end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

An Update on the Firefox Switch

picture-3

So, I’ve been using Firefox for the better part of week now. Honestly, I’m a little surprised I’ve lasted this long.

I’ve made some progress with a couple of the issues that I mentioned in my earlier post about the switch to Firefox. However, some new problems have also arisen.

The Good

Predictably, as time went on, credentials became less of an issue. I am now to the point where authentication is no different than it is in Safari.

Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler has also assured me that contextual menus will be much improved in the next update.

At Download Squad’s advice, I also installed the GrApple Delicious Blue theme which makes Firefox look very much like Safari. Overall, it’s certainly an improvement and, best of all, the ugly blank favicon icons have been replaced with the same nice globes that Safari uses.

I still have no complaints about Firefox’s speed.

The Bad

Unfortunately, as I’ve used Firefox more, its faults have become more apparent.

My biggest beef with Firefox is its download management. I hate the popup that comes up whenever I download something asking what I want to do with it. I also miss the nice little files that Safari had with the progress bar right on the icon. Firefox just plops the actual file in your downloads folder and leaves you to guess when its complete. Of course, I could check the download’s progress in Firefox itself, but Download Statusbar seems totally incapable of giving accurate information (this isn’t Mozilla’s fault, of course, but still).

things-dl

Firefox also lacks Safari’s PDF handling. I like the ability to just look at a document without having to download it, but in Firefox, there’s no such option.

Firefox’s history menu also really bugs me. To view anything from more then a couple minutes ago, you have to open up the history sidebar. In Safari, you can access days of history from the menu alone.

Considering that I left Safari to escape a text entry bug, it’s ironic that I’ve run into another (much less annoying) text entry bug in Firefox. On Facebook (and maybe other sites, but I haven’t found any), I get an annoying little line coming off the cursor which makes it look like I have an extra apostrophe. As you can see below, the some affliction doesn’t affect Google (and other sites which I tested).

picture-21

picture-12

I’m not sure who’s at fault, but it’s a pretty annoying bug, especially when using Facebook Chat.

Even considering all this, I don’t think I’ll be switching back to Safari anytime soon. Especially with version 3.1 on the way and a growing number of Add-Ons, it seems that Firefox can only get better.

Filed under: Apple, , , , , , ,

The Confessions of a Firefox Convert

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently transitioned from being an ardent Safari fan to using Firefox. While the plugin-ability of Firefox is certainly nice (even if many individual plugins are rather clunky), that’s not the reason I switched. As I also mentioned before, I was experiencing an extremely obnoxious text entry bug in Safari (on the bright side, it taught me a lot of ways to get rid of text without the delete key) and I figured it was time to get away from it.

The Transition

import1I was kind of dreading having to manually bring all my Safari bookmarks across to Firefox. However, Firefox offers a handy little import wizard that allows you to bring just about all your data from Safari (or another browser) into Firefox. While it worked as advertised, I was left with the bookmarks in Firefox in addition to the ones that were imported from Safari. While deleting the duplicates wasn’t as much work as entering them all manually, the transition still could have used some smoothing out.

Even with 1Password integration, most credentials need to be reentered for the new browser, but I suppose that’s to be expected, and it’s not a terrible pain.

The Interface

Obviously, I’m a pretty big interface junkie: The AHIG is practically my bible, and I like all my applications’ interfaces to be as coordinated as possible. Since it was developed by Apple, Safari is pretty clearly on the top of the heap as far as interface matching with the rest of the OS goes. While Firefox 3’s interface is a massive improvement over its predecessor, there are still some elements that don’t sit too well with me.

favicons

Firefox relies pretty heavily on favicons: They show up in the address bar, the search bars, the tabs. Now, on a conceptual level, I have no problem with this; favicons are a nice visual aid to navigation. However, the realty is, most favicons are pretty ugly and I would rather not have to stare at them constantly. I’m also something of an interface minimalist, and since I can get on just fine without favicons, I prefer the cleaner look you get without them. Also, considering how much time I have to spend looking at them, I wish Mozilla would provide something other than an ugly document icon for the blank favicon.

spelling-ffx

It’s a minor issue, but Firefox’s non-standard contextual menu also bugs me. I’m willing to look past the squared edges and such, but what really gets to me (since it’s what I use the contextual menu for most often) is the spell checking– it just looks so much worse than the layout the rest of the system uses.

