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Firefox 3 Macness/usability
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Clinically Insane
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:27 AM
 
For those of you that have been bitching (rightfully so) about Firefox 2's awkward OS X integration and wanting a more "Mac like" app, what are your thoughts about the improvements made in these regards in Firefox 3? It is obviously a step in the right direction - enough to switch you away from Safari?
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 06:51 AM
 
I am not seduced by the plethora of add-ons Firefox has, my default browser is still Safari and the longest Firefox could go is to replace Camino as my gecko based browser, but even so in my 'particular' Mac Firefox still behaves bad and always has. If they ever cease Camino's development then maybe I would have to consider it.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 07:50 AM
 
Besides being able to save sessions, I don't see any features that would entice me to make the switch. What features does FireFox have over Safari?
The latest WebKit builds are a huge improvement over Safari 3 in terms of speed and it certainly feels faster than FF3.
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Jun 7, 2008, 08:35 AM
 
angel, OreoCookie: how do your comments relate to usability?
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 08:58 AM
 
WRT to usability, I prefer Safari's way of selecting a past URL if I type it in the URL bar: it'll give a nice drop-down, then automatically select one. I press Return and I'm done. In Firefox, I hit tab and Return. Something very minor.

However, Firefox 3's history search is far superior. I start typing in its address bar, and it displays not only by URL but by page name. Very nice.

Safari is more responsive when other applications open it and open + load pages. Firefox is slow to start. I use the Gr Apple Delicious (blue) theme and it looks nearly identical to Safari.

One nice feature would be the option for aggressive page prefetching. Maybe when fasterfox is ready for FF3.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 10:37 AM
 
Well, you were asking whether FireFox offers enough advantages to switch away from Safari. But so far I haven't seen any real advantages (besides being able to save sessions): both are speedy, but FF3 is not what I'd call a `pretty' app. I tried it a bit today and besides from some uneasiness (difference in shortcuts), it performed fine. It looks better than its predecessor, but compared to Camino, iCab or Safari, it doesn't look better, it's certainly the least Mac-like browser of the bunch.

To be fair, I don't really use FF on a daily basis (now even online banking works with Safari, yeah! ), so take all of this with a grain of salt. But I was hoping people who use FireFox can tell us some of the things we're missing.
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Jun 7, 2008, 10:51 AM
 
besson3c: Well, I guess I see it from a whole point of view… if it was only aimed to usability then I would be back with iCab 4 as my main browser. I find utterly stupid I can't do offline browsing with Safari (same applies to other browsers, something iCab can do), and that's only the first example coming to my mind… of course I talk about my very own needs, but if you talk about usability as 'fit to be used'… then that could be really picky, usability is 90% mental, the other half is physical. -just kidding-

For some reason to use two WebKit based browsers is not an option since they seem to collide so to speak, I lose cookies and form values when I do that, it is like reseting Safari once I fire up another WebKit based browser.

My main concern about Firefox is responsiveness, way over pure usability, (mind you I don't use any add-on with it) an aflame spinning ball as icon would suit it 100% rightly. Being picky, I don't even like it getting that Safari-wannabe UI, to get Aqua buttons and so is one thing, but to mimic it all?, sort of 'cowardice', you have this (Firefox) browser which one can load with an endless list of add-ons but you can't bring/keep your very own interface?, when I look to Firefox 3 I get the feeling that someone else is browsing.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 11:08 AM
 
Firefox 3 is excellent, but with the newest Webkit using Squirrelfish Javascript, I have to recommend Safari.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 12:58 PM
 
What does "Mac like" mean, objectively? Firefox 3 blends into my Mac experience just like the other apps I use, which are mostly from Apple.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Besides being able to save sessions, I don't see any features that would entice me to make the switch. What features does FireFox have over Safari?

The latest WebKit builds are a huge improvement over Safari 3 in terms of speed and it certainly feels faster than FF3.
Quick searches, Awesomebar, Pornzilla (really useful for things other than porn!), a password manager that works with MacNN Forums, zooming all elements on a page instead of just text, opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs, and a lot of addons that either don't exist for Safari or the Safari version isn't nearly as good (AdBlock Plus, ForecastFox, Google Gears, Gmail Notifier, Tmo minutes used).

