The battle for best browser on Windows is especially close, but we have to pick Google Chrome for its speed, extensibility and awesome syncing features.
- Tabbed browsing with pinnable tabs and regular tabs that are easy to reorganise or drag off into separate windows.
- Supports extensions that add new features to your browser, both from the Chrome Web Store and elsewhere.
- Sync passwords, bookmarks, preferences, themes, autofill information, and extensions between Chrome installations through your Google account.
- Chrome "Omnibar" that lets you type in URLs and search terms in the same box.
- Automatically creates custom search engines and lets you create your own.
- Automatically recognises web content that's not in your native language and offers to translate it for you.
- "Incognito Mode" for private browsing and other things.
- Choose from a variety of themes, or make your own.
- Each tab and plug-in is isolated, so tabs and plug-ins will only crash individually instead of bringing down the entire browser.
- Plenty of privacy preferences to keep Chrome from tracking what you do (which it does).
- An automatic update system that downloads and installs updates without you having to do anything.
- Safe browsing helps warn and protect you from phishing attacks and malicious web sites.
- URL-based settings pages so you can send people links to settings pages or just enter them in yourself, manually.
Chrome is the power user's browser, and it's easy to see why. Chrome's biggest strength lies in its speed, its extensibility (and the incredible extension library that comes with it), and its ability to sync everything — including extensions — to your Chrome installations on other computers. Its rapid release cycle is also great, so whenever a new feature is ready for Chrome, you'll get it right away — no need to wait until the "next big version" that could be months away. It's constantly improving and giving you more ways to make your workflow easier.
Chrome started off as a great lightweight browser, but over time has grown very resource-hungry, the very thing that made so many people leave Firefox. It also has a tendency to be unstable sometimes, crashing certain tabs or plug-ins for unknown reasons. It also has a lot of little annoyances, like its handling of SSL certificates, that make you scratch your head a little (and then pound your fists repeatedly).
Chrome's biggest downside, however, is its lack of customisability. It has a lot of incredible extensions, no doubt about that, but when it comes to the browser itself, it's far, far behind something like Firefox. The interface is great, but you can't really change anything, so you're stuck with what Google gives you. In addition, there are a lot of more advanced options seemingly missing — like the ability to automatically focus a new tab — that you need to install new extensions to fix. Even disregarding Firefox's super powerful
about:config and customisable
userChrome.css, Chrome could stand to have more options.
Chrome's most obvious competition is, Firefox, which kills it in customisability but has fallen behind in other areas. Almost all Firefox's extensions still require a restart of the browser to install, and it still can't sync them between installations, which seems ludicrous in this day and age. It also still carries the same memory leak and resource hogging issues that have plagued it for years, though users with more powerful computers may not notice. Still, Firefox's customisability is hard to beat. You can move toolbar items pretty much anywhere you want, tweak even the smallest features in
about:config, and fix every pixel of its UI with
userChrome.css. Windows users looking at Firefox might also want to check out the Windows-optimised Pale Moon builds.
Opera, while not one of the most popular browsers, has a very dedicated following and it's easy to see why. Its extension libraries aren't quite as vast, but it's pretty customisable, and has a lot of cool, well-integrated tab management features, BitTorrent support, blinding speed, and a turbo mode that's perfect for slow internet connections. If Firefox and Chrome aren't doing it for you, Opera's a breath of fresh air.
Lastly, Internet Explorer is the default browser on most Windows machines, and while it isn't a fan favourite, it still is the most popular browser in the world. We don't love it, but it does have a few nice features, like an add-on reporter that tells you which add-ons are bogging down your browser, and it integrates well with the Windows 7 taskbar, letting you pin shortcuts to your favourite sites. Most of its new features, though are merely catching up to Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. Its integration with Windows still makes it ideal for enterprise situations, but as a home browser we prefer the more feature-filled options.
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