Why I've Switched From Chrome To Firefox 4

You've probably heard a lot about Firefox 4's new interface, speed and feature improvements, but many of you have already left it for Chrome. Here's why Firefox's newest version is worth another look, even if you're a diehard Chrome user.

I've never been much of a Firefox user myself. I switched between browsers a lot until Chrome came out, after which I used it almost exclusively. It was fast, extensible, available on all platforms, and the more it gained in popularity, the better it became. Sure, it had its quirks, but it was the best I could get at the time. Firefox's slowness really turned me off, so I never really gave it a chance.

With everyone talking about how great Firefox 4 is, though, I decided to try it out. Chrome was starting to irk me in small ways and if Firefox could hold up on its promise of higher speed, it could actually sway me away from Chrome. A few days after switching, I fell in love and haven't looked back. If you haven't looked at Firefox in awhile (or never really used it in the past), here's why you might want to give it another shot.

It's Pretty Darn Fast

This was the big one. Firefox's sluggishness was the main thing keeping me away before, but now that Firefox has added some serious speed increases to its browser, it's not nearly as painful as it used to be. In fact, it's not painful at all. It might not be quite as fast as Chrome sometimes, but it's pretty comparable, putting the two on a more level playing field and making Firefox's other advantages much more worth switching for.

A Minimal, Fully Customisable Interface

Firefox 4's new interface adds some nice improvements, like tabs on top, the Firefox menu, and the removal of the status bar. They've also gotten rid of or moved some of the more clutter-inducing navigation buttons, like the reload button, which is a welcome change.

The changes weren't perfectly executed, of course—the Firefox menu isn't in a great spot, and tabs on top doesn't actually save you any vertical pixels. However, Firefox's UI is so customisable that it doesn't really matter. We've already shown you how to move the Firefox menu to a more appropriate location, and use the extra space more efficiently for a Chrome-like tabs-on-top setup.

"But Lifehacker", I can already hear you Chrome fans saying, "how does making Firefox look like Chrome make it better than Chrome? Isn't it better to not have to do that work?" While Firefox's UI isn't as great as Chrome's out of the box, what makes Firefox decidedly better is that you can customise it to an insane extent. Once you've gotten rid of the things you don't like, you can add the things you do like. Chrome lets you make one change to the navigation bar: you can add a home button. Beyond that, you're on your own. Firefox lets you add a full screen button, zoom controls, an RSS button, a bookmarks menu, and a ton more out of the box, and even tell it whether to use small or large icons. Sure, you can do a lot of this in Chrome with extra extensions, but Firefox already has it all there.

Furthermore, Firefox has that handy userChrome.css file that lets you really dig down and tweak every pixel of the interface—literally. We feature tweaks for the userChrome file all the time, here on Lifehacker—like this recent URL preview hack, as well as a trick to make the Firefox button a little less annoyingly neon. And, with all the Firefox users out there, you can pretty much Google anything you want to change about Firefox's interface and find a CSS tweak.

Don't forget about the Stylish add-on, either, which lets you tweak not just Firefox's interface, but the interface of nearly any web site you want, which can be extremely handy.

About:Config

It certainly isn't new to Firefox 4, but the about:config page is still one of the best features Firefox has to offer. Just like the userChrome.css file, it lets you tweak a ton of different preferences that aren't available in the normal preferences menu. Want to preview open tabs when you cycle through them using Ctrl+Tab? There's an about:config tweak for that. Annoyed that Firefox automatically enters "Work Offline" mode when you disconnect? There's a tweak for that too. There are also tweaks for making spellcheck stand out more, making it ask to save your tabs when you quit, and save memory by waiting to load tabs until you click on them. Sure, Chrome has that neat about:flags page, and it is a bit easier to use—but it doesn't give you anywhere near the power Firefox's about:config page does. In the end, both userChrome.css and about:config are all about customisation. Firefox gives you a level of customisation that is just unparalleled in other browsers.

You Can Actually Sync Custom Search Engines

This seems like a small thing, but is actually a huge deal to anyone that uses custom search engines. I use them for every search engine I frequent, whether it's searching for old posts on Lifehacker, videos on YouTube, or even for guitar tabs on Ultimate-Guitar.com. Not only that, but you can use them to perform nearly any task right from your browser's address bar, like add an event to your calendar, a task to your to-do list, find directions with Google Maps, and a ton more.

They've become such an integral part of my browsing that it's infuriating that I can't sync them between Chrome installations—as soon as I pick up one of my other computers or boot into one of my other partitions, I have to create them all over again. Since Firefox actually integrates these into your bookmarks, they sync right along with your bookmarks, whether you're using Firefox Sync or something like Xmarks. It's a feature that Chrome is severely lacking, and that Firefox has had all along.

