Gone are the days where we all lived with the default install, the internet is where many of us spend the majority of our time these days so user an interface (browser) that connects how you want it to is important. Consider it a bit like choosing a house or an office, you want to make sure the look and feel are right and then you want to make sure you can do everything you want to within it. Remember its name too. Browser suggests almost a casual approach and indeed the best browsers operate without you even thinking or noticing the intricate processing it is carrying out.
Yet, the choice is massive and while many of the features cross-over, how they interact with other programmes, how fast they are and how powerful they are all varies and with add-ons and plug-ins it is very possible to completely personalise your browser for just your needs, but you need to understand what browser has the best basic set-up for you before you begin that journey.
The 2012 Internet Browser Software Product Comparison from TopTenReviews.com isn’t the only site to offer its opinions, but is one of the best in terms of presenting you the information and a comparison chart of what, does this and what can’t do that.
As with any good comparison site there are benchmarks and ticks alongside the relevant features and it is only when looking at the list of the top ten browsers that you begin to realise how different they all are. Like many working in this industry I have a selection of browsers installed on each of my machines – my smartphones too. This used to be for design reasons so I could immediately see how the odd tweak responded in different browsers. Nowadays, it is as much to do with functionality. For example, I am a big fan and advocate of podcasts, yet Gooogle Chrome doesn’t always like the standard .xml RSS feeds many of these use. For that Firefox is best, enabling the feed to load correctly and letting me click straight through on the link for the podcast to play straight out in my browser. Now I am sure there is a plug-in for Chrome that would probably fix that, but I know Firefox works and trust it, so for me familiarity wins over hunting for possibly a more effective solution. The same is true of my mobile devices. I’ve designed in Flash, it was great, but WAS is the operative word. I’ve not designed in flash for years, but too many people still do. Especially those embedding video. So the default browsers on my smartphone and tablets can’t read them. Frustrating! Yet, I know that a minority browser like Skyfire (One of four browsers installed on each of my tablets and smartphones) is clever enough to identify flash on a site and open the video in a separate window. Hey presto, I can watch almost any Flash video components on the move. It’s not perfect however, in fact it is rather clumsy and it doesn’t look great either, but it works. Again functionality wins.
So while this blog may be entitled how to choose a browser, I guess it probably should be browsers plural. You see each of us is different and each of our needs is different each day too. So unless you are a whizz at coding for a specific browser the chances are that your every need may not be met by a single option. It is as much about trial and error as it is research but certainly the comparison chart above is a great starting place for those looking to find the browser that best fits their internet use.
What is your browser of preference? Have you found any great browser comparison tools?