The Perfect Web Browser Setup

Dec 15, 2010 View Comments by Steve

Which Web Browser?

We spend 92% of our computer focused time on the web. To me that makes the most important application on your computer the web browser. Choosing the best web browser can speed up your surfing, help you see more web pages the way the designer intended and save you getting caught out by various scams and attacks.
The options for best web browser are Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The Stats Tell The Story – Browser Usage

Internet Explorer has for many years been the most used browser because it has been bundled with Microsoft Windows which is by far the most popular operating system on modern computers. This is starting to change because Microsoft now has to offer alternative browsers when a PC is first setup. Also Internet Explorer (or IE as it is often known) has developed a bad reputation around compliance and security. The diagram below (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows how Internet Explorer’s market share is declining and how Google Chrome is on the rise pretty quickly.


Compatibility

When you’re browsing the web you want websites to look at their best. Web developers achieve the look of a site, including fonts, colours, animation and layout using special code (HTML, JavaScript & CSS). It is important that your web browser understands as much of the standard code as possible so sites are compatible and look and act as they are meant to when you visit them. There is a set of tests called the Acid 3 tests which test browsers for compatibility with the latest accepted set of web standard codes. This gives a good indication of which browsers should be the best at displaying the most websites correctly. The chart below (stats courtesy of Wikipedia) shows Chrome and Safari both pass 100% of the tests where as Internet Explorer 8 pases only 20% of tests. This means Internet Explorer is unlikely to correctly display many modern websites.


Speed

Another important factor with web browsing is speed. It’s first worth understanding that most of your browsing speed limitations are going to be down to your broadband connection speed. This article explains more about broadband speeds. But part of the experience is down to the speed at which your browser reads the downloaded code and displays the page, as well as how quickly the browser responds to any keyboard or mouse input. There are many factors effecting speed including the speed it takes to render a page, how quickly scripts can run and how well the browser copes with lots of tabs open. We have wrapped all these factors together to keep it simple and put together one test that tries to cover all of the browsers main components. The results are displayed below and again show Google Chrome as clear winners.


Google Chrome Wins!

Taking into account its rising popularity, better speeds and 100% standard compliance Google Chrome has to come out the winner here as the best available web browser. I have been using Google Chrome for over a year now and its simplicity and speed make it a real pleasure to use. It loads quickly, renders pages quickly and crashes rarely. My biggest issue with Google Chrome however is bookmarking. The bookmark manager is very ugly and over simplified and there is no sidebar just a separate tab to manage the bookmarks. Adding bookmarks is easy enough using the star icon in the address bar but organising and searching them is no fun at all. Fear not though as Google Chrome now has pretty good support for extensions. These are extra pieces of software that plugin into your browser to enhance and customise your experience. We recommend that as soon as you have Chrome installed you go and get Neat Bookmarks for Google Chrome. It’s simple to install and completely safe, just click the “Install” button on the page. This will give you an extra button at the top right of your web browser which displays a popup bubble of your bookmarks which offers quick search and drag and drop for your bookmarks. We also suggest you sign up to and install Xmarks which is a great browser plugin for syncing your bookmarks across any browser on any machine and includes web based bookmark access and sharing. Xmarks has recently been acquired by another of our must have extensions LastPass. This gives you secure password storage and syncing and secure form filling and syncing too. Both offer great free services as well as premium options for power users.

Summary – Our Perfect, Free & Simple Surfing Setup

  • Google Chrome Install Google Chrome as your default browser.
  • Neat Bookmarks The Neat Bookmarks Chrome extension is a much smarter bookmark manager than the default one that is bundled with the browser. It’s a free one click install.
  • Xmarks We love the cloud. Syncing bookmarks with the cloud, so we have access to them from anywhere, is really useful. It means we have everything in one place and backed up too. There are mobile apps to go with it as well.
  • LastPass Stop having just one password you use for lots of sites. That’s dangerous. Instead use LastPass which makes it easy to have super secure passwords, different for each site that you can access from any computer with just a single master password. LastPass also offers a nice cloud based form filling solution too.
 

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