By Craig Buckler

Which Browser Do You Use for Web Development?

By Craig Buckler

The browser landscape has changed significantly during the past decade. There was little choice 10 years ago — you needed to develop and test your code in IE (or Netscape 4 if you were really unlucky). Then Firefox became the developer’s weapon of choice 5 years ago: it offered the best debugging tools and prompted the rise of Web2.0 applications.

Today, the situation has vastly improved and you lucky developers are spoiled for choice:

  • Firefox still has the widest range of tools and web development add-ons.
  • Safari and Chrome offer the webkit inspector and, if that’s not enough, decent extensions are appearing in Google’s browser (watch out for a series of Chrome extension articles on SitePoint soon).
  • Opera has DragonFly, one of the better JavaScript consoles, and a number of web developer widgets.
  • Finally, IE8 provides capable Developer Tools and some add-ons which may help your coding efforts.

But which is the most widely-used web development browser in 2010? I suspect Firefox will retain the crown, but Chrome’s popularity is increasing rapidly. Others swear by Opera. Does it makes sense to use IE if you’re developing corporate intranet applications?

Please cast your vote on the SitePoint home page and leave your comments below. Which browser makes your daily development duties more bearable?

  • bevan

    I use Safari, the web inspector is great, and the webkit type rendering is unrivaled.

  • Adam Chambers

    I like Safari because it seems to be the best for rendering fonts and colours, but I have every web browser I can open and am quickly jumping between Safari, Chrome and Firefox for development tools. Unfortunately I have to have IE8 and IE tester open.

  • MAhen23

    Firefox FTW

  • XLCowBoy

    Until Chrome gets a full equivalent to Firebug (and I mean it matches it feature by feature), I don’t see Firefox dropping anytime soon.

    Also, what’s with all the thinly-veiled anti-Firefox posts on Sitepoint these days?

  • I still love and mostly use FireFox because of the wide range of tools. While some of my tools like FireBug and Web Developer Toolbar are being ported to Chrome, I’m finding they are missing features when compared to the FireFox versions. FireFox also allows you to control the look and layout of your browser a lot more. I can place my toolbars where I WANT and what is best for my workflow.

    I would love to use Chrome in my day to day browser, but since I’m on the Mac and use 1Password, I have to go back to FireFox because there is still no 1Password support in Chrome.

  • Bluetonic

    I still use Firefox for one reason only: Firebug. I know that there is a lite version available on Chrome (mac) but the FF version seem to handle one thing that the Chrome doesn’t, which is the deal-breaker for me. Whenever I need to inspect an element (on FF) I simply mouse over to it and right click. ( Also love that Firebug allows the code to change when you hover on a link ). Chrome’s only option is the webkit inspector (with a right click). The Safari inspector seems to work better than Chrome’s. On a side note, my other major gripe with Chrome is that it doesn’t alway show the full URL when hovering over a link, which seems like it could potentially be a security issue. So in conclusion, I like FF best for development, Safari’s inspector better than Chrome’s, and Chrome’s design better than Safari and Firefox.

  • @XLCowBoy

    what’s with all the thinly-veiled anti-Firefox posts on Sitepoint these days?

    I’m sure Opera, IE, Chrome and Safari fans would all say the same about their browser!

    I’m not aware of any anti-Firefox sentiment on SitePoint? There have been a few Chrome and Opera articles recently, but only because there’s been news to report!

    For the record, Firefox is still my main browser for surfing and development. Second is probably IE, but only because it needs more specific testing. Finally, I use Opera and Chrome now and again – perhaps once or twice a day.

  • Anonymous

    I like Chrome’s developer tools more than Firebug but Chrome still has more security issues.

  • Dave

    I am surprised for this post, because a couple of weeks ago I noticed the dev tools on other browsers.

    I mainly use Firefox to develop, and IE7 and IE8 to ensure most public will see and experience same features on both.

    The other mandatory check for me is to use Lynx and/or w3m, text-based browsers. This helps a lot for developing a more semantic and findable code.

    And rarely use Opera and Safari (as chrome is also based on webkit, I just use Safari).

    Actually it depends more on the project’s target public. This rules which browsers I will test it more.

    But I have some wireframes for rapid layout prototyping. This allows me to have some nice features, ensuring a cross browser compatibility.

    Dragonfly and webkit inspector tool are very cool, but they seem to be a Firebug copy, with a few extras each one. Anyway, it is nice to have them built-in into their respective browsers. Any feature that allows developers to save time is a good thing.

  • Damon

    Firefox, but browse with Safari

  • Joel Walker

    I always use Firefox for web development.

  • Francis Adu-Gyamfi

    I browse, develop and test primarily in Opera, but for the life of me I can’t stand DragonFly and Opera’s JS Console. So, whenever I need to develop JS intensive pages, I open up Opera for page rendering and IE8 for JS Debugging, and when I am done, I run compatibility tests in Firefox and Chrome.

