If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you’re sitting at your desk using a web browser. Sure, you might be using a tablet, phone, or some other device, but in this blog post, I’m going to focus on desktop browsing.
There are several very good desktop browsers that you may be using right now, or maybe not. Take a moment, locate the “About” option (usually under the “Tools” menu) in your browser, and take a look at what it says.
If you are using the latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, or Opera, hurray for you! You have made a conscious choice to download and use an alternative browser, a browser that most likely did not come installed on your computer. Maybe you’ve even set that browser as your default.
Now, if you, like many users, are accessing the web in Internet Explorer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re using Internet Explorer 9 (very soon to be IE 10). However, if you are using IE 6, 7, or 8, you’re really not experiencing the web to its fullest.
Recent browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and IE9, have very good support for emerging technologies like CSS3 and HTML5, that are already being adopted by many web developers to present web content in new and exciting ways. But there’s more to it than just that. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the benefits you get from a modern browser:
- Security: Although modern browsers can be subject to security flaws, they’re generally far more secure than their predecessors.
- Support: Over time, support for older browsers will continue to diminish. Already, many leading sites like YouTube and Facebook have dropped support for IE 6 and many other sites serve up limited functionality and visuals to older browsers.
- More space: Modern browsers generally have less “chrome” and maximize your working space.
- Features: Over time, browser developers continue to optimize and expand their products. Modern browsers have some really wonderful and convenient features that serve a variety purposes and enhance user experience.
There are a lot of great features that modern browsers have started to adopt across the board and there’s no way that I can mention them all, but here are some highlights.
- Tabbed browsing: If you are still using IE6, you’re missing out on a major convenience that has been otherwise available for many years.
- Searching: Many browsers have a dedicated search box next to the address bar for running quick web searches. You can usually adjust the box to use your favorite search engine if the default is not to your liking. In addition, if you type a keyword into the address bar and it doesn’t match a site URL, then the browser will run a web search instead. Chrome has taken this a step farther and has eliminated the separate search field entirely.
- Add-ons: Browser developers have opened their doors to the community and allow other developers to create small pieces of software that add onto your browser. These are usually used to complete a discreet function like taking a screen shot of the current web page, but there are add-ons for all sorts of things like news, weather, and music, as well as number of great tools for web developers. In my experience, Firefox and Chrome have the most and highest quality add-ons.
- Syncing: Many browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, allow you to sign in to your browser and synchronize bookmarks, add-ons, and other data between all of your computers and devices. This is perfect for when you stumble across something at work that you want to check out later, at home. You can create a bookmark at work and it will be right there in your toolbar when you load up the browser at home.
If you’re running an older browser and it’s in your power to upgrade or download an alternative browser, I highly recommend that you do so. At this point, you may be wondering what browser you should download. Truly, there’s no correct answer because it’s a really a matter of preference, but here’s a quick breakdown of the most common options:
- Google Chrome: Chrome is fast, secure, has tons of add-ons, and, not surprisingly, tends to work really well with Google products like Gmail. Chrome is the default browser on my machine. Available for Windows and Mac.
- Firefox: Firefox has recently lost some of its market share to Chrome, but is still a solid browser in many ways. It may not be quite as fast or secure, but still boasts a solid feature set and a massive amount of add-ons. Available for Windows and Mac.
- Internet Explorer: Although Internet Explorer 10 will be coming out shortly, IE 9 is fast and secure, but lacks the add-ons of Firefox and Chrome. IE 9 is the first version that has included support for CSS3 and other emerging technologies and is definitely a large step towards bringing IE up to current web standards. Available for Windows Vista and higher.
- Safari: Safari and Chrome are built on the same rendering engine and have many of the same features, although, in my experience, Chrome runs more quickly and is far superior in the add-on department. Safari seems to have dropped support for Windows as of version 5.1.7, so I would only recommend it for Mac users.
- Opera: Like Chrome, Opera is fast, secure, and has add-ons, though perhaps not so many as Chrome. Opera is also a leader in the web standards community and is constantly innovating new ways to experience the web. Available for Windows and Mac.
If you made it through this whole post without downloading a new browser, do yourself a favor and test drive one of the browsers listed above. You won’t regret it.