose inertia works for me. It means I don’t spend time searching for new tools, testing and trying others. I only change when the alternative is demonstrably better for my needs.

Comment by Kate Bolin

I use Firefox because I can get rid of every annoying thing on the Internet using Adblock. Yeah, there are all those other lovely features, yeah, it’s a developer’s dream, but the ability to remove every single thing that irritates me — that’s gold.

However, because 90% of the company uses IE, I have to develop for IE. I make sure it works in Firefox and Opera, but, in the end, it’s IE that needs to be catered for.


Comment by JackP

YOU – who’s reading this; don’t lurk!

Okay, okay Bruce. Keep your hair on. I use IE6 at work for generic browsing, topped up with Firefox, Opera and trips to a Mac for Safari for developing. I’d like to get to IE7 soon, though, as it’s better.
At home, it’s Firefox for preference (blah blah plugins blah blah), with Opera and IE7 used as well for specific (usually testing) purposes.

Comment by Cecil Ward

I am using IE7+/x64 on Vista x64 today. IE7+ is pretty good, although not as nice to use or as fast as Opera 9. Under Windows Vista, IE7 is spectacularly more secure than other current web browsers, an order of magnitude more secure, in fact, because of its use of Vista’s ‘low-rights’ technologies.

On Vista x64, Microsoft ship two different web browsers, the x86 (32-bit) and x64 executables. I’ve been giving the x64 version a try. I suspect that the x64 version may prove to be even more secure than the x86 version, in the short term anyway, purely because of its incompatibility with existing add-in components. IE7+/x64 doesn’t currently run Flash, which is a relief. It also doesn’t support various existing ActiveX components which, whilst also being no bad thing in some respects, means that some facilities silently fail, such as the annoying Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage Check.

I filed a lot of bug reports about IE7 while it was being developed, and a lot of them never got unresolved before RTM. Who knows, when IE gets CSS support up to scratch, gets the page zoom fixed, gets XHTML support, gets accessibility features and keyboard support up to the level of Opera, then it might be the perfect browser.

But currently it’s the only browser worth considering if security is the prime consideration for you. And I certainly couldn’t have said that a year ago. It’s now up to Opera and Mozilla to embrace low-rights design under Vista in order to put their products back into the game, but for the moment, they’re right out. I’ll be keeping another machine to run Opera 9, Firefox 2 and IE6 on purely for testing, and for now, they’re all gone for everyday use.

Comment by Rob Kirton

As a developer, no choice it has to be Firefox; though it is a clunky beast – slow to load, I suspect in part due to the add ons. I like the look of rendering of text within IE7, though the new interface has put me off using for day to day stuff.

Apart from that, use the usual suspects for testing and just happen to be using Flock at this exact moment in time.

Comment by Kev Mears

Safari due to interia. Use Firefox for the usual Developer extensions. Feel I should love my browser more.

Used Camino for a bit cos it seemed faster, though whenever anyone mentions how fast this browser is versus that browser I can trump that argument by asking if they have included the considerable time it takes for me to decide which one to use!

Comment by Garmt

Opera, almost exclusively. Enormous customisability, integrated RSS, news and mail client, ideal for easy searching (including custom search engines), the more than useful Notes feature, mouse gestures, and all those wonderful small details, like CTRL-Z to retrieve a closed tab (history and all), projection mode (which I use for presentations), on-the-fly HTML/CSS editing, fast-forward button, etc., etc.

I guess Firefox could have been an option too. It probably has some (but not all) of Opera’s nice features, and vice versa. But I simply got used to Opera and wouldn’t want to change anymore.

IE is simply out of the question. It annoys me.

Of course, I use these and a handful of other browsers for testing purposes.

Comment by Ben 'Cerbera' Millard

Firefox 2 is the second program I start when my Windows XP (sp2) machine loads, right after Windows Media Player 9.

I use Firefox because it has such nice usability. You might think my main attraction to it was snooping on people’s markup via the HTML Validator Extension, but no!

For example, you can drag pretty much anything to pretty much anywhere in Firefox and something useful will usually happen. The “Manage Bookmarks” interface is a joy to use; in IE6 it feels like doing keyhole surgery.

Who’d have thought so many people read your blog, Bruce! 😉

Comment by WhereIsThatDeafGuy

“YOU – who’s reading this; don’t lurk!”

*Oh crap…he’s talking to me!* Okay, okay! 😉

Firefox – for everything: browsing, testing, web developer/accessibility toolbar extensions, accessibility testing, etc.

Opera, Mozilla, and IE6/IE7 – mainly for browser and accessibility testing.

IE6 – also use a web developer/accessibility toolbar extensions for web development projects as well.

Comment by Garmt

When is a person a web developer, Bruce? I’m not a professional at any rate. I have my own personal site on Jules Verne (which is full of remnants from way back in 1995, when I started it, major overhaul needed, but no spare time…), and I maintain the website for the Dutch Jules Verne Society, which follows all the standards and is as accessible as I can make it. I created one or two really small sites for friends, but that’s about it.

But back on topic: yes, I’m very glad with all the nice Opera features I can use to test my sites. In my previous post I didn’t mention how easy it is to switch off CSS, JS and images, or another major advantage, Opera Voice.