    Although Opera’s JS console and DragonFly are awesome tools, I can’t stand their interface, especially the Font choice and sizing (for dragonfly) and general error reporting in the JS console.

    IE8 and Firefox all provide extremely simple error messages which make it easier to pin point the error line and fix the bug quicker. This is my only pet peave with the Opera browser, aside that, it is stellar IMO.

  • I use Firefox, only uses other browsers mainly for testing. And for IE6, I have another pc for that. IE testers are just not enough or buggy.

  • Anonymous

    Safari mainly because it’s fast and the inspector does much of what I need. FF as a backup for tools Safari lacks. I also have a vmware Fusion Windows 7 VM in a second spaces desktop running IE8, Chrome and FireFox to see that everything looks as it should everywhere and I use the firebug/Inspector/developer thingy to help track down issues in whichever browser they appear.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg

    I don’t really do enough web development to give a proper answer. When I am curious about what is going on with a website I tend to use Firefox, but I have peaked in with Safari. I have no strong reason to prefer one over the other; I’m just more familiar with Firefox.

    I would love to use Chrome in my day to day browser, but since I’m on the Mac and use 1Password, I have to go back to FireFox because there is still no 1Password support in Chrome.

    There is experimental (alpha) support for 1Password in Chrome. It can’t yet be used for saving passwords, but it can be used for filling them from your 1Password keychain.
    Disclosure: I am part of the customer support team for Agile Web Solutions, the makers of 1Password.
    Jeffrey Goldberg

  • USPatriot

    Chrome all the way. Firefox stinks. And this is coming from a pro-Microsoft guy.

  • Firefox for development.

    Chrome for browsing.

  • At the moment, I’m not too crazy about Firefox (issues and bugs involving XMLHttpRequest). I could go on a long winded rant, needless to say, I no longer consider Firefox to be a standards compliant browser. The newer versions of Firefox actually broke. A now you see standards and now you don’t kind of thing happened. Pretty amazing that code I wrote I developed and tested using FireFox and MSIE at the time. Needless to say, it stopped working because FireFox dropped the ball. Did not notice this until I upgraded my version of Firefox. Funny thing, is that this codes works great in Chrome, Opera, Safari, MSIE and no longer works with Firefox. In fact, it’s been awhile since Firefox supported it. Even through this is part of every W3C spec ever written regarding XMLHttpRequest. Kind of ironic that the majority of my Javascript code has more patches and work arounds for Mozilla/Firefox than it does MSIE (which has the reputation). Pretty Amazing how well things work in Chrome and Opera without the Hacks. Anyways, I had to add more forks in the code to deal with Firefox. I’m actually rather tacken back by all the current open bugs/issues on Bugzilla involving XMLHttpRequest in Firefox. It would be nice to have solid “Base Line” stability and standards conformance on the base line levels. I’m all for new features being included in browsers. But make certain that the baseline works solid. Want to hear something funny, is that the problem magically disappears in part with “FireBug” installed. (not practical for End users or visitors). Dare I say this, I suspect after MSIE 9.0 hits, Firefox is going to become known as the browser with issues in correctly supporting standards. How many forks and handlers and patches do us programmers have to write to make things work in a standards world? It’s sad when something should take 4 lines of JS code, yet requires 12-16 lines to patch things up due to poor or crappy implementations by browser vendors. This just drives up the time it takes to program code, adds overhead to the size of the code, and makes the code a little more difficult to manage.

    Anyways, Chrome and Opera are both outshining FireFox and MSIE currently in my opinion. If I have to add yet one more Object/Event detection to my code to cover FireFox (mozilla) I’m gonna end up beating myself over the head my keyboard and then use it to type of Nasty Truthful detailed blog postings. I actually have read some pretty ignorant things people have posted in defense of FIREFOX. Meaning, where people claim that this stuff ain’t in the W3C specification when it really is. It’s nice how these issue or problem don’t show up the same with FireBug installed (smells like a cover up and hide the issue thing if you ask me).

    I would recommend people go back and retest their code without FireBug install to make certain things really do work. Some people know exactly what I’m talking about here. Other people don’t. It’s one of those things you’d have to personally experience to fully appreciate. Once you have, you’ll be seeing things in a slightly different light.

    At the moment, I’m using…. MSIE, FireFox, Chrome, Safari and Opera for development work. Word of advice for anybody using Firefox to develop code with, don’t assume standards compliant code that once worked with Firefox will continue to work with new version of FireFox (I learned the hard way). I find myself using Chrome more and more for general use though.

