Sunday, 3 June 2012

Web and email: making the switch

After the high drama and excitement of last week's double sandwich review and comparison post, I am going to become very pedestrian now, and talk about which web browsers I use, and things like that.  So, if you don't want to know the results, look away now...!

I have been a loyal Mozilla user for close to ten years, now.  I got my first computer (a desktop PC from Evesham Technology) in 2003.  The first thing I did was to download Mozilla Firefox, in order to escape the slimy clutches of Microsoft's own browser, Internet Explorer.

I continued using Mozilla products (by now using both Firefox, and its sister email client, Thunderbird) on my HP Windows laptop, and when I got my first Mac (a second-hand G4 iBook) in 2009, I saw no reason to change this.  Eschewing Apple's native software (Safari for the web, and Mail for emails) I continued using the Mozilla applications with which I was most familiar.

Yesterday, however, I made the switch away from Mozilla, for the first time.  Why?  I don't feel they're keeping up in terms of design, and the software increasingly feels clunky and poorly-made.

In recent months, I have felt more and more frustrated watching other Mac users using slick, shiny, web and email interfaces, while I stick with programs whose interfaces haven't changed, in essentials, for years.  The aesthetics of Mail, in particular, seemed far superior to Thunderbird - and although Safari and Firefox are built on the same tabbed browsing model, Safari somehow manages to make this look cleaner and more modern than Firefox does, and Firefox just can't compete on performance and speed any more.

So, I am now an Apple Mail user.  So far, I am happy with it.  I like the "grouped conversations" feature, and I like that it brings my email management on my MacBook in line with on my iPhone.  Safari, however, impressed me less.  Having been used to the marvellous AdBlock Plus addon with Firefox, Safari bombarded me with adverts in the first five minutes before I Quit it in exasperation.

Following the advice of some people on Twitter, I gave Google Chrome a try.  This was a big step, as I had previously discounted Chrome, on the grounds that Google don't make an equivalent email client to run alongside their browser application.  (One of the irritating things about being as meticulous in certain aspects of life as I am is that I always prefer to use a matching pair of web programs than a hotchpotch of different software.)  In spite of these OCD-related misgivings, I decided to give Chrome it a try...

My first impressions of Chrome were that it was just as fast and stable as I had been told.  The interface, while nothing special, is uncluttered to the point of serviceable, and, perhaps most crucially of all, there is a version of AdBlock Plus available for Chrome as well.  So, I am now using Chrome - at least for the foreseeable future.  The idea of using a non-matching web browser and email client is still slightly unsettling, for now, but I'm sure I can get used to it, in time.

I'm still very disappointed not to be able to continue using Mozilla products.  I like the ethos and the open source nature of their software packages, and (although this is a small point) I think their software icons (in the Dock, or on the Desktop) are better.  At some point, I hope, Mozilla's performance and interface design can catch up with the rest of the world, and their products can become viable options for Mac users again.  Until then, though, I shall be sticking with Chrome and Mail.

Sandwiches will return later in the week.

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