By Alex Walker

How to Break Up with Firefox

By Alex Walker

Confession time: Somewhere down the back of my T-shirt drawer there’s a black tee with a red dinosaur and the word “Mozilla” in blocky soviet-industrial type. It’s from a time when Firefox was young and easy and free, and we were in love.

Ah, Firefox. Whatever happened to us?

Taking Chrome out was no big deal at the time — just for a lark at first. It felt smart and airy and clean, but I’d always wander home to Firefox when it was time for serious stuff.

Chrome was my fun weekend “sweet ride,” while Firefox was my sensible work SUV with trailer.

The problem was, I was taking longer and longer to come home. One day I realized I hadn’t opened Firefox in a week.

I was now a Chrome user.

Maybe you’ve been flirting with the idea too, but have been thinking, “Oh, I’d miss extension X too much.”Well, perhaps not. Let me run you through the five Chrome extensions I’ve come to rely on.


One of the earliest and most enduring developer extensions for Firefox has been Chris Pederick’s wonderful Web Developer Toolbar.Its closest Chrome equivalent is Christian Frey’s Pendule.

Pendule in action
Pendule in action

Pendule opens as a single large panel opening from the Pendule button and offers the veritable Swiss Army knife of web development tools, including validators, generated source views, image dimension views, color pickers, screen rulers, and more.In short, indispensable.It’s also probably worth mentioning Filippo Baruffaldi’s Chrome Web Developer Tools, an unashamed clone of Chris Pederick’s extension. Although it packs a lot of punch, the labyrinthine UI needs some work before it becomes really useful.It’s certainly one to watch in future.

Firebug Lite

I suspect that the single biggest reason developers might feel anchored to Firefox is Joe Hewitt‘s revered Firebug extension.Before Firebug came along, elite developers were part shaman, part browser whisperer — gifted humans with the uncanny ability to look into the mind of a troubled browser and understand it.Firebug was the first extension to let anyone get inside the browser’s head and see exactly what it was thinking.This was a revelation for many of us.

Firebug Lite
Firebug Lite

Currently Firebug is only available in its Lite incarnation on Chrome. This means there’s no access to the Net and JavaScript debugging panels. That may well be an issue for you, but it certainly has no big impact on the way I work most days.Then again, you may even have no need for Firebug at all. Chrome’s built-in Web Developer Tools panel (shared by Safari, of course) has asophisticated tabbed interface that echoes many of Firebug’s coolest features, with even a few new ones up its sleeve.

Inspect element
Chrome’s increasingly advanced, built-in Web Developer Tools

Webpage Screenshot

There are two approaches you can take here. Both Aviary and Picnik make nice screengrabbing extensions that are designed to interface directly with their excellent online editors. These are great, but often I just want a full-page screengrab that I can paste straight into Fireworks or Photoshop for remodeling.Happily, Webpage Screenshot fits the bill perfectly. The cute camera icon lets you choose between capturing the visible screen area only or the entire rendered page. It also throws in some basic image-labeling options. And that’s all there is to it. It’s super simple and just works.

Resolution Test

Although the current trend towards fixed-width design has made it less important than it was, we all test our sites in a range of resolutions. Resolution Test gives you quick access to a ready-made set of common screen sizes, plus the ability to set custom screen dimensions. Enough said.

Webpage Screenshot
Webpage Screenshot

If you’re looking for an alternative, Window Resizer performs a similar task and includes some interesting screen presets. These include “iPhone, Android, Palm Pre,” “Old Computer,” and “Not That Old Computer.”

Eye Dropper

Eye Dropper is another pared back, perfect, one-trick pony of an extension. I’m quite sure you can guess what it does.Although it’s true that Pendule incorporates a simple color picker too, I prefer Eye Dropper, as it lets you sample screen colors as well and mix colors from scratch.

Eye Dropper
Eye Dropper


Let’s be clear: in general, Chrome’s extensions are currently a little less polished than their Firefox counterparts. The Chrome platform and community is obviously still in its early stages, and there’s every chance a given extension will be lacking minor features or some reliablity. I would also add that in my experience the Chrome Mac is currently a little more raw than the Chrome Windows.On the other hand, the Chrome extension library is growing in size and sophistication daily. We also know from experience that marquee Google products (for instance, Gmail, Docs, Maps, Android, and so on) develop continuously and rapidly, so expect the gap to shrink swiftly.And one other small but significant joy. Chrome lets you install and remove any extension without having to restart your browser.Yes, I know this seems fairly inconsequential, but love it.So, what do you think? Is your relationship with Firefox rock-solid enough to withstand a trial separation?And yes, that’s a dare …

Republished from Design View #69
  • Carla

    When I started reading your article it seemed I had written it myself: my exact thoughts. I switched to Chrome a long time ago, only a few days after it came out, and only return to Firefox when developing websites (which is not that often) for the tools. I then went on to discover the extensions you recommend, and I’m loving every bit of them. One caveat: what made Firefox so slow is precisely the huge amount of extensions everyone plugged in it, so need to be careful not to repeat the story with Chrome. Let’s keep it clean!

