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Switching from Firefox to Chrome

[ Google Chrome ] I’ve used Firefox as my main browser for years. I’ve always known it to be fast and functional, but for some reason after version 3 or 4, things started getting not so good. For example, each major upgrade leaves me with fewer compatible extensions. And if you don’t remember to disable the auto-updates option, you may be stuck with your favorite extensions not working. I lost some great add-on functionality for the Fx4 -> Fx5 update, but continued using Firefox almost by force of habit.

Fighting Firefox

After however many months working with Fx5 and half of my extensions not working, Firefox did an auto-update to version 6. That wiped out another handful of add-ons, including a few that greatly improved my workflow. I looked into rolling back to Fx5 (or even 4), but it looked like a complete headache, so I cracked the whip and held fast with Firefox and half of my add-ons disabled due to incompatibility. As I worked with Fx6, I took advantage of the excellent tab-grouping functionality, but also noticed that performance seemed sluggish. I found myself clearing the browser and rebooting way too frequently, until it just got crazy and pages would take forever to load, even after disabling more add-ons. After fighting it for a few days, I finally called it quits with Firefox.

Switching to Chrome

I’ve been using Google’s Chrome as an alternate browser ever since it was first released as a PC/Win beta way back in September 2008. I played around with Chrome on my WinXP machine and really didn’t see what all the hype was about. Back then it was cool and fast, but really couldn’t match Firefox as a serious browser. So a few years later after switching to Mac, I started using Chrome for more than just random surfing and cross-browser testing. As Firefox began failing, Chrome proved to be a consistent, reliable browser that’s blazing fast. At some point, I realized it was time to retire Firefox and roll tuf with Chrome.

Customizing Chrome

Occasional surfing with Chrome is easy, but customizing for full-time use requires some time to get everything fine-tuned and dialed in. After importing my bookmarks and adjusting default browser settings, I went through my Firefox add-ons and found as many alternate Chrome add-ons that I could find. Surprisingly there were only a few extensions that I could not find for Chrome:

  • Colorful Tabs – not a huge deal, but I really got used to it on Firefox
  • Tab Mix Plus – provides further customization of tab behavior
  • HTML inline validator – a few choices, but nothing that just works
  • DownloadHelper – awesome for downloading just about any online video you can find

After searching and trying all sorts of possible alternatives to these Firefox add-ons, I finally threw in the towel and moved on with my life. Hopefully some of this stuff will be available soon. Also, although technically not an extension, Firefox’ Tab Grouping feature really is super-useful and improved my workflow considerably. So I would add it to the list, but there is a workable alternative which I discuss below.

Staring at Chrome with a confused look on my face

After several weeks using Chrome full-time (like all day, every day), I’ve noticed a few weird things that it does differently than.. well, just about any browser you care to name. Here are some examples of default functionality that could be better in Chrome:

  • Set the default page for newly opened tabs – This is my biggest gripe: why do I need to run two different add-ons just to set the default page that opens for new tabs? It’s just weird.
  • The bookmark manager kinda sucks – I was disappointed to see (and use) Chrome’s two-dollar bookmark script. Needs some serious work, or a good add-on replacement.
  • Text highlighting – feels sloppy in Chrome. For example, try to highlight a line of text and the highlight background blue color stretches all the way to bottom of the element. Not a big deal, but worth mentioning because it’s probably an easy fix.
  • Deeply nested options – IMHO some of the options and settings are nested way too deeply. I think a few more top-level or 2nd-level buttons would help people access mission-critical settings much faster/easier.

Admittedly, these are relatively minor issues, except the default-page for new-tabs thing is both a serious flaw and complete mystery. Well, not really. We all know why big companies make decisions, but having to install two add-ons to emulate something Firefox can do so easily is just an embarrassment.

My List of Chrome Extensions

Gotta say up-front that my strategy is minimalistic, so I only install an extension if I absolutely must have it. Although it’s amazing that Chrome stays fast and light regardless of how many add-ons you throw at it. Firefox I think struggles when the number of add-ons starts to climb. That said, here are my currently active Chrome extensions:

  • 1Password Beta – add-on for the awesome 1password app
  • Chromium Delicious plugin – handles delicious bookmarks for Chrome
  • Eye Dropper – for grabbing colors from web pages
  • New Tab Redirect! – required to set the default page for new tabs
  • One Window – also required to set the default page for new tabs
  • TooManyTabs for Chrome – good alternative to Firefox’ Tab Grouping feature, providing a great way to streamline workflow
  • Validity – “Click the icon in the address bar or press Ctrl+Alt+V to validate the current page. Results can be seen in Chrome’s JS console.”

Amazingly, I get better functionality with Chrome using these eight extensions than I did with Firefox using 20 or more. With this handful of add-ons, I get a browser that’s responsive, intuitive, and blazing fast.

Other thoughts

I’ve really enjoyed using Firefox over the years, and will continue to use it as my “secondary” browser. It’s been a month now since switching and Chrome just keeps getting better. It’s fast, free, responsive, and has greatly streamlined my workflow. If you’re looking for an alternative to whatever browser you’re using, Chrome is it.

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Fullstack Developer. Book Author. Teacher. Human Being.
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52 responses
  1. Timothy Warren September 15, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    I’ve only ever used about 5 addons consistently with Firefox: Firebug, Web Developer, Domain Details, CSS Reloader and on occasion Google Page Speed and YSlow.

    I like Chrome…but for some reason I just couldn’t picture myself using it for my main browser.

  2. I’ve been considering finding Chrome alternatives to my FF addons, as well. I have been clinging on to version 3.6.x because more than half of my addons are not compatible with 4 or 5. Not exactly sure why there’s not better legacy support, for addons, in FF.

