So, here I am, trying to join the Firefox ship again, and I must admit, it’s not as difficult as I think it would be, but I wish it was even easier. From this time that I’m actively using the browser, I noticed some great features I didn’t have in Chrome, and I probably will miss if I ever go back to Chrome again.
Keep in mind that the main browser I use to compare Firefox is Chrome, which used to be my primary browser. I know that some browsers have some of the features, but as I don’t use or follow their development, I can’t tell how well they work. I also believe that Firefox and Chrome are the most relevant browsers, that are available on most operating systems, open source (mostly) and with sync capabilities.
Firefox is great, and some of its greatness come from its unique features like:
about:config and the other abouts
It’s awesome that the browser lets the user see and customizing the settings so much, I usually have to adjust the scrolling speed on Firefox and I can set it natively from the
about:config page, on Chrome I have to download an extension for that.
Advanced search options highlight all, match case and whole words
The Ctrl+F shortcut on Firefox lets you “Find” with some options that you do not see in Chrome: highlight all, match case and whole words. While this is good to have such options, additionally it could have an option to ignore accents like Chrome does, seems there’s a bug report about it, so I bet it will be fixed in the future. Also would be great to use regular expressions in Find option, fortunately, there’s an addon for that functionality.
I think the Reader View is one of the exclusive Firefox features that I use the most, and so far it worked flawlessly. It’s great to declutter a page and see only the relevant content, the text, in a way that is much more pleasant to read. I, like many others, do not like to read on the computer too much, the Reader View makes that activity much less painful.
I do not understand why Chrome does not have this feature yet, maybe because they don’t want to hide advertisements in pages? I don’t know. I know there are some addons that try to replicate this functionality, but none that I’ve tried is polished as Firefox one.
Create search bookmarks from search fields (keyword searches)
It’s convenient to have the option to quickly create search bookmarks from search input fields, I wish I could create search engines instead of search bookmarks, because it seems more organized and more integrated with the browser, whereas, with the search bookmarks, I have to organize it. In the end, it works as well, it’s easy to make shortcuts from a search field and use straight from the address bar.
Chrome used to have a quick way to add search engines, but they removed long ago, I guess not many people used it. Now it seems that the search engines are created automatically, what sucks because you end up having a ton of saved search engines that you may not want to keep.
Simplify Page print
Another cool feature is the one the simplify the page before printing. That removes the style and the unnecessary stuff to save your printer’s work, and that’s great. It’s another feature that Chrome used to have and removed it.
Luckily, something like that can be achieved if the web page has some CSS rules to simplify the print.
If this feature is not enabled for you yet, you can probably enable it on
about:config by setting
Download button and progress view in toolbar
Isn’t it good to see the progress of your downloads without having to lose some page height? I like the download bar on Chrome, it’s not bad, but it could use a good download indicator on the toolbar too. Firefox does it well.
I won’t be including the Test Pilot projects as exclusive features because it’s uncertain if the project will remain in the browser, as they are all experimental. That said, I think the Test Pilot is one of the most exciting things about Firefox nowadays. Not only because of the great features available, like the Tab Center (Tree Style Tabs), Containers and PageShot, but the whole thing makes it awesome.
It feels like Mozilla invite their users, you and me, trying to improve their product the way they think it’s better but at the same time, interacting and caring about what the users have to say. And you can participate easily, on Github or the forums, it seems that the users are welcome. I know it’s not possible to make everyone happy, but at least, they seem to try.
It’s not from Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon
Not really a feature, but something to keep in mind. While these big companies build the products focusing on their particular interests and many times trying to restrict the user freedom somehow, limiting his access to a particular ecosystem. That’s “OK”, I mean, it’s expected that companies will try to protect their business. But from Mozilla, you can expect something else, you can expect that they will put their mission on top of that and work toward a healthy and better web.
What about the AddOns?
Because of the great (current) extensibility of Firefox, I know there are many AddOns that add unique functionality to Firefox so the list would be huge. Even then, Firefox offers pretty good functionality by default, so with all upcoming changes, I will let the AddOns for another time.