Thursday, January 20, 2011

SOFTWARE: Surprise, I'm Sticking With Firefox 3.6

I tried, I really, really tried. But I just can't commit to using Google Chrome as my main web browser. I have a fully tricked out Chrome 8 working and portable test versions of Chrome 9 and Chrome 10. But there is just TOO much missing to make me switch. And as for Firefox 4, coming out next month, the answer is nooooooo.

Let's figure out why I'm not making the switch to FF4. First, if I wanted a reasonable facsimile of Chrome, why wouldn't I just use the original? The design decisions to slavishly imitate the Chrome interface means I don't have much of a choice. FF4 is really Chrome with a sidebar of bookmarks. Now, that happens to fix a particular itch that I have with Chrome, the lack of a sidebar of bookmarks, but it sure isn't a deciding factor in making Mozilla's implementation of the information-less Chrome interface any better.

FF4 got rid of the status bar, assuming all we peons did with it was watch load times and which links hovering over a link would lead us to. Ahhh, NO! My status bar has weather, reminders and status indicators for 15 various extensions. And load times and link info. Taking that away was arrogance. And, although Status 4 Evar returns a LOT of that capability back, it doesn't enforce a consistent uniformity on the placement of items. It's sort of a first come, first serve basis, most of the time. Not good enough, but at least a kludge against designer foul-up.

Admittedly, FF3.6 is getting long in the tooth and is more resource hungry and slower than any of the Chrome versions or FF4 will be. I SHOULD like faster. But when I ran Chrome and exposed it to my mass load folders of bookmarks, I discovered that the savings time-wise was less than a half-second PER tab. Loading 119 tabs in all was about 39 seconds faster in Chrome. Daily variations and time of the day issues might have made that difference five or seconds faster (or slower). So, the speed pickup wasn't worth it. Chrome loaded everything but about six tabs in my daily commenters group. Not surprisingly, it loaded GMail, Google Calendar, Google Reader and Google News, which often time out during my mass load in FF 3.6. But like I said, it seemed like Chrome just substituted a half-dozen other sites to force me into clicking re-load. FF4 was only slightly faster than FF 3.6, but then again, it's still in beta. All together, speed is NOT a reason to switch, at least for me. Resources? I have 4G of memory in Popeye and will have 12G in Quincy. So, the resource issue is a non-issue for me.

Security isn't the anti-Chrome factor it once was. Chrome DOES have noscript. Well, a clone of it. And that means you can avoid drive-by script infections. But, and here's a but that really, really hurts, making those changes on the fly is a very destructive act, if you happen to have, oh, say, a Blog entry in progress when you change the settings. Settings changed and everything gets wiped out. ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!! And yes, I am RE-writing this blog entry in FF 3.6 after losing an earlier Pulitzer Prize-winning version that I started in Chrome.

On the other hand, there are things I like a lot, and Chrome doesn't have versions of those things yet. I like in-place picture zooming. I like right-clicking and picking which folder to save a picture too. I like being able to nuke page elements in an everything selected or everything BUT selected manner. I can duplicate a fair bit of that thanks to Printliminator in Chrome, but there are times where NukeAnythingEnhanced in Firefox is just a better choice. I LIKE having a close button at the end of the tab row and a go button in the URL box. Yes, there can be a close button in Chrome, but it goes on the upper URL box row. And the go button is reload button. To the LEFT of the URL.  Niggles and nits? Sure. But I like comfort and familiarity. Not so nitty is Chrome's inability to session save with doing it manually first. I use Firefox's ability to save sessions automatically and I get more use out of that feature after crashes than I would like. It's comforting to have 40 tabs open, just close FF, restart it and have the option to have those 40 tabs back.

Making Chrome cover up the lack of a sidebar requires running Chrome across most of a 2000 pixel wide screen. That results in an amusing situation. Some sites run their content in the middle of the screen. Some run it flush left. Go from one tab to the next and you can feel like a tennis match spectator. Uncomfortable.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Chrome for some things. And surprisingly, it isn't for interfacing with the Google tools that are an increasingly larger share of my on-life work. I use it for videos. I use it for CNet and for some of the Revision3 offerings. I haven't turned off auto-play in Chrome and, although videos won't keep playing at full monitor size if you insist on working on another window on another monitor (Except for YouTube and Vimeo), it does a good job of playing any videos I take it too. I have a lot of auto-play turned off in FF. There are better auto-paging features (which work MOST of the time). It's also nice that adding extensions doesn't require a reboot all the time. In fact, most of the time it doesn't, allowing for testing things out. But there ARE a few here and there that behave like Firefox. Lastly, scrolling is VERY, VERY smooth in Chrome.

The Pros-Cons list in switching to Chrome is not even close. It's Firefox by a mile. And that means FF 3.6. FF4 has its own issues, even with general release just a few weeks away. A LOT of the extensions I swear by are not ready for the major update. And a couple, TAB MIX PLUS I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU, seem unlikely to make the update for the update. That's really troubling. Really, REALLY troubling. So, I'm going to do what I mostly always do. Let the early adopters have all the fun, while I hang back and await for the first major fix to the new release. At least. I figure I'll be adopting either Firefox 4.1 or Chrome 13 about a year from now. Or more likely, TWO years from now.

After all, I'm writing this on a computer running Windows XP SP3.

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