bibliotechy

The Virtue of Many Browsers

In STT on May 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

This overdue post (I got sidetracked by the iPad) is a result of …
1)a co-worker trying to get to a PDF document to show up in their browser (fixed with a Firefox plug-in, here) and…
B) watching the Winter Olympics on the web, or rather attempting to watch them on the web via my favorite browser, Firefox…

Both incidents brought to mind the necessity of having to use more than one browser if one is attempting to utilize all the features that the wonderful internet has to offer.  And I don’t mind this, really I don’t.  It’s second nature to me and I’m here to say it ain’t going to change anytime soon (see: Adobe Flash vs. HTML 5 video support).

Now I’m a big fan of Firefox, always have been, and probably always will be (I tried to switch to Chrome, but it only lasted an afternoon, I missed Firefox too much).  I like how I can customize Firefox, add plug-ins for better handy features, it’s speed, it works on Windows and Mac and Linux.  And Firefox was all about apps before apps were cool and everyone (maybe even you?) had an app store.

But Firefox doesn’t play Microsoft Silverlight video (and I just double-checked, still a problem in Firefox 3.6.3).  Yep, this winter I couldn’t watch curling or biathlon on the internet if I tried to use Firefox to access the NBC Olympic website.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC), NBC, and Microsoft had an exclusive agreement to use Microsoft’s Silverlight video format as the only video format for internet broadcasts (instead of the ubiquitous Adobe Flash).  Incidentally the Silverlight video looked great, even at full-screen resolution the images of curlers and skaters and snowboarders were pretty darn sharp and vivid.

So… to watch Curling Team USA, first I had to download and install Microsoft Silverlight (this was true with both my Macs and PCs). Than due to a bug in Firefox that made using Silverlight impossible no matter if you used a Mac or a PC (and all parties can be blamed for this, Firefox, Microsoft, Apple, the IOC…) …Anywho, to watch curling or biathlon, I had to switch to the browser that is made by the same company that makes the computer’s operating system, get it?   So….
-on a Windows PC I’d switch to Microsoft Internet Explorer 8
-on a Mac to Apple Safari

Both IE and Safari are the “native” browsers that are built by Microsoft and Apple to work well and take advantage of Windows and OS X, their respective operating systems.   Oh so many years ago I tried to uninstall IE from my Windows PCs, which in theory you can, but why bother?  It still comes in handy and makes you appreciate Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera …you get the idea.

Here’s my rundown of the browsers I use on an almost daily basis, with one exception, but the geek in me felt compelled to mention it, see below:

Firefox – I could go on and on and gush about what I like, which I kinda laready have, but suffice it to say it like it, I know how it works, and I need my add-ons and my search engines.  As a former refernce librarian and now a library consultant, I have something like 2 dozen+ in my search engine drop-box (everything from Google Images to NOBLE to Wikipedia).  You can find a listing and links to my favorite, got-to-have-them, Firefox add-ons here: http://delicious.com/bibliotechy/addons

I use it for pretty much everything on Mac or Windows, including MassCat as Internet Explorer does not play nice with the Koha ILS.  I don’t use it when a page doesn’t load correctly or a plug-in doesn’t work.  This hardly ever happens anymore, but some recent examples:
InfoTrac – couldn’t get scroll-menu to work in Browse Publications menu
Winter Olympics –  Silverlight plug-in didn’t work

Safari – Apple’s built-in browser for Mac, now available for free download in Windows too.  I use it when something doesn’t work in Firefox on my Mac.  A handy feature in Safari on the Mac is in the Develop menu, called User Agent.   This allows you to render any webpage as though your Mac’s Safari browser was in fact any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (which doesn’t run on a Mac, talk about proprietary!),  or any version of Firefox, or even Opera.  Pretty neat, but it’s a feature many Mac users don’t know about because it’s buried in the Advanced settings (Go find it Mac users! Nice step-by-step here.).  I gotta admit I like the look of Safari in Windows better, there are subtle layout differences and I like ’em, but it stills works the same in Windows or Mac.

Other than that it’s kind of boring with very few apps to add on, it just works…  But, I do absolutely luv the homepage option of showing a thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages.   Also Safari is the built-in browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch, so I use it daily on my iPhone without even thinking about it (even though there is now another choice in Opera mini).

Opera – I want to like. I want to use it.  I’ve downloaded it a dozen times in both Windows and Mac and try it for about 15 minutes and then go back to Firefox, Safari and Chrome.  And then I end up up deleting because I never use it again and really have no reason to.  The same has been true of Opera mini on my iPhone.  It’s free and has a mini version of that thumbnail-gallery-of-frequent-sites as your homepage, but has nothing else really to offer.  “Opera, you’re OK, it not you, it’s me…”

Google Chrome – I use mainly when testing a how a webpage looks (if it will work on other browsers), or just for fun, or because it’s FAST! It works equally well on Mac or Windows, it looks fun, has lots of neat “skins” to change it’s appearance, it has that handy thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages like Safari mentioned above, and it’s fast, like WICKED FAST! This last feature is ever-so-useful on ye olde Windows XP computers you might have hanging around.  It’s almost like having a whole new computer on these old machines. How does Google do that???

But I find the bookmarks in Chrome a bit cumbersome to organize and use, and the add-ons are not as polished or reliable as those in Firefox.  Again, as I mentioned above, luv that thumbnails of frequently used sites as a homepage feature as well as it’s speed!

In sum, my feeling towards browsers is:

  • The more the merrier!
  • There’s something for everyone in each browser!
  • Your desktop is a melting pot!  (Coincidentally, it turns out my Mac’s motherboard was a just plain melting, but that’s for my next post…)

See, browsers made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft can all live together, even if they are ruthless competitors in the marketplace.  It’s all good!

BTW – I finished editing this post in Google Chrome.  Why?  Just because… I happened to have it open and editing WordPress works pretty much much the same in any browser …although I can’t vouch for Internet Explorer, never have tried that ;-)

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