Sometimes people who are just getting started in online genealogy will ask me for a recommendation of a browser.
Browsers, like cars, come with different features. Some are really easy to use. Some are really fast. Some use more “gas” (memory) than others. And which one you choose depends on your taste, needs, and style.
Here’s a quick roundup of what is out there:
- Firefox 3 (free, http://www.mozilla.com/Firefox/) For me, this is the best all-purpose browser. I like the balance between performance and security. The interface is user-friendly, it plugs most ActiveX security holes. It has convenient features, like tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, an RSS reader, download manager, password manager, automatic updates, customized searching and themes to let you adjust the interface look. An extensive library of free add-ons– which add functions like blog reading and social network tracking — are also available. Firefox runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X platforms. The newest version was released summer 2008, and I’m enjoying it! Some folks complain it is slow to startup, others have problems with having to press CONTROL+T to open a new tab, but my experience with it has been good.
- Internet Explorer (free, http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie) Most techies agree that this is the most secure, and it includes adjustable security management (including ActiveX opt-out), a URL parser to block malware and advanced anti-phishing technology. It’s the default for most people, and of course, probably came with your Windows set-up, so it is very familiar to many users. But, to me it lacks some usability features of Firefox: zooming in quickly for example. Still, it’s a very workable browser.
- Opera (free, http://www.opera.com/) Many techies consider Opera the fastest, leanest and most efficient browser available, but it is third on most lists for security. It has most of the features of Firefox, and fewer resources. The latest version includes widgets, or small web applications that sit on users’ desktops, and support for BitTorrent, a popular file distribution technology. Opera can run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and other operating systems.
- Camino (free, http://caminobrowser.org/) is a web browser for Macs. Camino offers all the functionality and features of other Mac browser options, with none of the bloat and resource hogging. Mac-ophiles praise its small file size, seamless integration with Mac services, speedy page rendering and great customization. Camino integrates features usually only found on Windows machines, such as cursor-over tooltips (especially handy when navigating between multiple tabs), which some Mac software neglects. Still, the user interface is pure Mac. Reviewers say the speed can’t be beat, with thier tests pulling up pages significantly faster than top competitors Firefox and Safari on a Mac.
- Opera Mini (free, http://www.opera.com/) Features are designed with the mobile user in mind and include keyboard shortcuts, landscape viewing, small screen rendering, one-click access to bookmarks and simple navigation tools. I have not used it, only read reviews, but the tech world is impressed. It’s free, so you might give it a try!