Firefox 3 vs. Safari 3

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 @ 12:37 pm | Mac, Software

Daring Fireball:

And that’s just it. Firefox 3’s shortcomings as a Mac app are behavioral, too.

I’m giving Firefox for just reason that Gruber highlights later on in his piece — improved memory management. I’ve only got 1 GB of RAM on my PowerBook and my computer’s performance would noticeably drag when running Safari for extended periods. Conversely, I’ve noticed little-to-no slowdown with Firefox running.

That said, Gruber’s definitely right that Firefox isn’t a particularly good Mac app. In addition to his list of issues, there are two that I’m finding bothersome.

  • Doesn’t Respect RSS Reader Setting — Apps like Safari, NetNewsWire, and others are capable of registering as the default feed reader and Safari will happily pass feed URLs over to the selected reader. This makes it simple to subscribe to new feeds. Firefox, however, doesn’t honor this setting, instead displaying the feed contents in a new tab/window.

    Update: Turns out that while Firefox won’t respect the default system feed reader, you can configure Firefox to use NetNewsWire or your other feed reader of choice. The Applications panel in the preferences lets you (appropriately enough) configure external applications for different content types. I’d originally looked here for some sort of setting, but missed the Web Feed option among all the audio and video formats.

    Firefox Application Preferences

    Firefox doesn’t seem to auto-detect the feed readers installed on your system, but you can point it at NewNewsWire and it seems to work as expected. In addition to supporting external applications, Firefox goes one step further and allows you to specify web-based feed readers, like Google Reader or My Yahoo. So, as is often the case with Firefox, the desired functionality is present, but not necessarily Mac-like. (Thanks to John Gruber for pointing this out to me.)

  • Doesn’t Use System Keychain — Old news, I know, but I’ve been retyping a bunch of passwords lately and I’ve occasionally had trouble remembering which password is associated with which site. I have the choice between trying a number of passwords till I find the right one or firing up Keychain Access and looking for the appropriate record.

    On the plus side, the save password display in Firefox is quite nice. The display is similar to the new search bar in Safari and hangs around after the password-protected page has been loaded. If you’re not sure whether you’ve entered the right password, you can defer saving the password until after you’ve confirmed the validity of the password. Definitely an improvement of Safari’s ask, then process approach.

I’m not saying that Firefox isn’t a good web browser. However, it’s very likely that I’ll switch back to Safari once I get a computer with more resources.

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