Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Firefox (PR1): I wouldn't mind using it all the time, but...

Firefox is an excellent browser. On Windows. It is a very good browser on the Mac. In my book, Excellent = top notch, very good=really likable, but needing work.

I think Firefox is more stable, faster, and less buggy on Windows than on OS X. Granted, we're not talking identical machines. Nope. My Dell is a 866MHz Pentium III, 512MB RAM, 30 Gig HD. My Mac is a 17" 1.33GHz PowerBook, 1Gig RAM, 80Gig HD.

Loading identical bookmark groups in Tabs (PC running Firefox, Mac running Safari), the Dell finishes a few seconds faster (between 3 and 8 secs, actually) than the PB. You say, "what's a few seconds?" I say, yeah, but my PB is -should be- WAY faster. Compare Firefox to Firefox on both and the gap is narrowed a bit, but still, the PC is faster. I'm assuming the code is better optimized for Intel chips than IBM or Motorola.

In case you're wondering if the PC was using cached pages, no, it wasn't, in fact, neither machine was.

There you have my PC to Mac gripe. How about comparing Firefox and Safari.

Don't get me wrong, I really do like Firefox. I would use it more because it is faster than Safari. But it doesn't behave well enough for me to switch. First and foremost, I need it to be way more AppleScriptable than it is. I'm glad there's a little library for it, but I want to use commands like Safari's do Javascript getSelection() of document 1, and I'd like some way to get the URL so I can put it in a document or other.

Firefox does have the huge advantage of extensions - and one extension, Copy URL+ is pretty slick, but it doesn't allow me to do what I do with Safari. That extension will grab the URL, selected text and whatever is in the title tags. The author says it can be modified by editing a certain file, but that file doesn't exist anywhere on my machine. If anyone knows what to do on the Mac to edit that extension - say to put tags around the selected text and URL, please let me know in the comments section.

Speaking of selecting text, here is where Firefox's bugs fly around. It is really odd. I'll double-click on a headline to highlight it, but only a portion of it will highlight. Or suddenly there's a colored highlight box around the entire article instead of the headline. I click numerous times on the title to get back to it, but it won't highlight. I'll reload the page, then it works. Reload it again and I am only able to highlight a portion of the title. What gives?

Sometimes Safari is buggy on highlighting as well. I've seen what I think is a pattern on some sites where a certain ad loads near the title and when that ad is in rotation, I can't highlight the text w/o highlighting the whole blooming article. But Firefox breaks far more often on this than Safari. I've never experienced this on Firefox for Windows.

Safari continues to rule the browser roost on my PowerBook. Will Safari in Tiger be a giant leap beating all other browsers on the Mac? Of course that remains to be seen. There's excellent potential with both apps, but until and unless the coders of Firefox continue to beef up support for AppleScript, I probably won't use it as my main browser even though I'd like to.

I know there are some AppleScripter demigods out there who know how to script the unscriptable. If anyone knows some scripting techniques for Firefox, please leave me a comment below with any info you can provide.

As for the odd behavior of Firefox on OS X, am I alone in this, or are there any of you who've experienced the same things? Any workarounds to offer? I am a regular maintainer of my system - repairing permissions, clearing cache, running cron stuff and all that - usually via Cocktail.

Thanks for putting up with my gripes. It is tough when a potentially great app gets released across platforms, but one platform outperforms the other. In this case, Windows Firefox outperforming Mac's Firefox.