  • NEVER!!!

    Me & Firefox forevz <3

    Lol, I’ve tried Chrome, several times, but I just can’t stay away from Firefox.

  • Sara

    I thought I was the only one that didn’t like Firefox, so thank you for making me feel better! I use Chrome w/an IE add-on for websites I watch videos on that haven’t added Chrome as a compatible browser.

  • mikebrady

    Great article! I have been using Chrome as my main browser for a while now, but would always go back to Firefox for web development. Now that I have these extensions I will probably start using Chrome for that too. =]

  • Deminetix

    The one thing i will miss the most is Delicious. I love this add-on.

  • Louis Simoneau

    Not gonna happen. I’m with FF all the way. Interesting to see that Chrome is catching up in terms of features for developers, though. Competition is always good.

  • Isamtron

    Chrome extensions are weak and most of them look very ugly.

  • mr_than

    I find myself in increasingly the same situation – Chrome is noticably faster and lighter to use. More and more tabs seem to stay open with me using it ;)

  • Herman van der Meulen

    No Java in Chrome for Mac! Not needed for daily consuming but could be for development. I almost hate the crappy Chrome for Mac. Sorry, I will stat with (SLOW STARTING) Firefox for now.

  • ricktheartist

    It took me about 3 weeks to make Chrome my default browser. It has been so since version 2. I got tired of waiting for Firefox to open (granted I do have all of the above mentioned Firefox extensions installed, which slows things down) but because Chrome loads so much faster, unless I am developer mode, I use Chrome. To watch hulu, Chrome. To check gmail, Chrome. Online banking, Chrome. Unless I am debugging, I use Chrome, so I am definitely a Chrome user.

  • Shri

    Too bad chrome doesn’t support extensions in ignito mode.

  • Ulyses

    I believe, at this point anyway, Chrome is the natural evolution. It’s faster, simpler, easier. I also realized I don’t miss FF that much, it was just a habit. I’ve tried Opera and didn’t stick with me. Safari looks good, but Chrome gets in the way.

    I hope they change their way with install option it’s (not) got now, that’s a little downside. I hear they will in v5.

    I also am curious what FF 4 may have for us. And IE 9 may also be SciFi, it’s as untouchable as SG1 at this point :).

  • Firefox all the way for me still. Chrome is good, but not good enough to switch to for me!

  • Louis Simoneau

    Quick question, are those of you complaining of Firefox’s slow start using Macs? On Linux at home it’s very snappy, but I do notice a bit of a lag on my work Mac.

  • There’s too much Google in my life already, and they know too much about what I do online. Since the Buzz fiasco, I’ve stopped trusting them with that info. So, no, I won’t use Chrome.

  • Jens Grochtdreis

    For me it is just the same. Years ago I was in love with Phoenix, then Firefox. But with the years Firefox grew heavier and becam slower. Really slow! And it is annoying that you are greeted nearly every day with a hint of some extensions being overhauled.

    Don’t get me wrong: Firefox is brillant because you can plug everything you want and need into it. But it started as a fast and small Browser and now ended up very fat. For nearly a year Chome is my everyday-browser. With those extensions as described above the browser even gets better for me for it is of fewer importnace for me to test a page in Chrome. On the other hand, Firefox is the most used browser in Germany so I have to test it. But for the daily use Chrome is perfect.

    As I work on a Mac there is another reason not to use Firefox: if you use Firefox it doesn’t take long and the fan will start to annoy you. And Safari is not as fast and stable as Chrome is.

  • freshalex

    Thanks for the Pendule extension info, I didn’t know it existed. I use chrome after using ff and I wont turn back yet

  • Web-JIVE

    Eh, we gave up FF on the Mac because it got way to bloated and slow for daily use. I too love FF and all the extensions for web development and have been using it for years. Then along came WebKit nightly! That’s the same core Chrome uses and the Inspector is every bit as useful as Firebug. What I found after using WebKit Nightlies for about 6 months now is all those FF addons were bloating out the browser. Now I use a few simple WebKit/Safari plugins to get al the FF goodness and the speed of a Native Mac browser.

