Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera. Those are just a few of the Web browsers available – and for free – the enable you to browse your favorite websites and surf the ‘net. Ten years ago, only a few browsers existed and you may have been limited to the browser that was available with your operating system. The difference between those browsers was often great, as some only provided basics such as one-window browsing with favorites while tabbed browsing was a revolutionary concept that few browsers offered. However, in 2012, tabbed browsing and syncing across multiple devices is so common-place that it can be difficult to determine which browser is the best for you. Still, you’ll find that each browser offers something a little different and knowing what this is will help you determine the browser that is best for you.
Internet Explorer is the offering from Microsoft and is available with every installation of the Windows operating system. If you have just begun using computers or are not comfortable with software, it makes sense to start here. Internet Explorer offers all the basics, including tabbed-browsing, a few extensions and integration with your operating system. Software for your work or school that requires an Internet browser is almost always compatible with Internet Explorer and very few websites do not work with this browser.
Microsoft offers a new release with every version of Windows and sometimes in between releases of its operating system. You can upgrade Internet Explorer along with your pertinent OS updates from the Microsoft website for free; although, it is unknown whether Microsoft will continue to offer it as a free download in the future, if you want to download it without upgrading your computer as well. Internet Explorer is also available for Mac.
Google’s Web browser may be one of the newcomers but it has quickly swept up market share, even beating the crowd-favorite Firefox. Chrome is a great step if you have become comfortable with Intenet Explorer but want a sleeker interface or more plug-ins. Because Chrome has importing options for your private data, including your history and passwords, as well as your favorites, switching couldn’t be easier.
Google also boasts that Chrome is fast – both at loading on your computer and loading websites from servers. If your computer is straining to run more demanding browsers, like Firefox, and upgrading or installing new memory is not an option, you might find that Chrome works a little better.
Although Chrome has usurped its place in the rankings, Firefox is still used by millions of people worldwide. Originally based on the back-end of Netscape, this browser has come a long way, which is no easy feat when you consider that its creator, the Mozilla group, is a nonprofit. Firefox/Mozilla were among the first browsers to offer tabbed browsing and this browser is now able to sync with multiple devices. This feature couldn’t be more appreciated on a browser that you can install to your Windows or Mac computer or Android phone and tablet.
Firefox has been criticized because it isn’t as quick as other browsers so Mozilla too the initiative to improve upon its responsiveness. The group now aims to release a new version every six weeks and 2011 saw the release of Firefox 4 through Firefox 9 in rapid succession. This browser may be ideal for you if you like to personalize your software. Firefox is available with “Personas,” or lightweight themes that add a little color to the toolbars of your screen. Additionally, Firefox boasts thousands of free extensions that allow you to do everything from socialize on Twitter, check your email, upload photos to Facebook or view and edit website source code. Although, Firefox may not be as lightning-quick as other browsers, it has better integration of extensions than newer offerings and can be a powerful tool, even replacing other software, when used with Free plug-ins.
Open-source browser Opera may not be as popular or well-known as the rest but it is among the most cutting-edge of the Web browsers. If you are always interested in the future of technology, then this may be the solution for you. Opera was the first to offer tabbed browsing and quickly offered Speed Dial, a feature that displays thumbnails to your favorite or most visited websites whenever you open the browser. Opera also offers standard syncing, which is great if you use it on your desktop at home, laptop at work and iOS or Android devices.
Opera stands out where other browsers do not by offering Opera Turbo. This function will process the Web pages you are trying to load on Opera’s severs, rather than relying on solely your Internet Service Provider, to reduce load time. This makes Opera ideal if you are on a slow connection or using it on your phone, because Turbo is also available with Opera Mini.
Opera aims to be quick and to help you better navigate your tabs. Unique features of the browser include option thumbnail previews of open tabs in the tab bar and the ability to stack tabs in groups. If you frequently open so many tabs that you can no longer read their titles in your browser, Opera may be the best for you.