Something strange is going on in Mac Browserland. Not only are we caught in the middle of a browser speed and feature war, we’re also caught in a numbering war.
As browsers go, all are fast, most have plenty of features, a few are loaded with features, none are completely compatible with web standards, and the numbering schemes are going wonky.
Just The Facts, Ma’am. Just The Facts
To be fair and balanced, I collect browsers. Not for a living, but for curiosity. For the most part, Mac and Windows PC viewers see the internet through a browser window.
Not all browser windows are created equal.
What you see of a web page in Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Opera’s Opera, and Mozilla’s Firefox are pretty much the same.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 is a much-needed improvement in rendering pages—from web standards to fonts and graphics. So what is it about browser numbering schemes?
Numbers vs. Features
The craziest version numbering scheme belongs to Chrome, barely threes old, yet at version 13 already. Opera is 11.x. The more youthful Internet Explorer is 9.x. Safari is 5.x. Firefox just turned 5.x. That’s not so bad, but only three months ago Firefox was only 4.x
Except for the brouhaha over web video standards, Firefox 5 may be my favorite Firefox yet. If browser features were a fungus, Firefox would be the bread you’d throw out.
Right at the top, Firefox thinks different with App Tabs. Think of what happened when web apps and tabs got frisky without parental permission. They’re tiny tabs to keep open web pages you usually keep open—like Facebook, Twitter, and, ahem, Mac360.
Next up is Private Browsing, now a mere click away; perfect for hiding your tracks while you’re on the run. Instant Web ID checks a site’s legitimacy to make sure the info you cough up won’t make you sick later.
Tabs on Top
I told Steve Jobs that’s the way God intended browser tabs to be positioned (right above the URL string). Did he listen? Now it’s all the rage on Firefox 5. Remember that little place where you enter a web site’s URL? Firefox calls that the Awesome Bar (in honor of Barney Stinson) and because it auto matches what you type in so you don’t have to type in a complete URL that you can’t remember.
Switch to Tab is unnecessary fluff disguised as a feature. When you open a tab to a new URL, if checks to see if that URL is already opened in a tab, and simply switches you to that tab. Not handy if you want to open multiple tabs of the same URL. But, hey, we’re in the middle of a feature war.
Still in love with browser tabs? Get all Haight-Ashbury and free love with Firefox 5 Tab Groups. I like this idea. And the name. Much better than Panorama. It helps improve workflow, and tab groups are merely a click away (or, three keystrokes).
Password Manager gets easier to use, which for me is perfectly easy because I use 1Password instead. But, if you’re collecting password managers, Firefox’s is free.
Of Toolbars And Schizophrenia
The Toolbar on Firefox 5 is easier to use, too, even more so for those of us who don’t have enough clutter in our browser toolbars. Seriously, my Firefox has so many tools that I’m afraid if I add one more that Firefox will be Sheyla Hershey-like top heavy (as in trippple FFF), and fall over onto my keyboard.
Speaking of personalities, Firefox 5 does skins, but with a more upscale name in Personas. It’s the quickest and easiest way to personalize Firefox and make it your own. Take that, old gray lady Safari.
Firefox 5 has a built-in sync function which manages to sync basics between devices using Firefox—browser data, history, passwords, bookmarks, open tabs. Mozilla says it’s good “no matter what computer or phone you’re using.” Funny. Can’t find Firefox on my iPhone.
There’s plenty more where all that came from. Firefox 5 has new security features, a Do Not Track option, a quick click to Clear Recent History, and just for the paranoid, more customizations for Security Settings. There’s even a healthy dose of new HTML5 glaze spread over the top to impress the buzz word collectors.
All in all, Firefox 5, despite the brand new number, remains Firefox. This version is prettier on a Mac, but still comes with plenty of rendering speed, easier to use functions, all the add-ons that Noah could squeeze onto the Ark, and a great price tag.