Screenshot of browsers in the Mac OS dockIn my previous article, I wrote about my hunt for the perfect e-mail client. That journey was kind of hard and it’s not over with yet, because I’m still on the hunt. However, my next search was much easier — finding a web browser. Why was it easier? Because having multiple browsers installed on your computer and then switching between them is a piece of cake. Although I settled on one primary browser, I didn’t have to saddle my cart to just one horse.

Since I work in web design by trade, I can never have enough browsers in which to test my work. Now that I’m on a Mac as my primary machine, I was REALLY eager to get my hands on the major browsers and kick the tires a bit. Here’s a run down of what I installed and my thoughts on each one.

Safari
Windows PCs comes equipped with Internet Explorer, Macs come with a browser called Safari. Like IE, Safari is made by the OS manufacturer, but that’s where the similarity ends. Safari has far more functionality, such as a built-in RSS and PDF reader, and is a great deal more secure against spyware.

Safari is also very minimal in it’s design and I have to say, quite appealing. If I wasn’t such a geek and always looking to tweak every application I touch, this would be my go to browser. That being said, there are a few plugins available at Pimp My Safari, but not to the degree that I was looking for. It’s a great browser though.

Firefox
Like most of Mozilla’s product line, Firefox is a platform independent, so I installed the browser and gave her a spin. Browsing around the web, I have to say that I felt completely comfortable because I was having the same experience on a Mac that I’ve had on a PC.

It didn’t feel quite as fast as Safari when launching the program, but Firefox does have far more options when it comes to customization. There are a huge number of plugins available, which allows you to tweak your browser until it works exactly the way you want it too. You can also add new tools to your browser that allows you to do new things as well. take complete web page screenshots, or measure pixels on a page, just to name a few examples.

If I didn’t already have a favorite in mind, I think I’d make Firefox my preferred browser. The expandability and adherence to web standards make it hard to resist.

Camino
Many of my Mac friends complain that Firefox doesn’t feel very “Mac-like” and prefer Camino. It’s also made by Mozilla, but is designed specifically for the Mac. I installed it and kicked the tires a bit, but didn’t really explore it all that much.

Camino feels a little bit like a cross between Firefox and Safari. It’s based on Mozilla technology (the Gecko rendering engine), so it’s very similar to Firefox, but it’s been combined with “the awesome visual and behavioral experience that has been central to the Macintosh philosophy…” According to c|Net, it has more advanced security settings and privacy features over Safari as well.

Overall it’s a very nice browser and runs very well on the MacBook, so I plan on keeping it installed. However, since it doesn’t have the plugin capabilities of Firefox and was missing a few features that I’ve come to rely on in Opera, Camino won’t be my default browser.

Opera
If you take a look at the demographics of who is browsing the web with what, Opera is definitely one of the smaller chunks of the pie chart. I’ve been a paid user of Opera for many, many years (it’s free now) and just love the browser. I wrote a more extended article on the subject at this link a few years back.

All the things that I love about Opera are all found in the Mac version. It’s fast, a stickler for web standards and the ability to add custom searches. This is new with version 9, but it’s one of my favorite features. Right/option click on just about any web site and you can add it to your list of custom searches. So instead of being limited to just a Google search, you can choose just about anything you want. For example, I have searches for the following sites: Amazon, eBay, TV.com, IMDB, Wikipedia and MacUpdate. And since moving to a laptop environment, I’ve found that I can use those searches with keyboard shortcuts!

Opera doesn’t offer extensions like Firefox does, and I wish that it did, but I still prefer it as my primary browser. I’m just very comfortable with it and it does 90% of what I need very well and it does it fast.

Closing
I didn’t test every browser out there for the Mac, but I feel that I got a good taste of the more popular, not to mention free, ones. I’ll of course use all of these browsers from time-to-time. Yes I’m a huge fan of Opera, but almost every day I seem to be jumping to another browser for a quick peek at a bit of code I’ve written, or to overcome a problem with someone else’s site. What I learned from this little experience is that there are a wide array of really fantastic browsers out there for the Mac.

Even if you’ve settled into a certain comfort level with your favorite browser, I’d encourage you to give one of other browsers a test drive, just so you can see what else is out there. And if you think that I passed over a browser that you think I should try, please let me know by posting a comment. I’m still new to the world of Mac, so I’m very eager for tips and advice wherever I can get it. πŸ™‚