I’m sure you’re ready for another great review of random crap you don’t care about, so this week I decided to post another. (I think I’ll do one on Apple iTunes later this month.) This week the contestants are free web browsers-in other words, browsers you don’t have to pay for to get. I had a wonderful Internet connection in beautiful Aztec, Colorado, so I decided to put it to good use and put my long-mothballed Internet Explorer (version 6) and AOL Explorer against reigning champion Mozilla Firefox. I was quite surprised.
Well, at Mesa Verde, anyway.
Overview: Internet Explorer comes with all PCs. It’s simple, and uses the least RAM space of itself and Mozilla Firefox. Lacking features, it usually comes packed with dozens of toolbars for things like bookmarks and various corporations.
Firefox is also simple, but has more features, its most important being tabbed browsing. Those of you who already know about tabbed browsing can move on. For those of you who don’t know, this feature lets you open multiple pages in the same screen, much like tabs in drawers. It’s a very addictive feature, especially if you enjoy looking at multiple pages at once (like me.) It’s easily downloadable at mozilla.com.
Finally, AOL Explorer comes with AOL’s “AIM” software. It also has tabbed browsing, and that’s pretty much it.
Layout: Internet Explorer comes with the most add-ons of any of the browsers. Mine had AOL Toolbar, Yahoo Toolbar, probably some other toolbars, blah blah blah. Nobody cares about toolbars. You don’t need anything more than a search bar, forward/backward icons, maybe a “New Window” icon, and a copy/paste tool. Indeed, Internet Explorer’s toolbars, in my opinion, are way too cumbersome and unnecessary.
Firefox has precious few toolbars. In standard form, it just has the aforementioned, plus the home/reload/stop icons. Nothing involving AOL, which means those of you who long ago left AOL do not have to stab out your eyes when you open the browser. The layout is far more customizable than IE’s. I got rid of the bookmarks bar and added my own, with my own set of icons.
AOL Explorer has the least toolbars, but also seems rather Spartan to the point of being less usable. It doesn’t have the same customization abilities as the others. And it has many silly add ons, such as reversing all the text. All of this makes it feel cheap and incompetent.
Features: AOL Explorer and Firefox have the same, but Firefox adds on color-coding to its “View Source” page, allowing the aspiring webmaster to easily track exactly how the program is reading pages. It’s very useful for some, not as much for others. In addition to this, when you go to View-Toolbars-Customize, it allows you to add your own toolbars and drag icons from what I’d describe as a “box” and onto your toolbar. Or the existing one, for that matter.
And again, Internet Explorer has toolbars, too.
Browsing Capability: I tested Firefox and IE on several websites and timed how quickly they could read the information. On jobs.aol.com, Firefox seemed to load faster, while on edmunds.com, IE worked better. Neither performed much better than the other in these tests.
I finally ran both on a specific MOCPages page, and came back with unusual results: Internet Explorer, after three tries, finally blinked out the page so that it could be viewed correctly. Firefox never could do this. It would display the page correctly, but whenever I tried to scroll, it would hang up. After several minutes, this whole mess would jam my computer, eventually crashing the system.
I was deeply disappointed with both, so I decided to try to find a browser which could beat the two. That would be AOL Explorer. I hooked it up, and, sure enough, it displayed the information, but left half of the photos blank. I tried refreshing it, but it would never display the photos. I disgustedly turned off the browser, vowing never to use it again.
The Winner: A difficult decision, as Firefox could not load a specified test page. It also required me to download Apple Quicktime to my computer in order to see certain videos, which was free (it also then loaded the videos correctly).
It depends. I would recommend taking Firefox for its tabbed browsing, and leave IE around for more serious work, or just not go to pages like the one described above. Either way, Firefox rules, which is why I downloaded it in the first place. Many sites recommend it, and almost all support it. Since I was hard-pressed to find pages it could not load, and since it has far better features and better customization, Firefox wins overall.