  • Concerned User

    Windows XP SP 3 user here:)…I’m currently having a startup time of 6 seconds which is pretty good considering the fact that previous versions of Firefox used to take nearly 13 seconds:(….

    Firefox is still pretty fast. I don’t understand the term “bloat” here? Chrome is pretty good, yes it is faster than firefox, but a difference of 2 to 3 seconds is not a problem.

    I use Firefox with around 14 addons and it’s still pretty fast. Chrome and IE use different processes for each and every tab and therefore memory consumption will be even more. Firefox runs only as a single process and it would look as if it’s consuming more memory (but it’s not). Check it out yourself if you don’t believe me.

  • richthegeek

    I’ll be sticking with Firefox for a while yet, for three reasons:
    1. Firebug has Javascript debugging. 90% of the time I use it for this, whilst all the other times are checking what assets are loading.
    2. I’m on Ubuntu linux, and whilst Chromium is available it’s barely supported and a bit dodgy…
    3. I have an SSD and 8GB of RAM, so it runs ridiculously fast anyway! It’d be a shame if that’s what it takes for that to happen for everyone though.

  • I’m sticking with Firefox with a number of reasons, such as: i don’t like Web Inspector and Firebug Lite is not enough, i hate the text selection in Webkit and i tend to select full paragraphs a lot when reading (helps me read without losing track), i have Weave for syncing bookmarks and passwords while Chrome has only bookmarks sync (i could go back to Xmarks but that wouldn’t feel right after abandonning it for Weave), Firefox has better integration in Gnome, i prefer having a separate search box with access to multiple search engines (with OpenSearch support, lacking in Chrome), etc.

    Of course i’m not 100 per cent happy with Firefox. It’s not as good as Chrome regarding speed and stability, though Mozilla is working on both fronts (JägerMonkey, Electrolysis). At one point on my Linux system Firefox was slow and crash-prone, but installing Flashblock stopped 90 per cent of crashes or more (all FlashPlayer crashes, thank you Adobe…) and some performance issues (FlashPlayer eating CPU cycles like crazy, thank you once more Adobe…), while uninstalling a bunch of non-essential add-ons and keeping only the most useful (and better coded ones) fixed the other part of the performance issue. With that janitor work done, i’m quite happy with the user experience i get.

    Then there is the force of habit. I’m an advanced or expert user and i know a lot of the nice tricks Firefox can do for me. I like how you can customize the UI to your taste or to your needs (like combining the navigation bar and the address bar on my 13″ laptop), up to the point when you tweak one thing or two in about:config (e.g. disable tab bar autohide in fullscreen mode). I know what i get with a right click on some element and where i can find this or that feature i rarely need but happen to need right now.

    Finally, i have the utmost respect for Mozilla as an organization, for their mission statement which is a great mix of idealism and pragmatism. In my book, Google or Apple don’t come close. Opera may, to some extent.

  • Bitmesh

    The amount of data that Google collects should not be legal. They are not alone in this, but I’m sure as hell not going to use their software for all of my web browsing. That alone is enough for me not to use chrome.

    Opera took a step in the wrong direction with the latest release (widgets instead of plugins). The thing that keeps bringing me back to Firefox is [b]noscript[/b]. Pages load a hundred times faster without all the third-party scripts loading. When not using noscript, the internet slows to a crawl. And the privacy protection is provides is irreplaceable. And no, Opera does not provide the same functionality built in. What opera provides is much more primitive (allowing or blocking all javascript on a page), not scripts specific to domains (BIG difference).

    Firefox is not what it used to be, but it’s still the best option out there IMO.

  • davidcroda

    Chrome just starts so fast!! I can’t help it. It is open before I even click!

    I still most of my development work in firefox though… but I wish I didn’t have to.

  • waro

    Is it me or not, when I installed add-ons for Chrome, it’d took seconds to display when I switched between tabs. This thing discourage me since I thought that Chrome was my answer to slow Firefox. Now, I use ‘bare’ Chrome, but still using Firefox for ‘serious’ jobs.

  • commandnotapple

    I never got into Firefox because of how slow it was on the Mac. Waiting up to 10 seconds for the app to launch was absolutely ridiculous. Chrome tickeled an itch, but I always end up back in Safari, even after a stint with Opera. I just like that Safari’s interface is so minimalistic, it mirrors the fast paced browsing I do ;]

  • umefarooq

    chrome has to go very long run to match Firefox, chrome extensions are not that much powerful as Firefox for development, without Firefox i can’t develop anything.

