IE, Firefox, or Chrome?

As a formerly enthusiastic Firefox user, I'd been looking forward to version 3.1 eagerly. Now, however, after trying out Beta 2 and reading Preston Gralla's review, I'm not so sure.

Back in September, I decided to switch to Chrome. I liked its performance -- it was considerably faster, both on my work and personal systems. I liked its simple, straightforward interface. I liked its concept of application windows, allowing me to launch services such as Google Calendar and Pandora as though they were separate apps rather than Web sites. And, a bit to my surprise, I liked Incognito Mode.

Why? Not because of its privacy protection, although I certainly appreciate its usefulness in that regard. What I really like is the way it lets me run two different accounts on a service such as Gmail at the same time.

I have a personal Google account which I use for Gmail, Google Docs, and other apps. My partner and I also created a separate account so that we could send out joint emails via Gmail to friends and family. But since Google only lets you log in to one account at a time, constantly having to log in and out of Gmail (especially around holiday time) could be a real pain.

With Chrome's Incognito Mode, however, I could create a new browser window, hop into the joint Gmail account, quickly check the email, and then close the window -- without having to log out of my other account. Made things a whole lot easier.

But despite all these advantages, I still find myself running to Firefox. I've got several Firefox add-ons and extensions that I miss, for example, and there's at least one Web site I use frequently that just doesn't work well in Chrome. The result? I sometimes find myself with three different browsers open on my desktop -- Internet Explorer for professional apps that demand IE; Firefox for when it's easier to use some of my extensions to do what I need to do; and Chrome for everything else. Definitely overkill.

So when I heard that Firefox 3.1 would be faster, I was very pleased -- and even more pleased when I heard that it would also have Private Browsing, its own version of Chrome's Incognito Mode. Perhaps I could go back to becoming a Firefox loyalist.

However, Mozilla seems to have determined that its users don't want to use Private Browsing separately from the main browser -- it has gone for an all-or-nothing method. When you choose Private Browsing on Firefox 3.1 Beta 2, any browser window you have open adopts that mode. So when I tried to open a second window and opted for Private Browsing, my original window, in which I was running Google Docs, informed me that I had been logged out.

It's not a big thing. It's not even something that may affect many users. But it is a productivity hit, as far as I'm concerned, and means that, at the very least, I'm back to three browsers. Unless Firefox changes its implementation of this particular feature -- or Chrome comes out with a version that will pull me from Firefox for good.

This story, "IE, Firefox, or Chrome? " was originally published by Computerworld.

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