Safari/Webkit renders a bit faster than Firefox/Gecko, but violates a few RFCs to do it, and I don't really find myself counting the milliseconds anyway.
The speed difference (rendering and responsiveness) between FF2 and FF3 is more noticeable on OS X than Windows, but the OS X version still feels pokey compared to the Windows version (which is no surprise, since most apps are that way).
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
a password manager that works with MacNN Forums

, zooming all elements on a page instead of just text,

opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs,
Safari has remembered my password for the MacNN forums for as long as I've been using it - which is since the very first public beta, IIRC.

Full page zoom I gather is coming in a future update (it's in WebKit already).

Opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs has been possible since Safari added tabs, which has been a couple of YEARS now...it also saves tab-sets as bookmark folders with the "open in tabs" checkbox set.


As for saved sessions - a recent version of Safari added "open all windows from last session" which is useful, but I can see how saving different window/tab set combinations can be even more useful.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:29 PM
 
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...
I didn't really notice. I always use cmd-L to accomplish that.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:35 PM
 
[QUOTE=mduell;3669773]What does "Mac like" mean, objectively? Firefox 3 blends into my Mac experience just like the other apps I use, which are mostly from Apple.[/url]
To me that means a more minimalistic approach to style. Having differently-sized buttons doesn't look right in that case. Sure, that's something personal.
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Quick searches
What do you mean by Quick searches? The little google search field on the top right?
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Awesomebar, Pornzilla (really useful for things other than porn!)
What are they for (other than porn )?
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
a password manager that works with MacNN Forums, zooming all elements on a page instead of just text, opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs, and a lot of addons that either don't exist for Safari or the Safari version isn't nearly as good (AdBlock Plus, ForecastFox, Google Gears, Gmail Notifier, Tmo minutes used).
Safari + Keychain has always worked flawlessly for me.
As noted before, you can open folders of bookmarks since tabs have been added.
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Safari/Webkit renders a bit faster than Firefox/Gecko, but violates a few RFCs to do it, and I don't really find myself counting the milliseconds anyway.
Both browsers are very speedy and even if my browser of choice were a few milliseconds slower, I wouldn't care.
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Jun 7, 2008, 01:48 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...
I've never liked that behavior. Just for the way I do things, it always winds up getting in the way and I forget to expect it because it works differently than anything else on the system.
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Jun 7, 2008, 02:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...
I MUCH prefer interface elements that follow standard behaviour.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 02:32 PM
 
Scrolling on Firefox with a logitech mouse is smoother than in Safari if you activate "Smooth Scrolling" in Firefox, which is nice since I prefer logitech mice to the Mighty Mouse on the whole. Then again, scrolling with the trackpad kind of sucks when I do that. I also like Foxmarks for syncing my links between other computers. I use .Mac so my Safari bookmarks sync too, but so far it doesn't work for PCs.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 03:06 PM
 
I think Firefox 3 is a step in the right direction. It seems more integrated then 2 did. I compare it to a garage. Firefox 2 was a detached garage, Firefox 3 is a garage that was added onto a house, but attached to the house. I don't think it will make me dump Safari 3.1 quite yet, but the final release might.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 03:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by analogika View Post
I MUCH prefer interface elements that follow standard behaviour.
Web browsers break all sorts of interface conventions, as well as contribute to new ones... e.g.:

- Safari scroll bar in address bar
- Prevalent single click instead of double click
- Unique concepts such as bookmarks bar, advanced tab features, sessions, etc.

No matter what browser and platform you are using, operating a web site is not like working in an Office document or browsing for files in the Finder or something. I haven't yet decided how far a browser should go in trying to integrate with the OS vs. being its own platform. There are obvious advantages to OS integration, but obvious technical obstacles and hurdles too which may never be overcome. Is it worth it to strive for superficial integration such as Aqua form elements? Probably, you guys have changed my mind about that, but I think it's cool to take some leeway and break from OS conventions here and there too, if there is a good reason.
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 04:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Web browsers break all sorts of interface conventions, as well as contribute to new ones... e.g.:

- Safari scroll bar in address bar
The address bar doesn't have a scrollbar in my Safari.

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
- Prevalent single click instead of double click
Buttons have always been primarily single-click controls.

