Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why I'm Switching From Chrome To Firefox

When Google Chrome came out of Beta, I switched to it as my primary browser. I like Chrome very much, but now I'm switching back to Firefox. There are a couple of reasons. The biggest pain is that I see this message a lot:

There are a lot of sites that routinely use forms as you navigate through them. Amazon, one of the biggest sites on the internet, is one of them, but they are hardly alone. When you go Back in Chrome, you frequently see this page. I never want to see this message again. I don't want Chrome resubmitting the form for me. It's almost always the wrong thing to do and that politely worded message is almost always incorrect. I want it just to show me what was on my screen 3 seconds ago. For example: when I add something to my wish list on Amazon, Amazon adds the item to the wish list and shows me a bunch of suggestions. If I click on something that looks interesting, then go Back, Chrome wants to resubmit the form that I didn't even know existed. If I don't, I can't see the suggestions again. But, if I do, Amazon tells me that the item is already on my Wish List and still doesn't show me the suggestions. How about this instead: a message that says "This page may be out of date."

But, wait, there's more.

I was in the midst of giving a demo of Groupthink using Chrome and a page simply didn't work. It loaded, but nothing was live in the page. What's going on? It turned out that one of the JavaScript files I needed wasn't loading because I didn't have a network connection (everything else was loaded from the server I was running locally). Had I been using Firefox, I would have seen a note about errors in the lower right corner of the window. But Chrome showed me nothing -- it just made me look bad.

I use Faves for permanent bookmarking (if you haven't tried it, it's the best bookmarking service out there, bar none). This means that I don't have very many browser bookmarks. But, I do have about a dozen that I use all the time. One obvious one is the Fave It! bookmarklet, but I also have a bunch that I use every day (Puzzazz, draft.blogger.com, App Engine Local Admin and App Engine Server Admin are my top bookmarks). In Firefox, these are easily accessible from the Bookmarks menu. In Chrome, I have two choices -- permanently give up screen real estate for an ugly bookmarks bar, or use the bookmarks dialog. How about a Bookmarks menu?

Those are the biggest items, but there are other nits:
  • I run Chrome in full screen mode. When I drag out a tab, I'm doing it because I want to see it, not because I want most of it to be off-screen.
  • When I don't have very many tabs, how come they're not wider? It's not uncommon for me to have five tabs that are all named "Amazon.c..." and, of course, I can't tell the difference between them. Even better, provide a way to show little thumbnails underneath all the tabs, either as an option or as a temporary state.
  • Chrome conveniently will only auto-enter addresses that I've actually typed. I like that. But, it will also auto-enter incorrect addresses that I've typed and there doesn't seem to be a way to get it to stop doing that.
  • Why doesn't the History show me the URLs of the pages? There are lots of sites out there on which every page has the same name. And why can't I right-click on an item in the History to open it in a new tab?
  • If the cursor is positioned over a Flash control (which I have never clicked in), Backspace doesn't work to go back. If the cursor is positioned over an image which has been opened, Backspace doesn't work to go back.
  • When I open a link from another application (like Outlook), Chrome opens a new window instead of a new tab. That is, unless it's already done that once, in which case it uses that window. But, in either case, I still end up with two Chrome windows instead of one.
  • It seems to me that Chrome expires cookies early sometimes. As a result, I'm logged out of sites that I expect to still be logged into. I've had Chrome suddenly stop accepting cookies, for no apparent reason (fixed by quitting and relaunching).
  • Pages that look like they're complete sometimes continue to have a spinning disk indicating the page hasn't loaded.
  • What was the idea behind not having visible buttons for the prev/next menus? I will say this is better than the brain-dead single history menu that Firefox 3 introduced, but is it really necessary to be so minimalist that there isn't even an affordance for a common action?
There are also a few features that I'd love for Chrome to have:
  • Narrower window mode -- unfortunately, there are still lots of web sites that stretch all the text to full-width on my 24" monitor, making it harder to read. Amazon, one of the most popular sites on the Internet, is one of these sites. I'd like to be able to tell Chrome that certain web sites should be given a narrower window width. Yes, I can drag the tab out and shrink it, but it would be great if it could be done automatically whenever I visit the site.
  • A real debugger. I'll settle for having Firebug work, but I think the devs at Google can do a lot better.
  • Support for the Web Developer toolbar, or something like it. I'm not a big fan of the Web Developer toolbar (it's pretty clunky), but I use it in Firefox because there are a bunch of really useful features. The ones I use most often: Disable Cache, Disable JavaScript, control over cookies, form overrides, and View Generated Source.
  • I'd like a master password like Firefox has and I'd like the saved passwords actually encrypted with that master passwod. Instead, I tell Chrome to not remember passwords.
If it weren't for the problems, I actually prefer Chrome over Firefox. It's faster and it's less cluttered. It's elegant. I like how it automatically updates. But problems like this make Chrome look a lot like a Beta product, despite the fact that Google pulled off the Beta label.

I look forward to switching to Chrome again when it really launches.


Mike Koss said...

If the result of a form post is a redirect, then, I think the browser will NOT put the post url in the history, but just the page to which you ended up after the post.

This should be a "best practice" of any web application - so those "resubmit" pages never are shown to users.

My #1 reason for not using Chrome as my main browser - it doesn't support the 3rd party extensions I rely on.