Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many very good browsers are available for Mac users.
Mozilla’s Firefox 3 is out of beta and ready for the world. The question is simple: Is Firefox 3 really as good as it needs to be?
My first answer, after having used various beta versions of Firefox 3 the past few months, is not yet. It’s fast, though not as fast as some recent beta versions of Safari. Firefox is certainly better looking and has more features than previous versions.
Better looking? If there’s a big complaint that many Mac users have with Firefox is that it’s not a Mac-like, chic, attractive web browser, and it’s user of font rendering is put to shame by Apple’s own Safari.
Firefox has always suffered from ‘that Windows look.’ I’m happy to report that Firefox 3 for Mac seems to have shed the legacy ‘Windows look’ and now feels more like, well, a blend of Safari and Camino (Firefox in Mac clothing). Toolbar buttons are rounded versions of Safari’s soft rounded rectangles.
Is there more? Not much. Everywhere else Firefox acts like, well, Firefox. Bookmarks are handled the same way, a clumsy and complex implementation of Safari’s bookmark elegance.
Buttons and features options are scattered everywhere in the bookmark area, though I admit that I like the backup and restore feature.
Extensions make Firefox a valuable web surfing tool, Mac or Windows, and so far, Firefox 3’s handling of my dozen or so extensions has been spotty. Three don’t work at all, another seems to cause a conflict somewhere when I use, but not when I don’t.
I can crash Firefox 3 any time I choose, just by loading a web page and then moving through the menu structure quickly. The beach ball of death begins to spin, and Firefox cascades into a pile of digital rubbish before crashing.
Firefox 3 still has the busiest interface this side of Windows Internet Explorer 6.x. There’s the Tool Bar, which actually looks good. Then the Menu Bar, which is fully self explanatory, and like Safari, extends itself if you have plenty of bookmarks in the bar (is there really anywhere else to put bookmarks?)
Below that are the Firefox extensions area, then tabs. The former of which can fill up quickly and create a very visually busy and complex Firefox UI. Tabs can be rearranged, ala Safari, though not as smooth with the drag and drop and rearrange.
My implementation of 1Password seems to work well, allowing Firefox to share the same login ID and password information as Safari and Camino, though password management in Firefox is also improved.
The feature list for the new version is extensive, though mostly evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. There’s more built-in malware protection, with an attempt to warn users when they land on a site on a restricted black list. SSL error pages are easier to understand.
The Star Button in the location bar makes it easier to add bookmarks with a single motion click. You can also add key words to your bookmarks and set up topics to sort bookmarks. Remember the term bloatware?
That said, I do like the new View Menu > Zoom feature, if anything because it kinda sorta replicates what Mac users already have with Control-scroll using a mouse.
It’s nice, but the cursor doesn’t move the screen as Apple’s implementation does.
Firefox 3 also features add-on and plugin version checks, and will, thankfully, disable older versions. Add-ons have to provide updates in a secure manner. OS X’s spellchecker is now implemented—it red underlines misspelled words and makes suggestions in the right-click context menu.
I’m hard pressed to see much about Firefox 3.0 that makes it a full point version above the current Firefox version, which has been very stable in my daily use. So, I have to ask myself, ‘Do I really need another browser with more features than I can remember?’
Still, a little competition for Safari and Internet Explorer is not a bad thing.
Finally, share with me and our readers why you use Firefox, why we need so many browsers, and which Mac browser is your favorite.