Once you consider plugins, many of which are pretty disastrous interface-wise, Firefox can be something of a visual train-wreck on a Mac (and believe me, themes don’t help).

Performance

One of the main reasons I’ve been so resistant to Firefox is its speed: I’ve always thought it was a slowpoke compared to Safari. While I’m pretty sure the benchmarks still indicate that Safari is snappier, I haven’t been noticing much of a difference in my everyday browsing. When it comes to load speeds, it seems like the two browsers are pretty evenly matched.

Features

Admittedly, Safari does not have a whole lot that Firefox lacks in terms of features. Off the top of my head, I think the ability to resize text boxes is the only thing which Safari has and Firefox doesn’t.

With a plethora of plugins available, Firefox is pretty much set for features. While it would be nicer if it had things like private browsing and easy user agent switching out of the “box”, installing plugins is easy enough that I don’t really mind.

picture-2

Ad blocking, one of my favorite features in any browser, is really quite impressive in Firefox thanks to the Adblock Plus plugin. While AdBlock for Safari is very unobtrusive and does the job 90% of the time, Adblock Plus, while slightly more obtrusive, offers more effective, fine-grained control.

Conclusion

Firefox is a nice browser, sure, it wouldn’t be gaining users like crazy if it wasn’t. It has great features, especially with extensive plugin-ability, and although the interface isn’t everything it could be, Firefox is just as fine a browser for OS X as Safari is. That said, if that pesky text entry bug were to resolve itself, I’d be back to Safari in a jiffy. Some things just feel right.

Digg!

Filed under: Apple, , , ,

On Leopard

So, as I’m sure you’ve realized, I haven’t posted in a while. I’m going to try and get back into this, we’ll se how that goes.

Anyway, since I last wrote I have gotten 10.5 Leopard (if you don’t know what Leopard is, go. Just go). It has some really nice new visual things and some new features. So…let’s take a look.

Finder

Leopard Finder

Finder was one of the changes I was really excited about. I’m a fan of the iTunes sidebar (it just looks so cool!) so I was happy to see it was now permeating the rest of the system. The path bar at the bottom is also a nice thing to have.

Sadly, I was disappointed by CoverFlow. Although documents look nice (however, I think CoverFlow was designed more for people who do lots of layout design or other things that would involve colourful documents rather than the black and white essays that are the staple of my computer), folders and applications look really weird (especially folders). For the record though, I believe the folder weirdness can be blamed on my non-standard iconset (Agua, which has been updated for Leopard, by David Lanham). Regardless, I don’t really think CoverFlow is a good way to navigate one’s files (I also don’t like it much in iTunes, but that’s beside the point).

As far as other features go, the built-in smart searches are nice but I wish we could edit them and add to the list. Like I said above, I really like the new real icon preview (e.g., a MS Word document doesn’t appear as the .doc icon but as an actual representation of the document) even if my French papers are a little dull.

Quick Look is very nice (it can even play music!) and I’m sure it will be a big timesaver once I get in the habit of using it.

iChat

iChat is another one I was pumped for. With the addition of tabbed chats I was hopping it would finally overtake Adium. I tried it out and I quickly remembered all those little iChat things that just bug me.

  1. Huge contact list (often more than one).
  2. No meta contacts.
  3. Tab bar cannot be shown when you only have one chat open.
  4. Limited range of message views.
  5. Bad notification system.
  6. Very little customization overall.
  7. You must look at the chat window (not the contact list) to see if a buddy is typing or has sent you a message.
  8. Only a couple networks are supported.
  9. It insists on using your address card names (or worse, screennames).

In the end it was #8 that truly drove me back to Adium. Why did I even leave in the first place?

Safari

safari.jpg

Safari 3 and I got off to a bad start back in my Tiger days. However, when I opened it up in Leopard I was pleasantly surprised. By far, the biggest improvement is the more Camino-esque behavior (in fact, it filled Camino’s shoes so well that I no longer saw any need to keep Firefox’s little brother around). I was surprised to see things like the chat bar in Gmail load (they didn’t in Safari 2) and I have noticed a lot of Web 2.0 type stuff works a lot better in this version.

Features like resizable text boxes and improved search are also nice.

My only complaint is the lesser degree of plug-inability. Google isn’t the same without Inquisitor.

