After months of delays, Mozilla Firefox 4 is released couple of weeks ago. Since I use Firefox only for development, but I am really impressed with work done by Mozilla on this brand new version, I decided to compare it to my browser of choice, Opera from developers point of view.
Opera 11: Intro
Even with only 3% share of the browsers marked worldwide, I think that Opera is best overall browser available. Opera now has everything other browsers have (extensions were the only big flaw of Opera, but Opera 11 has them), and offers much more. Major issue with Opera is that is too standard oriented (yeah, the irony), and because of that some websites (very, very rare) can look a bit wrong in Opera. Most website problems are caused not by Opera but by websites that use browser sniffing code that intentionally cripples website for some browsers, without even testing it, and Opera is usually targeted. These are rare things, and even despite that Opera is the best browser available now.
Firefox 4: Intro
I never was fan of Firefox. But, for the long time, Firefox had one very important advantage (from developers point of view): Firebug extension for web development.
Last week, a long time overdue, Firefox 4.0 was released. I tried several beta versions over the past 4-5 months, and they were actually worse than 3.6 versions. But, things changed for better, and Firefox turned out to be better browser than I expected. Most important thing is the speed and lower memory usage. Apart from cosmetic changes, Firefox 4 has important updates to security, support for latest web technologies, and many changes to the tabs. New tab groups feature is total rubbish, it’s slow and confusing. Opera’s tab stacking is much, much better. Firefox ‘borrowed’ many features Opera has for sometime now like new orange button replacement for top menu.
Compared to Dragonfly, you will need to add few more Firebug related extensions for cookies and color picker that are standard in Opera. So far (as far as I know) there is no HTML5 storage support in Firebug and error reporting in Firebug is not as good as in Opera.
Opera 11: Stability & Speed
Even if you use alpha and beta development versions, Opera is very, very stable browser, even for development and debugging. On the average, I have 20-40 tabs opened in Opera non stop (stacked in few stacks), and Opera is always running on both my computers, one of them is now running for 44 days without restart and Opera is on for 44 days without crashing once (stable 11.0)! On my development laptop I use always latest development versions and they do crash once in every few days.
Opera is fast. Very, very, very fast. Only Google Chrome can be compared to it. There is nothing more to say, because even with new 4.0, Firefox is still much slower not as nearly comfortable to use. Opera is fast and stable even with many extensions active (I have 10 extensions active in Opera).
Firefox 4: Stability & Speed
When used for casual browsing, Firefox is not bad, but with many tabs active is unusable. New tab groups are massive fail: slow, confusing and nowhere near intuitive to use as tab staking in Opera, and if you are not careful, you can easily close all your tabs with one button click.
Most important thing with all this: things I can do in Opera with debugging I can never do with Firefox with same level of comfort. Only reason I still have Firefox on is to test code compatibility just in case, and because I still didn’t quite used to Dragonfly in Opera. Well, years of using Firebug has taken its toll.
Why no Chrome (or Safari) in this comparison?
I very rarely use Google Chrome and I don’t like it’s debugger and development tools as too confusing. I only use Chrome (as I do Safari or IE) for testing. IE is awful browser in any version (including new 9.0) and debug in it is a nightmare. Only (proper) way to debug in IE is with Visual Studio.
Opera 11 vs Firefox 4
I am web developer for some 10 years, and I used every browser in that period. Opera has come a long way, and right now it’s the best browser for any use. For development, I am now doing 90% of my debug work in Opera, and I will not go back to Firefox until Mozilla do a right thing and make a fully rounded browser that is fast and stable. As it looks right now, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.
If you are developer stuck to Firefox and all it’s bugs and many problems, slowness and instability, I highly recommend you try Opera 11. You will be surprised how good it is.