I have been a Safari user since it started shipping with Mac OS X. Before that, like many users, I was stuck with Netscape Navigator (ew) or Internet Explorer for Mac (ew again, but less this time.) When Safari rolled out, i was happy to shun the awful UI of Microsoft forever. Along the way I tried Firefox, but it wasn’t to my liking. Now that Safari and Firefox have both matured significantly, I have compared Firefox and Safari again. I even tried switching over to Firefox, but it only lasted about a week. I just think that Safari is the better web browser. However, Safari can learn a few things from Firefox, and vice versa.
Some features of Firefox that I want to see in Safari are mainly the tab management. True, Safari 4 added lots of nice tab features, especially being able to drag tabs out to create it’s own window, and the ability to merge windows as multiple tabs. However, what Safari still lacks is a nice feature that Firefox has had for a long time. The ability for new windows to open as tabs. In HTML terms, the link would be target=”_blank”, but instead of a new window opening, Firefox opens a new tab. In Safari you can force any link to open in a new tab, but if you click a link that opens in a new window, you have an extra window floating around.
Another Firefox feature missed in Safari is the ability to use the scroll wheel to scroll the tab bar right and left, if you have too many tabs open to show all at once. Safari has a drop down menu, much like Firefox, but the first 12 tabs are the only ones shown, after that you get a chevron and a drop down menu.
Next is a feature that Firefox doesn’t have, and that Safari does, but that still needs improvement. Safari has a menu command to merge all open windows into one tabbed window. This is very useful for me, if I open a bunch of RSS updates through Growl, they open in new windows. The only thing that could make it better is the addition of a keyboard shortcut for doing this.
The final gripe I have about Safari is it’s RSS feed handling. It is a definite step up from anything Firefox offers, both built-in and as add-ons. But still, I wish for one feature. Safari has the ability to view multiple RSS feeds on one page, and it also has the option to view each RSS feed in a new tab. What I would really like is a command to view only feeds with unread articles in tabs. That way I could save time by not loading old feeds, and by not having to close the feed’s tab after I see that there’s nothing new.
The nail in the coffin for Firefox though, is the RSS feed handling. I know I just said that Safari needs work here too, but Firefox is severely lacking in the RSS department. There is just no good way to update RSS feeds in Firefox. The built-in reader only gives you a menu listing of new articles, a far cry from Safari’s full page listing. The add-ons I’ve tried are a sorry excuse for a feed reader. I know that people will tell me that I could use Thunderbird or even Mail as my feed reader, but Safari is my web browser, so it only makes sense to view the feeds there. This is really what keeps me from switching to Firefox permanently. So if you’re listening Mozilla, keep working on your RSS reader in Firefox. I swear I’ll switch if you make it as good as Safari’s.