  • IM very happy using Chrome as a fast and slick browser with a minimalistic interface, while using firefox for development.
    I think on of the reasons firefox feels slower is because of all the website development extensionns… so Im very happy surfing on chrome with no extensions and then using firefox/firebug/webdev toolba/Yslow etc. when I’m developing fulltime.

  • It is a real pity that Chrome is not suitable for laptops with synaptics trackpads, the developers of Chrome have known about this bug for years but refuse to fix it. Until they do I will be sticking with Firefox.

  • I find myself doing the same thing. When Chrome first came out, I gave it a try but immediately went back to my beloved Firefox. With Chrome 4.0 released and bookmark sync in the stable release, that was the switching point for me. The only time I go back to Firefox is for web development.

    Chrome is so much more responsive and notably faster. Chrome is catching up and every release is getting better. Soon extensions will be polished enough to stop using Firefox all together.

    However, I still must use Firefox when web developing. Craig, I tried out the Firebug lite and it just doesn’t compare… yet.

  • Sorry, Alex* not Craig.

  • Donnie

    Actually Chris Pederick just recently made Web Developer for Chrome.

  • Anonymous

    Recently I moved from XP to 7 and when I tried to install Chrome it asked me to modify some registry settings manually, then I installed SRWare Iron without any problems. Since then I forgot for Chrome. I dont like Chrome mostly because of the Google tracking.

  • W2ttsy

    I use safari as my everyday browser and only have firefox for its extensions (firebug, web developer) and for FF testing (not that there is much difference). But Firefox on a mac isn’t such a great experience compared to windows. I guess its because IE is such a woeful browser and Safari isnt?

  • Chrome extensions just can’t compete with Firefox add-ons.

    Did you notice something fundamental about every chrome extension – they all have their own UIs; each with its own design, its own behavioral quirks, no UI-level keyboard shortcuts – and that’s because chrome extension UIs are built in HTML, which in turn is because chrome extensions are just bookmarklets.

    Firefox add-ons on the other hand have application-level access to the entire browser. They can modify its working output before it’s even rendered (which is what makes content blockers so neat – they don’t just block or remove the offending content; Firefox never even requests it because it’s denied at the policy-advisor level). Firefox add-ons have uniform, standardised UIs with sophisticated keyboard access and a wealth of known, and understood behavioral conventions to draw on.

    There’s just no competition.

    None of which changes the fact, of course, that Opera is a better browser than any of them will ever be :P

  • coder

    What keeps me in Firefox is the vimperator extension. Can’t live without it. There’s something remotely similar for Chromium, but it’s not enough

  • XLCowBoy

    Let’s not start a “I hate Firefox” trend like the “I hate Flash” one? Firefox is still miles ahead of the other browsers.

    How about an article called “how to break up with Opera?” since nobody uses it anyway?


    I switched to Chrome too .. Chrome open faster ..

  • LFA

    I’m with “Deminetix”… No Delicious: No Chrome.

  • Anonymous

    Chrome is still in its infancy and i doubt that when it matures it will truly catch up to firefox but in the case it does the two browsers will simply set off an immense browser war between basically two identical browswers the only difference is that one look bit nicer than the other and that’s it.

  • Anonymous

    Firefox on my Mac is brilliant… Super fast. I use Firebug, FireFTP, Web Dev Toolbar, Netcraft Toolbar and Default user agent. On the flip side in Windows XP SP3 it is super slow at starting up. I did some experiments and found that it was some time between SP2 and SP3 when it became super slow.

    Thanks to this article I’ve got Chrome running with Firebug lite, Developer and a couple of other extensions. I’ll see how that works out. I do like Chrome but up until now I haven’t been able to leave my trusty FF because of the extensions and because it runs extremely well on my Mac… If I were using XP full time, I would switch to Chrome because it is light years faster.

  • That’s my anonymous post above about Firefox being brilliant on the Mac and slower on XP SP3 than XP SP2… I wasn’t logged in and using Chrome at the time.

    I’ve been using Chrome this morning/afternoon for web development but I find the Firebug plugin pretty limited… It doesn’t seem to inspect page elements unless you go into the firebug panel and start selecting the html itself which is a bit counter productive. Until the plugins are a little more useful, I’ll be on Firefox.

  • Anonymous

    yeah you certainly lost me at firebug lite.

  • Addy_B

    Opera beats Chrome and Firefox in the latest /sputnik javascript performance test. However it’s all about Chrome for me.