Mobile Sync

Very strangely, Android users can sync better with Firefox than they can with Chrome—they just need Firefox Mobile. Firefox Mobile syncs with Firefox on your desktop better than Android's browser ever synced with Chrome. You can sync your bookmarks, history, passwords, form data, and open tabs between the two, so when it's time to leave your computer and browse on your phone, you can start your session right back up. Chrome only has one-way link sharing with Chrome to Phone, after which you'd need to seek out a bunch of other add-ons to even come close to the same syncability. If you browse on your phone, Firefox makes it easier than ever.

Security Certificates

This is something you may not run into often, but it was one of the first things that made me want to leave Chrome. Chrome doesn't seem to handle SSL certificates in nearly the polished way Firefox does. If you visit a secure page that isn't trusted, Firefox will let you add an exception with the click of a button. Chrome is much more hard-headed about this, which is annoying when you know the page is trustworthy. In fact, sometimes Chrome won't even give you the option of going through to the page—it'll just throw you an error. A browser isn't very useful when it doesn't let you access sites you need regularly.

None of this is to say that Firefox is perfect, of course. It doesn't have quite the "smoothness" that Chrome does, and if you leave it open for more than a day, it'll steal more of your memory than a bottle of José Cuervo, but overall Firefox's stability and customisability have won me over. If you've given Firefox 4 a try and have any thoughts on the matter—whether you agree or disagree—be sure to share them in the comments below.


Comments

    What makes you assume a site is trustworthy if it has an invalid certificate ? Or more specifically, what makes you assume the site you are visiting is the site you want to be visiting, and not a pretender ?

    While I might sometimes accept an invalid certificate, it is only when I don't intent to enter ANY information

      Perhaps when a certificate is valid for a domain but since you own the domain you're accessing it locally under a different address, and the certificate doesn't match the host any more.

      Some Certificates appear invalid because they are the site's own generated one rather then from a known provider. The only real difference between the two is getting one from a known provider costs money.

      Secondly the certificate can be written in a way that only www.site.com that it is valid for, so if the site changes something like m.site.com or www2.site.com, it is no longer valid.

      If this is important to you, then notify the site owner about anything not working and they should put an effort into fixing it. These issues are not just for your visit to the website, but for everyone.

    Yes the mobile app is one of the most tempting reasons why I would change from chrome to firefox... the only problem is that the mobile app is buggy, slow and chews up my phone memory like nothing else. Any browswer that allows the amount of sync that firefox does and has a awesome mobile app will win me over without a doubt. Come on google why hasn't this happened yet??

      The final release of Firefox 4 for mobile has just been released. I'm told it has fixed several issues from previous betas so you may want to give it a try.

    Stylish is pretty awesome, in fact I use one of the stylesheets for this site!

    So basically what the author is stating is that the reason he's switching back to Firefox is that it's highly customizable. Something that Firefox has been since the very beginning...

    All of the 'customizing' features he mention has been there in one form or another since I started using it (circa 1.ish). If he really wanted to highlight the customizing capabilities he should have at least mentioned the Stylish add-on.

    And I'm not sure where he's having trouble with syncing his Chrome browsers. I have 3 computers all running chrome and they are all sync, without me having to do anything. I set the program up with my Google account and just forget about it. Any changes I make to one computer gets pushed to the other computers. As for search engines, there's Import Data under Personal Stuff which will do that.

    This whole article seems like a fluff piece for Firefox 4 - a program which has lost all semblance of the Firefox it once used to be.

      Somebody did not read the article.

      "Don’t forget about the Stylish add-on, either, which lets you tweak not just Firefox’s interface, but the interface of nearly any web site you want, which can be extremely handy."

    Actually I use Pale Moon which is "Firefox" for Windows. Much faster than FF and PM has less of a memory footprint. FF addons can be installed in PM and FF/PM Addons are main reason I use FF/PM rather than Chrome. It does seem to load faster. But every time I get annoying nonsensical message about NOT SHUTDOWN properly. A user forum talked about clearing cache and that it was being worked on not confidence building.
    But FF/PM have this Loading problem on Genealogy site Ancestry.com - very strange but digging into searches in Ancestry and PM starts to not load pages! Whereas Chrome does. Looked at forums but no answer found.

    I've moved between Chrome and Firefox (and Opera) a lot and have decided that WebKit is one of my biggest reasons for not using Chrome. It may be fast and shiny, but it doesn't always work in my own personal experiences. Firefox can be sluggish, but at least it works with everything!

    I have been uncharacteristically chicken in staying with Firefox 3.6 for a simple reason – I use Autohotkey extensively for scripting, including loading web pages and extracting details.