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
No matter what browser and platform you are using, operating a web site is not like working in an Office document or browsing for files in the Finder or something. I haven't yet decided how far a browser should go in trying to integrate with the OS vs. being its own platform. There are obvious advantages to OS integration, but obvious technical obstacles and hurdles too which may never be overcome. Is it worth it to strive for superficial integration such as Aqua form elements?
Huh? Has anybody but you mentioned Aqua form elements? The quote you were responding to mentioned standard behavior.
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Jun 7, 2008, 04:53 PM
 
FF3-RC2 reaches 71/100 on acid test 3
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Jun 7, 2008, 06:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Web browsers break all sorts of interface conventions, as well as contribute to new ones... e.g.:

- Safari scroll bar in address bar
- Prevalent single click instead of double click
- Unique concepts such as bookmarks bar, advanced tab features, sessions, etc.
Like object need to work alike.

It's Windows' and Linux' greatest failing, and it's fundamental to Macintosh.

If I see what appears to be a text-entry field, it is to function as I would expect a text-entry field to work.

It is HUGEly annoying that there are a number of inconsistencies among Apple's OWN software (including idiotic mouse-highlighting inconsistencies within text-entry fields between different apps).
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 08:30 PM
 
Chuckit, analogika: I guess you're right about the need for consistency with regards to the address bar, I take back my earlier opinions...
     
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Jun 7, 2008, 11:00 PM
 
My biggest gripe about Firefox 3 is the physical location of shortcuts on different platforms. Every day I end up mashing the wrong modifier (control on Windows, command on OS X) when trying to use modifier-K, modifier-L, and modifier-W. However switching tabs is control-tab on both, which should be a good thing nice but actually adds to the mental confusion since it's the only one on OS X that doesn't use command.

Originally Posted by analogika View Post
Safari has remembered my password for the MacNN forums for as long as I've been using it - which is since the very first public beta, IIRC.
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Safari + Keychain has always worked flawlessly for me.
http://forums.macnn.com/61/feedback/...tay-logged-in/

Originally Posted by analogika View Post
Opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs has been possible since Safari added tabs, which has been a couple of YEARS now...it also saves tab-sets as bookmark folders with the "open in tabs" checkbox set.
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
As noted before, you can open folders of bookmarks since tabs have been added.
Noted; I just popped open Safari and noticed I don't have any bookmark folders in it.

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...
Why take your hands off the keyboard?

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
To me that means a more minimalistic approach to style. Having differently-sized buttons doesn't look right in that case. Sure, that's something personal.
I still don't think I understand what Mac-like means, but there's an example where I don't like it. I want the buttons I use more often to be easier to hit/more prominent.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
What do you mean by Quick searches? The little google search field on the top right?
A quick search is a bookmark with a variable in the URL and a keyword attached.
I have a bookmark for [code=http://flightaware.com/live/form.rvt?ident=%s]http://flightaware.com/live/form.rvt?ident=%s[/code] (%s is the variable substitution) with the keyword "flight" attached. If I type "flight ual123" in the address bar, Firefox translates that to "http://flightaware.com/live/form.rvt?ident=ual123" and takes me there. I have about 50 of these quick searches and I use them hundreds of times a day.

It is like using that search box on the right and using the mouse to change search engines, except a hundred times faster and you can create one from any text entry/submission box on any web page.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
What are they for (other than porn )?
I use the zoom in (for small images), linked pages (for load simulation and link checking), increment/decrement url (for stepping through a series of pages), and referrer (takes you back to the page you came from even when you open in a new tab) buttons (really just bookmarks that execute javascript code) the most.

edit: Augh, the forum is mangling the quick search example, but the bookmark is just to the url (no special [code= tagging) with the variable substitution.
     
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Jun 8, 2008, 08:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What do you guys think about having the entire address bar selected when you single click on it in FF3? I actually like that feature a lot...

I like that feature very much too. All in all, I have to say that I use Firefox 3 90% of the time. This is mainly due to the fact that I code and program all day long, each single day and the add-ons for that in Firefox are simply much better, hence Safari only gets fired up if I browse for pure leisure, which is rare and no more than a few minutes a day.
     
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Jun 8, 2008, 01:06 PM
 
What do these Firefox plug-ins do that Safari's Web Inspector doesn't?
     
