or: Don’t Fence Me In — or: Freedom, by George Michaels

I’ve tried the new Safari Beta 3. It’s really fast and refreshingly standards-compliant. I don’t care for the brushed aluminum look, though supposedly that’s going away.

There’s no way I’ll switch from Firefox, though. There are two main reasons: I rely on many useful Firefox extensions, and Firefox is still more cross-platform than Safari. Firefox also supports more search engines in its search text field. To be fair and balanced, I must point out that Firefox 2.X crashes or hangs on Mac OS X all the time. I put up with that because of all the other benefits.

That first reason is the biggest though. Firefox is more hackable, which makes it more useful. Here is the list of Firefox extensions I use. The Firefox Add-ons page is also a great resource.

“It’s All Text!” lets you edit any textarea’s text using your favorite editor. Mine’s set to use Emacs, of course. You can set the editor in the preference dialog box, but it might be easier for you to edit the Firefox’s user prefs Javascript file and add


I should probably use emacsclient instead so the file is open in the currently running Emacs instead of in a new instance.

Switching to another browser like Safari would force me to give up too many extensions that I have come to rely on. Google Browser Synch is probably the most useful to me, with Firebug and LiveHttpHeaders coming in a close second and third.

Safari does have some features that Firefox doesn’t, of course. Sharing your bookmarks with those around you via Bonjour and integration with Apple’s AddressBook are the two I can think of. I don’t want either. How often have I wanted to share all my bookmarks with others or see all of theirs? Never. Hell, I password-protect my Firefox so that if other people use it they won’t see the form field values that Firefox saves for me.

There are some little things that bug me about Safari, too. For example, the keyboard shortcut to open/close the bookmarks sidebar is Option-Command-B and the command to switch to the Google search text field is Option-Command-F. I hate the Option-Command combo; it forces me to switch my whole left hand position away from the home row. In Firefox it’s Command-B and Command-K for Mac OS X, Control-B and Control-K for Windows and Linux.

For similar reasons, I use Thunderbird instead of Apple’s Mail. Not because of the extensions (I only use one: Enigmail), but because it is cross-platform, uses a standard format for email message storage, and uses an open format for its address book. I’m using Mac OS X now, but it’s possible that I might want to switch to Linux (Ubuntu is quite nice) or be forced to switch to Windows at some point. I can use Thunderbird on those platforms, too.

When I must open Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations I use NeoOffice. On Windows, I use OpenOffice.org.

It’s most important to me that my data is portable not only between operating systems but also between computers and applications. I refuse to get locked down into any proprietary format or have my data locked down on only one computer. I’m letting Google store my (encrypted) browser information, but I have my own copies of the data on more than one computer, inside Firefox itself.