    Firefox version 3.6 allowed changes to the throbber to position it in a set position at the front of the menu bar and to change the colour once the page had fully loaded. Autohotkey can then loop round till the colour changes. However the design of Firefox 4 with no menu bar and tabs on top seems to make this at least difficult.

    Is there anyone who is using Firefox 4 (or Google Chrome) who has tried this trick, or has another way of doing the same thing. The ideal is a call mechanism via com similar to that possible with IE, but anything that works reliably will do.

    A page which describes the existing throbber method is http://www.zerosign.net/?p=61

    Funny, I just went from Firefox 4 to Chrome seeing as FF was trying so hard to BE Chrome that I figured I might as well just use that. Haven't looked back.

      Its Fx and not FF btw.

    Nothing in there to tempt me away from Chrome, I'm afraid.

    I was a dyed-in-the-wool FF user from quite early on, but gave Chrome a go and never looked back. Now Chrome has adblock, RSS feed, context menu search, fairfax video block and proxyswitchy extensions available, I can't see the need for a move.

    Tried Firefox but Chrome is still the one to beat, and it has the homepage for quick access to most visited sites. Firefox might become my backup browser instead of Opera though.

    Chrome sync's not only bookmarks and passwords, but addons as well, out of the box (FF can do this with an addon, yes). Chrome still the fastest and most unobtrusive interface.
    FF4 is an improvement in speed, but still playing catchup to Chrome.
    I understand how Mozilla can play catchup to perfection, but I don't know how they could surpass it!

    I have Chrome and FF open permanently and somehow can't get below fifty or so pages open at a time in each.

    Chrome gets real slow with that many pages open.

      Firefox was probably hogging all of your memory.

      How much RAM do you have? In today's world a standard minimum of 2GB is needed. Check Task Manager to see what service is using your RAM/CPU.

      i do the same FF4 nd chrome with plenty of ram FF4 always seems to handle more tabs better than any other browser out there. most evident when there's 20ish or so open and using tab candy

    Firefox is the way to go

    I contract to an Accounting firm where 80% of our software usage is with cloud solutions, Saasu, Xero & Acclipse iFirm, all great products.

    Chrome,has a problem with displaying some pages in iFirm which are dependent on silverlight.

    Opera, Xero doesn't support Opera.

    Saasu, well I think you could run that on Netscape and dial-up.

    So that only leaves Firefox & IE. IE I'm still trying to find a .dmg download for that one. might be waiting a while...

    Firefox it is.

      'Firefox works with everything' is basically why I still use it too. I use chrome occasionally, and it's nice, but I go back to firefox for the addons on my main pc...and for every other system, I stick with firefox because it works with flying colours on every system under the sun.

      You can run firefox on every major OS. You can run firefox on Haiku, reactos, ppc macs, and almost every possible *nix variation. On the very rare occasions you can't find an official build, there's dozens of community rebuilds that'll work.

      About a month ago I got the current (at the time) firefox build running quickly and responsively on a 233mhz box with 128mb ram on win2k. I understand I'm not the average user, but it still makes firefox completely indispensable to me.

    firefox copying chrome step by step
    what a shame

      No browser exists that has 100% original ideas. Chrome was introduced in the fall of 2008, which isn't that long ago, meaning when the browser was introduced that had to implement the features that come standard with other browsers, A.K.A copying.

    I held onto using FF for so long, that I only recently switched the Chrome. The main problem being a few intranet pages I use for work don't play nicely. But, I just work around that and use FF when I need to.

    I'm surprised that you missed one of the biggest things I miss about FF. The Addons. You just can't get the same quality of addons in chrome. For example, the ReadItLater addon is absolutely brilliant on FF, and it allows you to sync contents for offline reading on your laptop. While on Chrome it's basically a greasemonkey script.

    I rolled back to 3.6 after less than a day. Didn't much care for the new UI (if I feel like using Chrome I'll just use Chrome) and also found that pages with embedded video weren't displaying properly. Tried disabling hardware acceleration to no avail, couldn't find any other fixes.

    How did you get the number over your gmail favicon?

      You need to enable google labs on your gmail account, then in settings you will get a new tab for all the lab tweaks, one of them is to enable the unread messages favicon.

    "It doesn’t have quite the 'smoothness'"

    Will enabling "Smooth Scrolling" help in your situation?

    Options>Advanced>General>Use smooth scrolling(check)

    P.S Great article

    For those who want Firefox 4 with a Google Chrome look (I love Chrome's look but I don't want to use Chrome) you can use the FxChrome theme.

    Firefox 4 works good on my desktop that runs on P4 and has 1 GB memory but with the same tabs (10 tabs) that I used on my laptop with a better configuration it used more CPU and memory. This might be because the way Firefox 4 operates depending on the hardware. In all Firefox 4 is a great product.

    Firefox 4 on Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Firefox-4/101547596592952

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