    Startup much faster, renders pages faster and has a multi-threaded model. That’s why if one tab crashes the others won’t crash also.

    Sure this model has it’s pro’s and cons. I’ve been using Chrome since their first version, never looked back and use it as my primary browser, for everything.

    Of course i use FF, Opera and IE to test, but when it comes to pure performance Chrome is the best. Who needs all the plugins anyway, i’m happy with code inspector, Quix commands, firebug lite, $goog shortener and a couple of others.

  • heretic

    So, does Chrome have the equivalent of “Adblock Plus”, “BetterPrivacy”, “NoScript”, and “TrackMeNot”?

    Because the equivalent of above listed Firefox extensions are the bare minimum I require to even *think* about switching what web browser I use.

    To get me to actually convert, you would have to add: shorter turnaround times on major security vulnerabilities, automatic spell-checker defaulting to on for all text fields, and the equivalent to Firefox’s “Tab Mix Plus” and “Mozilla Archive Format” plug-ins.

  • Till Death Do Us Part
    FireFox Is mans best friend these days
    and gets more of my attention than my dog that is licking my arm as i type this in firefox :|
    i like chrome but it needs work and its not that user friendly or just doesnt offer the features/options firefox does imo. tho i havent used it much i installed it when it 1st came out and just reinstalled it a few weeks ago tho still use firefox 99.9% of the time
    its a mac vs pc battle tho pc wins in my book i hate my mac
    firefox + web dev tool bar + fireftp + notepad or any text editor is all you need to create a great web site

  • I still love Firefox. And for one good reason.

    Chrome is buggy and will doesn’t properly work as I want it to be. Maybe because I installed Chrome a year ago.. but I have a bad experience with it. I don’t see Firefox as slow nor cluttered. It is up to the person on how to arrange things for a better user experience.

  • Arkh

    No Noscript available = no deal; I like my browsing experience clean of unwanted scripts and my XSS alerts. And I mean noscript, not flashblock wannabes.

  • Anonymous

    I switched over to Chrome as my default browser at home about six months ago, and I use it at work for browsing reference sites; But I still return to FireFox for site development and I don’t see that changing, regardless of what development extensions for Chrome there are.
    As I use Chrome for general browsing I have removed a number of extensions from FireFox which aren’t required during development, this has improved FireFox’s performance for me.

    @Deminetix, @LFA There is an early beta of the official delicious plug-in for Chrome, I use it and my favourite feature is the ability to search my delicious bookmarks from Chrome’s Omnibar.

  • I tried Chrome on my daughter’s computer, but what we were trying (I don’t recall what) didn’t work. My daughter told me that [some function] didn’t work with Chrome. So, for now, FF will still be my primary browser.

  • bruin03

    Just like people…when a newer model comes out it’s time to dump the true and tested.
    Firefox works lightning fast with a few tweaks and with clean extensions and doesn’t eat my ram like chrome does.

  • Dave

    Chrome = Spyware
    Firefox = Portable Apps

  • OK, you’ve convinced me; I’m going to give it a go when I get back from holiday.

  • Jason Fowler

    What about Greasemonkey, Stylish, DownThemAll, FaviconizeTab, PermaTabs Mod, XMarks, or any one of the other 15 extension I use on a daily basis?

    I struggle to use a clean copy of firefox, let alone another browser …

  • Onderhond

    If you want light and fast, switch to Opera. I’ve tried Chrome a couple of days but pages seems laggy when loading and I just don’t like the interface very much. Opera feels faster, looks cleaner and just works better.

    Still, I keeping using Firefox. Can’t really part from FireFTP, Firebug (don’t need watered down versions) and of course the HTML Validator. I’d only consider switching to Chrome if it can’t actually beat these, not get near them.

  • @onderhond Opera is definitely fast, but not sure I’d call it clean. I mean, those thumbnail view tabs at the top give you a lot of extra info, but it’s hard to argue they don’t add visual clutter while pushing everything lower in the screen.

    @Jason Fowler most of those extensions you mention are user experience tweaks rather than say, dev tools. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but that’s a lot of extra weight to lug around everywhere you go — hence my ‘work SUV’ analogy.

  • Paul Irish

    You’re pointing to an unofficial firebug lite.
    The official one is MUCH better. Check it out and update the links, ya’ll:

  • Paul Irish: Thanks for pointing that out!
    That is much closer to the Firebug I’ve grown to depend on. It doesn’t do all the things that the Firefox version does but it’s definitely a useful plugin now that “inspect” works.

  • @Paul Irish: Nicely spotted. Link updated. Much appreciated.

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