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Jun 8, 2008, 01:49 PM
 
Download the Web Developer addon and just play around with it for a couple of minutes. It gives you a lot of power when it comes to visualizing how a page has rendered and it helps a lot in tracking down bugs in machine-generated pages. (I mean, that's not all it does, but that's just one example of something it does that Safari doesn't.)

For Web site creation, I use Firefox a lot because there are some very useful addons there. But there's no such motivation for me to put up with its clunky slowness (I'm not talking about page rendering — I'm talking about just existing).
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Jun 8, 2008, 11:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit View Post
But there's no such motivation for me to put up with its clunky slowness (I'm not talking about page rendering — I'm talking about just existing).
I have no idea what you're talking about here.
     
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Jun 8, 2008, 11:43 PM
 
Web Developer:

- view generated source
- disable cookies/javascript
- outline table cells/div blocks
- display alt image attributes
- find broken images
- validate code
- easy access to error console

Firebug:

- display what variables were passed to page, including XML http request (AJAX) calls
- displays page response
- displays error messages (e.g. 404 errors) for files/pages called in page rendering

and much more...
     
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Jun 8, 2008, 11:50 PM
 
Tamper Data is also a great Firefox plugin for testing XSS (cross site scripting) security vulnerabilities in your web app:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/966
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 02:21 AM
 
Anything that might be interesting to ordinary human beings?
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 02:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by analogika View Post
Anything that might be interesting to ordinary human beings?
That depends on whether you consider web developers/programmers ordinary human beings, these plugs are of interest to any experienced web developer.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 03:12 AM
 
Since you understood perfectly what I meant, I take it you got nothing?
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 04:09 AM
 
What are you talking about analogika?
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 05:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by analogika View Post
Since you understood perfectly what I meant, I take it you got nothing?
He was asked specifically about plugins for web developers. Are you now asking about plugins for regular users? Because that was not at all clear from your (obnoxiously phrased) question.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 08:17 AM
 
Um yeah.

Sorry.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 10:46 AM
 
Someone mentioned Aqua form elements above. That's actually one of the main reasons I still prefer Safari. I feel like I'm using Windows when I use Firefox ... drop-down menus and buttons look like Windows elements and that turns me off.

The number one reason I prefer Safari is an overall feeling of elegance. Although I see that recent Firefox versions have a smaller and more streamlined toolbar than before, it still feels somehow more clunky to me, while Safari feels more polished. I guess this is purely superficial, but I spend so much computer time in a web browser that it's a significant difference for me.

For what it's worth, here are two Firefox features I used to covet: the ability to drag tabs to rearrange them, and the ability to search in my cookie list. But Safari 3 added both of those.

Honestly, I think the only thing that would make me switch to Firefox as my main browser would be if a future version of Safari were really crash-prone. Otherwise the features are similar enough and the appearance is more refined, so I'm happy where I'm at.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 11:01 AM
 
ArloLeach: are you aware that Firefox 3 (now at version RC2) uses Aqua form elements?
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 12:19 PM
 
I loved Firefox but quit using it because of it's slowness on OS X. It crawled compared to Safari
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 12:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
ArloLeach: are you aware that Firefox 3 (now at version RC2) uses Aqua form elements?

It sort of looks like an Aqua form element, but then it also doesn't.

That's actually the problem with Firefox. It sort of somewhat looks like a Mac application, but not really. It just looks and feels awkward.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 12:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post

It sort of looks like an Aqua form element, but then it also doesn't.

That's actually the problem with Firefox. It sort of somewhat looks like a Mac application, but not really. It just looks and feels awkward.

That's why I think the Aqua form elements arguments are rather silly. Each of these form elements can be styled by CSS. Should the browsers flat out ignore these style changes? Should they honor some (like, say, width/height)? Or, should they honor all even if that means breaking with OS conventions?

The bottom line is that web apps are a platform of their own, both by design as well as how the technology actually works (e.g. with the exception of ActiveX controls, browsers are a separate layer from your OS). I fully understand trying to make *some* effort to make widgets look like something from the OS, but there is no way to fully see out these attempts, especially since we have no control over how these apps actually work beyond their outer skin. For example, if the developer designs a close box on the right hand side like they exist in Windows, we are stuck with this unless the develop decides to get into useragent sniffing, and this sort of thing happens all the time.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 05:39 PM
 
Firefox (even FF3) may be a little slower than Safari, but it more than makes up for it in flexibility (ironically, adding extensions does noticeably slow it down). The idea that FF3 is pushing for better OS integration (with XP, Vista, Gnome, as well as OS X) actually bothers me a little, as I use all of them, and I appreciate a browser that behaves consistently across operating systems.

