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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. I’ve recently gone off FF as well, not really sure why. Ive been impressed with Safari’s rendering speed. And Chrome has been high on the list.

    One thing i liked about FF was the “web developer” extension which is great for finding CSS elements on the page – however on searching i see it available for Chrome.

    Might not look back now… :)

    • Sam, I’m having trouble staying awake while I read that.

      @Jeff Starr:
      Is this an example of what you were waxing about when you said that you were inclined toward ‘Sort of Turning Off Comments?’

      Chrissakes, gimme strength…

      • Jeff Starr

        Funnily enough, I was so impressed with the comments on this post that I decided to open comments back up to like a month or so. We’ll see how it goes..

      • The bulk of the comments have been worthy, for sure.

        But there comes a point… and I think your own quality threshold has been crossed.

        On such a divisive topic, you’re guaranteed an endless stream of opinionated drivel. C’mon dude.

      • Jeff Starr

        Perhaps valid for this particular thread, but there are other posts with interesting/useful comments across the entire site.

        But yeah, there comes a point – hopefully 30 days does the trick.

  2. Chris Wiegman September 24, 2011 @ 9:26 am

    I’ve made the switch myself and have moved the department I support from FF to Chrome. It seems that in their effort to compete with Chrome on release cycle Mozilla has forgotten the stability that originally made FF so popular with so many.

  3. Chrome is a nice secondary browser, but nothing more. Especially as long as there are such brain-****** decisions like hard-coding the “your operating system is obsolete” message because my local GTK is outdated!

    cu, w0lf.

  4. Conor Hughes September 26, 2011 @ 5:38 am

    I had similar issues with Firefox. I moved to chrome but was equally displeased. Chrome appears not to get on with SSDs very well not to mention that since flash is included by default I have yet to find an easy way to give html5 video priority over flash.

    After a month or two with chrome I couldn’t do it any more, performance just continued to degrade. I went back to Firefox using the beta channel and I have to say the FF7+ are going to bloody rock.

  5. I understand you. I was rather frustrated when noticed my favorite plug-in “Save complete” was not working in FF5.

  6. FireBug is just only the reason i use the FireFox..
    Chrome is so powerful and Fast! awesome!

  7. Besides a few choice extensions, I can’t live without tab grouping and also the App Tabs. I don’t believe anyone talks much about those, but pinning tabs as “App Tabs” reduces the footprint of a tab an ensures that whenever the browser loads, it also starts with the those tabs loaded. It’s a great time and space saver for tabs I always use when I browse, like gmail, reader, calendar, etc. Is there any extension for that on Chrome? I’m also just amazed in general that no one talks about the App Tabs. How do other people deal with constantly opening the same several tabs whenever they begin a new browsing session?

    • Jeff Starr

      I agree 100% about the tab grouping. There is an extension for Chrome that uses the same basic code as the Firefox add-on, but it’s buggy and needs a lot of work.

      For now, my workaround is the TooManyTabs add-on, which also groups tabs, but in sort of a weird, less-useful way. It works, but something better is needed.

      • Thanks for the suggestion, I might try it out on Chrome when I’m using it as my alternate. I also forgot to mention that if there are any FF users that love App Tabs, check out the lightweight “Easy App Tabs” extension. It allows converting to and from an app tab by double-clicking a tab instead of having to right click and use the context menu. It’s far more convenient.

        Another notable FF extension is the “Personal Menu” which allows you to change everything about what shows and how it shows in the FF menu. Sounds like you were looking for something like that in Chrome. It allows amazing customization. You can even more the orange button with an extension!

        I feel your pain on the update schedule and incompatibilities. Everything I’ve mentioned works in version 6–I haven’t tried it in version 7. My policy has been to wait a few week before upgrading to give the extension developers more time to make everything work. Kind of defeats the purpose to the rapid release schedule…

  8. I use chrome for backend admin and firefox for frontend viewing mainly because firebug is more comprehensive in ff. I love chrome its fast but it crashes quite a lot – alas it could be the crappy internet connections here at the bottom of Africa.

  9. Anders Hanson March 21, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

    Thank you! This was really helpful!

  10. I also (sadly and unconsciously) made the switch. But I must say that I still use FF 5 , and on many occasions even FF 3 . I agree that things have gone sore after FF3 and 4 . It´s sad. One thing though keeps me going back to FF and that is the fact that every chrome tab is opening a new instance and a new process. after 20-30 of them – it is unsupportable by the computer itself ! (prtable versions)

  11. ChromeAmbivalent May 11, 2013 @ 8:21 am

    Love this article. Also love the domain name. It says it all. Just as firefox has moldered on the vine, so too could this blog be gone tomorrow.

    I have been using FF since the 0.XX version. I stayed with FF 2.xx for years before upgrading because I knew it would mean losing half my extensions, as they were called way back then. Fortunately I discovered Nightly Tester Tools, a way to preserve incompatible addons. That was a mixed blessing. Yes, it did allow them to work, but it also seemed to slow page loading to a crawl. I put up with that for years because I needed all the great functionality my precious addons gave me. All other browsers sucked by comparison, including Chrome. Not long ago I decided to REALLY give Chrome a chance. It is now my default browser. It is very fast BUT only because it runs a separate process for each tab, using CPU AND, especially, memory resources. I now have 75 tabs open and it is using 1.7GB of memory! I find the extensions to be cheap imitations of FF ones with far less functionality. The lack of a title bar is unacceptable. The lack of a bookmarks sidebar is unacceptable. If not for the improved speed, and the extensions, I’d still be using the crippled FF.

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