Rethinking Browsers: Add-ons Make the Difference
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
February 16 2012 02:39 PM ET
Since the first of the year, new versions of Firefox, Chrome and Safari have been launched. Internet Explorer 10 is scheduled to launch this fall, and most people have yet to even upgrade to IE9. While everyone else is busy just trying to keep up with the browser they already use, maybe it's time for you to step back and choose the one that's best for you.
Most folks just use the browser that comes with their system – Internet Explorer for Windows or Safari for Macs. But you could be missing out on a better Web experience, one that's tailored to you what you – not your neighbor or your wife – do online.
Your main alternatives are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Both are free for PCs and Macs.
Browsers can be compared based on their speed, security and the extent to which they can be customized. Speed can vary noticeably on Web pages with complex graphics and animations. But for basic pages with just text and images, you are unlikely to see much difference. In tests by our sister site Laptop, Firefox trailed Internet Explorer and Chrome.
Security is less of a concern these days now that companies have added in-browser protections. The latest Internet Explorer has made dramatic security improvements compared with earlier versions. Both Chrome and Firefox offer solid protection from online threats. Safari, however, tends to be behind the curve with updates to address new threats. You can get the skinny from Security News Daily.
That leaves customization – which really sets one browser apart from another.
Plugins, add-ons and extensions all refer to the same tiny, free programs that work with the browser of your choice. Some of these additions are small, such as adding a new tweet button in the toolbar. Others are significant, such as the Cocoon plugin that provides a second browser within your browser, preventing companies from tracking you when you surf the Web. Other plugins can eliminate ads or easily clip interesting bits of information for later reference.
Microsoft offers a modest selection of add-ons in its Internet Explorer Gallery. But when it's new Windows 8 operating system launches later this year, plugins will no longer be supported.
Firefox pioneered plugins and last month celebrated its 3 billionth download. Chrome and Safari have plenty of plugins. Open their stores and you may find yourself sifting through hundreds of choices, including virtual rulers, backlighting for YouTube and troll emoticons.
Choose your browser and then choose your add-ons. Here are several to try:
- Clearly (Firefox, Chome): This plug-in clears clutter by removing ads and making pages easier to read. You can select from three designs: Newsprint (black and white), Night Owl (white type on black background for nighttime reading) and Notable (full color with ads removed). Clearly will also display multi-page articles on a single scrollable page.
- Pinterest (all browsers): If you've joined the Pinterest craze, you'll want to add the bulletin board site's plugin so you can easily pin photos from your browser's toolbar without having to open a new tab.
- Do Not Track Plus (all browsers): This add-on blocks 125 technologies that advertisers use to track your browsing behavior. The button in your toolbar alerts you before your information is captured. You can block any unwanted activity.
- ReminderFox (Firefox only): ReminderFox makes sure you remember all of your important dates via easy-to-use lists, alerts, and alarms, right in your browser without the need for a separate calendar program.