Along similar lines, I agree that the Aqua treatment for form elements seems at least like a distraction, if not an outright step backwards (I'm crossing my fingers that there will be some way to disable it, at least via about:config). Safari's bullheaded refusal to allow CSS to style them was always a pain.

There's really no comparison for web development - FF w/ Firebug puts all other tools to shame, and TamperData, the Web Developer Toolbar, and the UserAgent Switcher are all incredibly useful to me on a daily basis. For 'ordinary people' there are too extensions to mention, though Noscript, Adblock Plus, AllInOneGestures, SecureLogin, Download Statusbar, and DownThemAll are all on my shortlist.

In a sense, I'd say it'd be fairer to compare Safari with Camino (especially once it's using the Gecko 1.9 engine). They're both nicely-designed, simple browsers which are adequate for most purposes.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 05:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
That's why I think the Aqua form elements arguments are rather silly. Each of these form elements can be styled by CSS. Should the browsers flat out ignore these style changes? Should they honor some (like, say, width/height)? Or, should they honor all even if that means breaking with OS conventions?
I don't know, Safari manages to do it without looking like a drag queen. Whether the Web is a "different platform" or not, that doesn't mean that different platform has to be Windows 95.
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Jun 9, 2008, 07:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
I think Firefox 3 is a step in the right direction. It seems more integrated then 2 did. I compare it to a garage. Firefox 2 was a detached garage, Firefox 3 is a garage that was added onto a house, but attached to the house. I don't think it will make me dump Safari 3.1 quite yet, but the final release might.
Well put, I couldn't agree more.
------
I definitely think Firefox 3 is a step in the right direction and I'm giving it a change. I'm going to use it for a week and see how it goes. I think it is very speedy and the interface is nice. I'm just still very much stuck on Safari. We'll see how it goes and I'll post back after the week is up.
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 08:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit View Post
I don't know, Safari manages to do it without looking like a drag queen. Whether the Web is a "different platform" or not, that doesn't mean that different platform has to be Windows 95.
Windows 95 in terms of appearance? Do you refuse to visit web pages that aren't pretty?
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 08:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Windows 95 in terms of appearance? Do you refuse to visit web pages that aren't pretty?
Pretty much yes.

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Jun 9, 2008, 08:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by - - e r i k - - View Post
Pretty much yes.
It's all about the content. Are the best books the books with the prettiest covers? Pretty websites are nice, but I'm far more interested in finding the information I'm looking for quickly. Pretty form elements, for me, are not high up on my list of important web browser perks. As has been established, for others this obviously isn't the case. What I'm trying to understand is how this is a deal breaker...
     
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Jun 9, 2008, 09:00 PM
 
It's not like the content disappears in Safari because of the better form widgets.
     
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Jun 10, 2008, 08:50 AM
 
Originally Posted by TETENAL View Post
It's not like the content disappears in Safari because of the better form widgets.
And it's not like those infinitesimally prettier widgets makes a lick of difference to anything at all.
     
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Jun 10, 2008, 09:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by wataru View Post
And it's not like those infinitesimally prettier widgets makes a lick of difference to anything at all.
Oh yes, they do. They are not only prettier, they are also better. Let's compare just the popup menus since we're at it:

        

Which is the currently selected item? In Firefox you have to compare the text of the popup button with the the text of each list item to know the currently selected item. In Safari it has a checkmark.
Where is the currently selected item? In Firefox you have to scan the list for the currently selected item, in Safari it's properly aligned on top of the popup button.

So this widget not only looks a lot more elegant, it's actually more usable. Firefox is full of those "almost, but not quite" things, that as a whole make it annoying to use.
     
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Jun 10, 2008, 10:19 AM
 
I don't know what vBulletin used to generate that checkmark in Safari and not in Firefox, but that checkmark is not forced in normal <select> form fields in Safari. There would be problems if it was - space issues, forcing a convention, etc.

If vBulletin is using different skins depending on browser, there is a way to make your select form widgets look like the Safari version within Firefox.
     
 
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