A Web Developer and Their Browser

There are several web browsers available and if you are a web designer, there is a good chance that you steer away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. This is because they have historically had a very poor history of honoring web standards, as well as having a number of gaping security holes.

In the past, Internet Explorer was much more closely tied to the Windows Operating System, meaning that when a vulnerability occurs, it was much easier to maliciously attack the operating system. Vulnerabilities are nothing new and can be found in all web browsers, but this close association with the operating system, as well as so many gaping security holes, made Internet Explorer a popular choice for hackers and other criminals.

Today, Microsoft is getting better, both in regards to adding a layer of abstraction between the operating system and the browser, as well as making baby steps towards honoring the HTML standards. However, it is still common for things to work fine in more standards compliant browsers, such as Firefox or Opera, with a number of silly hacks required to get the same styled output in Internet Explorer.

Also, both Firefox and Opera have several features that make it easier to look at a webpages HTML and inspect the different elements on its page, as well as analyzing forms, viewing headers, and all the other things a web developer needs to do. So, it is no surprise that most quasi technical people, web developers especially, do not use Internet Explorer.

So What Are My Options

There are several web browsers, but Mozilla Firefox and Opera are two of the more popular choices, unless of course you use a Mac, in which case Safari is the default web browser. Opera still lags well behind Firefox, and for that matter most other Browsers, but this is mostly due to people simply not really knowing about it.

Personally, I use Firefox most often, as there are several extensions that I use on a daily basis, most notably Firebug, which lets you inspect a pages HTML and debug Javascript. Opera offers something similar, but to me it is just not as useful and easy to use as Firebug is.

Firefox also has a built in spell checker, so whenever I write something online, I can be reasonably sure that my spelling is correct. The search function in Firefox is also very nice, much more useful than most other browsers, as it allows you to search at the bottom of the page, without interrupting your browsing. This differs from other browsers, in which the search function pops up an extra window. However, the new Internet Explorer, IE8, has now “stolen” this feature and fixed their search a little bit.

With that said, I really like how fast and nice Opera usually renders pages. The Speed Dial, which lets you select your more regularly visited websites is also very useful. I have also found that Opera generally does a better job with password management than Firefox does, as well as being more customizable by default. Another neat feature of Opera is that by default it lets you go backwards and forwards using the scroll wheel, assuming you have a multi access scroll wheel, so you can push left to go back, right to go forward, and up and down to scroll on the page.

The one thing that keeps me from using it all the time is that while you can set up a filter list to block certain content, you can not quickly disable it. Also, the last time I checked you couldn’t white list a website, so the filter option is either all or none. However, this might have changed.

Other than Firefox and Opera, Google recently unveiled their own Browser called Chrome. There are also several open source browsers built on the Firefox Framework, such as Swiftfox, which is optimized for Linux.