I tried. Really I did.

Inspired by yet another one of those, “Oh Noes – Google Owns my Entire Life” posts on Hacker News, I installed Firefox 30 and used it as my main browser for a week.

At the end of the week, I hurried back to Google Chrome. Here are some of the reasons why;

Tab Switching

I use multiple tabs a lot, and I like to use the keyboard, rather than the mouse/trackpad, for as much of my navigating around as possible.

Almost every application on my Mac, by default, will switch to the tab to the left/right using the same key combo: Cmd-Shift-[ and Cmd-Shift-]

Not Firefox. Firefox uses Ctrl-Tab and Ctrl-Shift-Tab. To my mind, those are ridiculous choices – there’s nothing indicative of “Left” in the act of pressing the Shift key.

To fix this, I installed the “Swift Tabs” plugin, but it wasn’t a good start.

Click to select numbers

One of the things I do use the mouse for is to select text in a web page to copy/paste somewhere else. I do this a lot with numbers that I want to paste into spreadsheets, and Firefox has a really annoying usability problem here;

Let’s say the number 123.4567 is on the page, and I want to highlight, copy and paste it. With Chrome, double-clicking anywhere from ‘1’ to ‘7’ will select the whole floating-point value. But, with Firefox, it will only select the contiguous integers whichever side of the decimal point you click. I.e. you can double-click to select either “123” or “4567”

To select all of the number, you have to click and drag from one end to the other. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, try doing it with 100 values.

Animated Favicons

For some of my applications, I use websockets to update the page when new information arrives, and I’ll update the favicon with a counter image so that I can keep the page open in a tab, and don’t have to keep checking it to see if anything new requires my attention. This works very well in Chrome, and not at all in Firefox (although, to be fair, I didn’t spend any time looking for a fix that would have worked – by this time, I was already coming to the conclusion that Firefox wasn’t going to be around after the end of the trial week).

No count of search hits

Search for text in a page, using Cmd-F, and both Chrome and Safari will tell you how many matches were found. Not Firefox.

Gets jerky with multiple tabs open

Where, by multiple, I mean around 10 or so.

Evernote web clipper is pretty ropy

The pop-up strobes open in a very jagged and disconcerting way, and stutters whenever you move from one field to another.

Conclusion

I’m sure there’s a lot to like in Firefox. My first impressions were very good, and if I hadn’t gotten so stuck in my habits about the way I use a browser to accomplish specific tasks, I might be writing the same kind of rant from the opposite side, if I were a Firefox user trialling Chrome. But, for me, Firefox needs a bit more polishing before it’s a serious contender (and that’s without even opening the developer tools).

I hope it gets the polish it needs, because it really does make me uncomfortable, just how much of my life Google owns!

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