Thursday, June 16, 2011

How I Use Internet Browsers

At last count, I have 8 browsers on my laptop. If you include my virtual machines (VirtualBox is magic, for those who don’t already know) and iPod Touch, that total comes to 15. While no reasonable individual needs this many browsers, there are certain tasks suited to certain browser arrangements. Here is my setup.

Google Chrome
is my primary browser. I use it for working and finding information efficiently. The Diigo extension let’s me bookmark and tag sites for later, the minimalist suite of extensions for Google apps like Gmail, and some security extensions (a future blog post will explore extensions more thoroughly). The omnibar makes searching easy and I have around 20 keyword searches that I use regularly, from my library’s catalog to Grooveshark. Chrome’s built-in developer tools are extremely useful for web design and debugging. Chrome’s syncing ability is invaluable: when I start with any new machine, all I have to do is install Chrome, log into my Google account, and my bookmarks, extensions, and settings are transferred to the new browser. On my Ubuntu netbook, I use Chromium and the sync feature saved me about an hour of setup. Sadly, keyword searches do not sync yet.

is my social browser. I use it not only to connect with people but also to keep up with tech trends. RockMelt is Chrome but with “edges,” side columns where you can install small applications, from RSS feeds of sites like Lifehacker to a Twitter client. Much as I sign into Chrome’s syncing with a Google account, RockMelt asks me to sign into Facebook. People who use Facebook intensively, especially Facebook chat, will derive much more value from this browser than I do, since I have simply hidden the left-hand “friends” edge and never use the built-in chat client. Still, the browser does a great job of letting me check numerous social networks and news feeds in one place.

is the least-used browser in my regular rotation. I prefer Chrome’s aesthetic and speed, but honestly Firefox is every bit as good. There are some areas where Firefox exceeds Chrome—ease of saving and syncing keyword searches, (arguably) number and quality of add-ons—while it lags noticeably in others—the update mechanism, no syncing beyond bookmarks, slightly slower than Chrome. I use it purely as a secure browser for online purchases, employing a slew of add-ons such as NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere.

Then there are some random browsers I use for one or two things. Safari, for instance, runs Many Eyes faster than other browsers (bizarre) and Camino lags far behind in CSS3/HTML5 support so it makes a good quick-test platform for progressive enhancement web designs.

What’s your setup, divers readers? Do you stick to a single browser and, if so, which one is it?


  1. Firefox is my #1 but Chrome quickly catching up. I also use Safari. Honestly I use three browsers to keep all three of my main accounts running at the same time. I'm ready to give Rockmelt a try.

    They are all Google accounts too... besides parallel sign-in, which is kind of a joke, is there another way to be logged in to everything at the same time?

    For instance, I want to subscribe to a channel on YouTube in Firefox but must drop the URL into Safari, which operates my YouTube account...

  2. Hi Eric! I wanted to belatedly thank you for correcting my error on my posting about iChromy! I made that correction today & also posting an update I got in an email from the co-founder of Diigo! Cheers!
    ~Gwyneth Jones
    The Daring Librarian

  3. @Colin - yeah, there's no good fix for having multiple browsers open and it frustrates me, too. The best you can do is try to limit certain browsers to certain accounts (e.g. Chrome = all Google stuff, Firefox = Facebook, etc.) so you're not logged in two different places. And Facebook and some other services will email you every time you log on with a new browser, super annoying.
    For security reasons, you probably would not one application to be able to see login information privy to another. This would open your authentications up to malware as well as other browsers. Bad news bears.

    @Gwyneth - no problem! I just found it strange that Diigo made iChromy and thought you should know. I don't spend very much time using mobile browsers but it's something I would like to know a lot more about.