It finally happened. After years and years of service, I have decided to say adios to Google Chrome (maybe just for now) and say hello to Firefox once again. Firefox was the first browser that I ever used heavily back in the day and at some point after Chrome caught my eye, I left it in the dust sitting in some version which is no longer supported.
So this year I'm switching back. For a few reasons, but mainly that I always did enjoy Firefox. I liked what it stood for and I liked the Mozilla foundation. Their developer documentation is phenomenal and their love for web browsers is palpable. So when I use Firefox it's not just to get something done or out of a task that I need to accomplish. It's a little bit more than that.
Their website is fantastic
The homepage for Firefox is superb. I can't imagine anyone paying it a visit and thinking that they were looking at anything but a fantastic toolset. And I'm a sucker for good informative landing pages, as I build them for a living.
If that panel doesn't speak security, I don't know what does. And that just again goes to show how much Mozilla cares about branding its browser in the best possible light. Feel free to pay the site a visit, and enjoy the journey. But in a way, I felt like a kid in a candy store, and for the first time in a while I caught myself thinking "oh man..it does that?".
My browsing is much faster on Firefox
You can read more about Firefox's performance updates over here. But it is true, performance is incredibly improved, at least on my machine. Websites that normally hang for me on Chrome, run almost instantly on Firefox. And for me, this is the biggest draw. The more time that I spend just sitting there staring at loading screens, the more momentum I lose on my projects.
Performance of course is incredibly subjective always. It depends on the exact versions, the plugins installed, extensions running, the hardware compatibility, the OS and down to the users browsing habits. So when I speak of performance, I do it from someone who didn't run an official benchmark test. But more as a web developer who spends his time Googling for solutions while listening to music on YouTube while making appointments using Google Calendar.
And as someone who lives in developer tools essentially for a good part of the day. For this particular configuration, the amount of RAM being used is much less than on Chrome and the CPU isn't as intensive when browsing content heavy sites.
Developer tools are pretty decent
If you're a web developer, for the most part you'll never need anything else in developer tools besides inspecting DOM elements and removing or adding DOM elements. A few key points that I've noticed however in using Firefox's developer tools are the following:
It loads much faster
This could be due to the whole "everything is faster on Firefox" scenario, but this is one is noticeable to me, since I spent a huge amount of time in dev tools. And it essentially loads instantly. Maybe 1 second. But always instantly. With Chrome, what I noticed was that the more tabs that I had with dev tools opened, the more performance suffered and each time I opened dev tools there it took up a considerable amount of RAM to do so.
And freed up RAM gives me more room to work in more projects, or at least the option to do so, which is nice. Just not having to think about whether I can or can't is definitely worth the change.
The style editor
I can't be the only one that uses DOM inspector to do most of his web design work. The style editor on Firefox dev tools are designed for me apparently.
And while we're here, yes Windows 7 is pretty awesome. The style editor shows me that an actual web developer worked on this browser. Because it's exactly, how one would use it. You get every CSS source loaded up and you can edit and save all within one panel.
This definitely changes the way that I design using the browser, because I no longer have to worry about 1-off changes and immediately copying them over to my code. I can update as I wish and do a single batch update at the very end.
I take alot of screenshots
I'm a web developer, so many a time, things online catch my attention as far as design goes and I like to take a screenshot or two. Before I had the usual "Print-screen" button, followed by Winkey+R + "mspaint" -> paste -> crop -> save approach. Which became like second nature after years of doing it.
But Firefox read my mind, saw my approach, and turned it into a 2-step process. Essentially, right-click+"take a screenshot", and then pick what you want a screenshot of. And you don't even need to download it as everything gets stored on screenshots.firefox for your viewing pleasure.
That out of the box functionality is what stands out to me with Firefox. Sure you can probably do something similar with a Chrome extension, but that never feels as secure to me. Mainly because you are relying on security on someone that doesn't know the intricate aspects of the browser. And many a time that comes with bugs, performance issues and compatibility woes. But having screenshots handled natively right on the browser makes for a seamless experience.
Out of box usefulness
I'm enjoying using Firefox this time around. And I mean really enjoying it. I enjoy the built-in features that are just there, such as Pocket and screenshots, I enjoy the performance boost that I'm getting, and I'm enjoying the what seems like longer battery life on my laptop. Maybe it was because Chrome became stale to me or because it indeed was seconds slower each time I clicked on anything. But sometimes change is good. It makes your brain work a little harder. And each new feature that pops up is like a small treat in a way.
It's like going to an amusement park for years and years, and then suddenly going to the one down the street which is pretty much the same thing, except this time around you have no idea where anything is and everything is a surprise. But it's also like going to a more secure amusement park, where the rides go faster and everything is a tad more colorful.
Do I see myself going back to Chrome anytime soon? Probably not for a while. The past week with Firefox have been so nice, that I wrote an entire blog post about it. And I highly recommend you try it out. Just download the latest build, and spend an hour doing whatever you normally do on it. Who knows, your entire life could change in unknown ways simply by using this tiny little browser.
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Walter G. is a software engineer with over 10 years of professional experience. When he isn't blogging or being a CTO he enjoys coding randomly complex things that he hopes many people will get a chance to use one day.