Friday, January 2, 2009

Firefox Annoyances

I have been Opera user for years, long before Firefox came to be. But Opera is a piece of proprietary software, and this keeps bothering me. So time after time I try out the free browsers out there, to see if some of them could replace Opera. This time when I got stuck with Windows I decided, that I will give Firefox another chance.

I spent two weeks using only Firefox, but today I'm leaving it again and going back to Opera. So, what went wrong?

Little Things Count the Most

I don't have any serious issues with Firefox, it's a decent browser, in fact it's a truly great browser. But some small things in Opera are just better:

  • Restoring recently closed tabs. Every now and then I accidentally close a tab, which is perfectly normal, because people make mistakes. In Opera I just press Ctrl-Z like I would when I want to undo any other accidential action. But in Firefox it's Ctrl-Shift-T. I didn't manage to learn this shortcut and always ended up going to History –> Recently closed tabs.
  • Duplicating tabs. Opera allows you to clone a tab along with its history and everything. Every now and then I go from page A to B and discover that actually I want to have both A and B open as separate tabs, so I clone the tab and in the cloned tab press back to get to page A. Haven't found this functionality in Firefox. Sure, I can go back and click on the link so that it opens in another tab, but it's not that convenient.
  • Spatial navigation. Because I have laptop in bed with me, there is no way to use a mouse and using the touchpad is pain, therefore I prefer keyboard wherever I can. But tabbing through the links of a web page is one of the least effective ways to navigate. Opera has spacial navigation, which allows you to move through the links of a page using arrow keys - go to the link below, go to the link at right, etc. Firefox doesn't have it (they have it implemented in CVS, but it's been there for ages).
  • Switching between tabs. I usually have more than two applications open, but most of the time I spend switching between two of them (e.g. from Emacs to browser and back) and Alt-Tab does exactly what I need. Similarly when inside browser I usually have more than two tabs open, but a lot of time is spent switching back and forward between two tabs. In Opera I just press Ctrl-Tab, which behaves like Alt-Tab outside the browser. But in Firefox Ctrl-Tab cycles through all the tabs currently open – rarely useful.
  • Downloads. Every time I download something the nagging Downloads window pops up. There isn't a direct way to disable it, although the download progress is displayed at the status bar and I could click on it instead to pop up the Downloads window when I really need it. In Opera the downloads tab (not window) also appears, but you can easily disable it, and access all your downloads through sidebar.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones, that manage to piss me off nearly every day.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Firefox. I would like to have the same kind of extensibility in Opera. And Firebug is a hell of a better than Opera Dragonfly. But I just can't get over those small annoyances.

Firefox is Mainstream

Not IE. At least in the circle of computer-literates Firefox is the actual mainstream browser.

But I am not mainstream. I use a niche operating system. I use a niche editor. I also like programming in niche languages like Lisp. So maybe I'm also better off with a niche browser.

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