Comment by Tim

My recollection is that you told me to use Firefox. I just use a computer for music and porn, sorry – I meant current affairs and I love the tabbed browsing, the useful add ons and general ease of use.
I know bugger all about web development, accessibility or motor mechanics, but firefox feels easier to use. The mozilla bunch of folk seem to have a much nicer way of doing business than the Bill Gates lot as well.

Comment by Robin

Firefox for work due to Firebug and Colorzilla. I simply wouldn’t be anywhere near as productive without it.

For home use, Firefox again although if I had to choose something else I’d probably go with Safari. I mostly use Firefox at home due to inertia (been using it since the Phoenix 0.4 days), but also cos I tend to keep up with the community to the extent of running nightlies. Opera doesn’t get a look-in on the desktop due to the interface (sorry Opera guys!) although I use Opera Mini heavily on my phone.

Comment by Brian

I am a relatively new user of Firefox and am still trying to get used to using tabs. Every now and then I still hit the close button and close everything. I just got so fed up with IE and all the holes in it. I am very happy with Firefox so far and I hope to be able to use it more effectively in the future

Comment by Bruce

So in summary:

It looks to me that most web dev people abandoned IE because IE6 was so shit, and civilian users did so because of security worries.

The latter gang are happy with IE7 (because it’s much better at rendering sites and doesn’t pull your computer’s underwear down and write “Hello Hell’s Angels” on your buttocks like its predecessor did).

Meanwhile, developers have fallen in love with Firefox, largely because of the fabness of its developer extensions.

Opera is either loved, or disliked, but it’s not generally used as a developer browser (because not enough useful dev tools?).

People with Macs browse with Safari. No accounting for taste …

Anything to add, you attractive and witty lurker, you?

Comment by Mo

I use Safari on the Mac for day-to-day browsing, Firefox with Firebug for tweaking/fixing ECMAscript and CSS.

You’re right about the reasons for abandoning IE6, though. My finger-in-the-air stats from the sites I look after show that IE uses are about 50/50 split between IE6 and IE7 so far, which is far higher a proportion of IE7 users than I was expecting so soon after its release (given Vista uptake won’t have had much impact yet).

Comment by Grant Broome

I use IE6 almost exclusively at work. What??? Why???
Well I do a lot of testing and I need to choose the most popular browser out there. For the time being, that’s still IE6, plus it’s compatible with JAWS, unlike most other browsers. For my own purposes at home I’ll use Opera, but all the developers I work with use Firefox.

Comment by Matthias Willerich

Firefox all the way. I’ve tried using Opera here and there over the years, but somehow it didn’t stick. IE6 was always fine for me before, but I now do my research with a trazillion tabs, so I changed. Of course webdev toolbar, firebug and so on is present, too. IE7 is too confusing for me, maybe because my toolbars are all over the place.

Comment by Christophe Strobbe

My ideal web browser does not exist. I use SeaMonkey (successor of the Mozilla browser) for daily use because I don’t like Firefox’ “Find as you type” (I only want the links and I discovered only recently you can changed that in “about:config”), its “Add bookmark” dialogue and a few other things, but I switch to Firefox because certain plug-ins aren’t available in SeaMonkey: I use the Accessibility Toolbar, the MetaTags Sidebar, and the Force Content-Type plug-in . What I still miss in these browsers is the ability to view tabs side by side, as in Opera.

Comment by Ian Sparham

I mainly use Firefox – on Ubuntu at home, and natively on Win XP at work (although I also virtualise Ubuntu there) I also use Opera for reasons already outlined by others and various iterations of IE, again for testing or for ‘site compliance’ (grrr!).

If anyone hasn’t already come across it, the fantastic Multiple IE is an essential testing resource for XP, and for Linux is similarly wonderful

I also dabble with Lynx, Mosaic (Version 1 alpha – if a site works in this it’s as good a test as anything) WebIE, Amaya, Flock, Epiphany(Linux), Galeon(Linux), Konqueror Safari and and even WebTV viewer. I’m having a look at Gran Paradiso at the moment too.

What this seems to prove is that I’m clearly a Universalist, and also that I seem to think that having lots of browsers is a substitute for having some sort of life.

What’s becoming key as well for me, is the way in which modern browsers now automaticvally update, meaning that the issue of versions being used (as opposed to browser types) should be less of a problem – I was faced with a request last week to test a site on Firefox 1.0, which to my mind is pointless.

Comment by Cecil Ward

Despite having sung the praises of IE7-x64/Vista in an earlier post, Opera 9 is the nicest to use IMO. Opera’s document navigation features, accessibility features and its support for keyboard users is ahead of the rest. (See The “next/previous element” keyboard navigation (keys ‘E’/’D’) is such a good idea. I prefer not to use a mouse if I can help it. More people should give Opera 9 a try.

(But in Vista it’s important to stick with IE7 currently until the other guys get up to speed.)

Comment by Jake

I recently downloaded tons of browsers to test them all, and the one I liked the most still is Firefox. Although Opeara and Avant were both faster, Firefox played video games and music alot better. I can’t the find the bleeding homepage button on Opera!!! Internet Explorer is just so bloody slow it’s unbelievable, Netscape I didn’t even bother with and Avant couldn’t even display yahoo! properly. So my conclusion was to keep Firefox and Opera on my computer. I was really pissed off at safari, coz it took me ages to download and sucked ass when I got it. But Firefox I find was better than Opera, even though I’m using Opera to write this comment

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