    Good article. Thanks Jeff.

    • Timothy Warren September 15, 2011 @ 9:56 am

      I understand wanting to keep the same addons…but sometimes I really wonder if it’s a good idea to get attached to specific addons.

      On the other hand, sometimes you can get by with addons just marked as uncompatible by using the “Compatbility Reporter” addon, which allows you to re-enable addons marked as incompatible.

      Version squatting for addon compatibility needs to come to an end if we don’t want to see Firefox versions severely fragmented.

      • “Version squatting for addon compatibility needs to come to an end if we don’t want to see Firefox versions severely fragmented.”

        I’m all for ending fragmentation but, better legacy support needs to be put in place.

  3. For me it’s all down to Firebug. Chrome’s web developer tools are great and some aspects BETTER than what Firebug has on tap… but when I try to live-edit CSS and HTML in Chrome I end up frustrated.

  4. I’m a Firefox user since it came out, and I have it updated to the last version. Most of my add-ons run fine (except for Measure It). While back I tried switching to Chrome (and Opera, which I really like) but for some reason they couldn’t handle my internet connection-Ubuntu-ISP and they were very slow to open pages, giving me errors, and such, Firefox might be a little slower sometimes but it’s been very consistent to me through time.

  5. I have this draft article I’ve been sitting on forever of “Why I prefer Chrome”, which is full of reasons on why it’s my favorite browser. I never ended up publishing it and I’m glad I didn’t because I’m back on Firefox =/.

    Essentially, I got SO MANY “Aw Snap!” blue screen of death errors on ANY version of Chrome it was unusable to me. Even on a completely wipe-hard-drive fresh install of OS X Lion.

    So anyway, I’ll probably try it out now and again and when that seems to be fixed, switch back.

    • Catherine Azzarello September 16, 2011 @ 6:34 am

      Me, too! Both my Macs were constantly ‘snapping’ after Lion install, leaving me screaming out loud at screen.

      I left FF a long time ago…I think after your article on using Safari–which is my default browser. I really like ‘Reader’ mode and it keeps all my bookmarks synced on iMac, MBP and iPad.

      • I used to get so many of those, too. But mine were mostly during Google SERPs redirects. So, I installed a Grease Monkey script that disables Google SERPs redirects. This almost completely eliminated the problem for me.

        This is the script, just in case you wanna try: Google search results links rewrite disabler

        404 link removed 2015/04/24: http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/59078

  6. I understand your frustration. The Firefox developers do seem to have lost the plot with their version renumbering, breaking extension and forgetting that it is the extension that have made FF what it is. Just look at the number of comments on this related thread, for example: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=678775

    Hopefully FF extension developers will move to the new API to stop this negative trend.

    Similar to Greg, I find Firebug (and the Wed Developer Toolbar) too invaluable to leave FF right now. Consequently I’m sticking with the version 3.6 (which is still supported with security releases for now, and which does everything I need). Hopefully they will continue to support it for some time to come.

    You can download the latest 3.6 version from: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all-older.html

  7. Stylebot is a chrome extension that seems like a suitable replacement for firebug

  8. I strongly SUGGEST… :) That you try the new 7 Beta 5 of FF or the Nightly 9a1.. keep 4 – Which allowed me to endeavor on some options for the new UI… installed 7 and Nightly ( 9 )..

    I have about 35 extensions running in all 3.. The Nightly Tester extension will allow you to force compatibility for extensions so that you can actually find out which one really are causing a problem.. I always make a copy of my profile each version I test..

    I agree that 4-6 seem to just be a mess. but I do not and more than likely never will agree that Chrome or Iron can be used as extensively as FF.. Nor will it ever allow itself to be extended in the way that it has .. OR have its rendering bugs worked out.. I still run across issues in the rendering of pages in Iron ( 13.000??? ) It can be just as slow as say IE or even Opera depending on whats going on or the number of processes it starts and runs on a system to handle typical browsing.. Its not as resource frugal as say some others may be…. even when FF consumed 500 MB of Ram..

    BUT anyway the main reason I wrote this comment was to let you know there is a way to work around these problems and in version 7 new optimizations to the code of FF have been implemented.. much faster on startup.. and depending on your configuration and extensions will still outrun all of them.. ( Yes I use FatserFox Lite )..

    There is still Hope – Making this post with recent 7.0 Beta..

  9. oh yeah, and I use SRware Iron, which is Chrome with more privacy

  10. *Typo – FasterFox Lite ….
    500 MB RAM – exaggerated.. LOL

  11. Recent Chrome convert from Firefox camp here and I have a question for you.

    What do you think about the SPEED of Chrome?

    I’m a Windows user and in my experience, Firefox has always hung up (if even for a few seconds) frequently.

    Both Chrome and Firefox eat up a lot of memory, but at least Chrome is smooth and fast while Firefox is choppy and sluggish.

    I prefer Chrome Web Inspector to Firebug. It’s lightweight, can inspect HTTP headers, and everything.

    • Jeff Starr

      I experienced the same thing, something I should’ve mentioned in the article. Chrome on Mac is an entirely different experience than on PC/Win. I wouldn’t have written this article if I were still using Windows. Also agree about Chrome Web Inspector, something else I should add to the post.

  12. Chad McCullough September 15, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

    I’ve been using Chrome and Chromium for Linux since Google first released them to the public. I’ve been extremely happy with both and have only had a few, easily fixed, issues. I’ve tried the latest release of FF but just can’t get into it for some reason. As a web developer and Linux consultant, I use both, as well as, other Open Source web browsers but will keep using Chrome as my main browser.

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