Mail

mail.jpg

Mail was probably the feature I was most anticipating. Stationary, notes, to dos, what’s not to love. Also, my old version of mail had been having problems and I was hoping this would offer a fix. Not only does Mail work again, but it offers a very nice little “iCal on the go” type thing and contains misc. improvements.

I haven’t tried any plugins with it yet so I can’t speak to that.

However, my main issue is the lack of badge customizability. In the old version of Mail you could just replace the ugly red badge in the resources folder with a new one, but in this new version (and other Leopard apps) I cannot find a way to change the badges.

Time Machine

I must say, Time Machine is pretty effin’ sweet. I have it hooked up to a MyBook Home and it’s working without a hitch so far (let’s hope it performs as well as it has been to date when I really need it). Super simple backup, I don’t even know when it’s going on. (As a n00bish aside, I’ve always used USB drives and when I got my first FireWire one I was blown away by the speed. Well worth the extra money).

Spaces

Spaces can be pretty handy. In one you can piece together a desktop portrait of perfect academic devotion. Then, in another, you can open WOW or whatever your time-waster of choice is, and play away until the time comes to do a quick Ctrl+1 and appear to be the angelic student that you aren’t. Not that I do that…ever…

If you have the money around, Leopard is defiantly worth it, but as Walt Mossberg(/burg?) said, “It’s an evolution, not a revolution.” (Or something like that).

P.S. My English teacher would be appalled that I ended an “essay” with a quote. But, I mean, it’s kosher to do that in journalism, right?

Update: I have installed Inquisitor and Safari Block into Safari and they’re working great. Chalk one more up for Leopard.

Filed under: Apple, , , , , , , , , , ,

The Malcontent Part I: Browser Battles

I am never content with my computer. Do I have the best (free) browser available? Is my desktop good enough? Do my icons match?

Today I will cover my quest for the best browser….

Safari: Being a loyal Mac person I started my journey with Safari (the default Mac browser, for those of you who don’t know). The main thing that bugged me about Safari was its lack of support for GTalk (and the brushed metal is just icky). This led me to a little browser you may have heard of….

Firefox: EVERYONE knows what Firefox is and most people like it. For quite a while Firefox was my browser of choice, I loved that I could hide ads and choose new skins. However, one day I read an article about why Firefox isn’t as great as we all think; the points about it being ugly and in Carbon hit home so I once again became a roving malcontent.

Opera: Opera gets extra points because it is Norwegian…it just does. However, it is among the UGLIEST browsers I have ever seen (it may even beat out IE). Opera lasted less than one day…

Shiira v.2: Around this time I found Shiira. It was fast, it was trendy, it was puuuurdy. However, it didn’t quite work…the beta was pretty buggy and it was missing a lot of features that were in the stable version. Despite its lack of substance, I just couldn’t get rid of such a pretty piece of code so I kept it on as a secondary browser to Firefox.

Shiira v.1: Stable Shiira wasn’t pretty, it was pretty much Safari but uglier. However, it did have some nice features such as Growl notifications for RSS articles (made moot by the fact that I use Vienna for that anyway). Shiira v.1 didn’t last very long either….

Camino: Camino is billed as Firefox specifically for Macs (which means it is prettier, and supposedly better). I tried it and it just didn’t click for me…

Safari: All this time the perfect browser had been right under my nose. Uno dealt with the ugly brushed metal (and made just about everything else really pretty) and some other plugins got rid of a lot of ads. I was in browser Nirvana…almost.

Shiira v.2: I was DELIGHTED to see a new beta of Shiira come up. It added Growl and dealt with some of the biggest bugs (like the preference panes not working). Shiira has a special place in my heart because I stole some REALLY pretty badges from it (imagine a green swamp bubble, except pretty).

Camino: Today a new version of Camino came out so I decided to give it another shot. But it lost that chance within seconds of being launched. IT WOULDN’T LET ME TYPE IN AN ADDRESS. Is it just me or is that kind of a big problem? Basically the entire browser was unresponsive without so much as an “Application Not Responding”. Camino, you messed up BAD.

The Bottom Line: Safari is a fast, pretty (once you get rid of the brushed metal), simple and well-integrated browser that should fulfill most of your needs. Shiira is the more-or-less the same except a little buggy and quite a bit prettier. Firefox is ugly as sin but gets the job done (Camino is the opposite) and Opera is just…Norwegian.

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, The Malcontent, , , , , ,