    Sorry for the rant about FireFox, I know a lot of people love it and it’s been a blessing in contrast to MSIE. I have to give it credit where credit is due. It appears like MS is going to make a big come back with MSIE 9.0. Hopefully, it won’t have a maze of bugs and issues. If I have to increase 14 lines of code to say 24 lines of code that should be 4 lines to begin with, I’m just gonna explode. This is the kind of stuff that makes me have fantasies about starting up a boycott the stupid browser champaign. I swear the Geeks programming the browsers are out of touch with the Geeks that have to program websites using their browsers. I would be nice to be able to focus upon building solutions for people instead of spending hours of trying to figure out how to get things to work right in various browsers. How many people are sick of using all the hacks and workarounds to cover the butts of other programmers (the browser folks) who fail to get things done right to begin with.

    I apologize for this long winded rant. This is just my two cents on the matter for what it’s worth. Perhaps some food for thought to somebody. Perhaps other people out there can relate or not to this comment.

  • I second what’s already been said about Firefox. Nothing comes close to firebug. It’s not just about the features of firebug, as the other browser tools are beginning to get close, but they aren’t anywhere near as usable as Firebug. Until that happens I’ll stick to chrome for browsing, even initial browser testing but as soon as I need to get my hands dirty I load firefox up again :)

  • Thirteenva


  • Dale

    Firefox for both development and browsing. Although I do also have IE6, IE7, IE8, Safari, Opera and Crome installed for testing.

  • I do web development with Firefox and Firebug, but browse with Chrome.

  • To develop I still use Firefox + 50 or so plugins, for all else I use Chrome.

  • TR

    I use Opera mainly, then I test on Firefox, Safari, IE, and Chromium (even though should be similar to Safari). I browse with Opera so that is why I mainly use it when creating.

  • I use Firefox most of the time when developing my sites. However I am a Firefox extension developer, so a lot of the tools I use for that also get used when working on web pages.

    I am also really impressed by the developer tools I have seen in the web-kit biased browsers (Chrome, Epiphany) and will be using Epiphany for testing some things as well now.

    Epiphany for those that don’t know is a Linux browser. The latest versions use web-kit and some older versions Gecko. It just wraps a GTK UI around it.

  • Opera.

  • IRL

    Browse with Chrome, no doubt. I don’t use e.g. AdBlock so Firefox doesn’t pull me with that either.

    For Web Development I would prefer Chrome, but unfortunately the extensions don’t quite cut it yet. Should be there soon though, hopefully.

  • thangngu

    I don’t know

  • BlueZero

    Opera Dragonfly

  • Arkh

    Firefox to develop. Firebug, colorzilla, tamper data, user agent switcher and selenium are awesome.
    And, firefox to browse. Noscript FTW (and user agent switcher and tamper data sometimes).

  • I use Firefox for both browsing and development. Some of that is just habit, I suspect. I have Safari, but I only use it for testing, because I don’t like it as much to use (even though it’s faster). Haven’t even tried Chrome.

    I realise there are probably plugins on the other browsers that replicate the plugins I use in Firefox, but to be honest, I’m too lazy to find out. :)

  • Browse and develop with Firefox.
    Development: for quickly prototyping front-end code, especially adding HTML elements and new styles (new properties, new selectors when needed), Firebug on Firefox is best-of-breed. I don’t do a lot of JS development so i’m not sure how the different tools compare for that.
    Browsing: although Chrome is noticeably faster sometimes, there are a few carefully designed features in Firefox i would miss in Chrome (the location bar is better in Firefox IMO, and i’m using around ten different search engines in the search box).
    And there is a handful of details that i don’t like in Chrome or Webkit, such as:
    – The disturbing look of text selection. This is a pain for me since i tend to select the paragraphs i’m reading in articles (it helps me not losing track of the lines i’m reading).
    – Chrome has bad OS integration on my Ubuntu system (it’s better on OS X), same as Opera.
    So i’m sticking with Firefox even though it has its faults. This basically means that i have to be careful of extensions i install as they may hurt the browser’s performance, and do a bit of spring cleaning in my Firefox user profile from time to time to avoid slow-downs.

  • ron_phillips

    FF to develop. Confirm in Safari-Windows, Opera, and Chrome. Then, see what kind of a hash IE has made of it and decide how many IE bugs to work around.

  • powerpotatoe

    I mostly browse and develop with Firefox, but I have recently started playing with Chrome. It is tempting to switch, but I am still more comfortable with Firefox.

  • mathieuf

    I use Firefox for development, because it has good tools and my company develops only for IE, Firefox, and Safari. (Yes, behind the times.) For general browsing, I still prefer Opera.

    I do find that the information provided by Dragonfly helps when I’m stuck on some problem and cannot find the answer in Firebug. It presents data in a different way and sometimes provides the missing piece. Then I use IE Developer to debug issues in that browser. So all three are useful to me.

  • Firefox here too, for development. Just too many good tools to consider switching.

  • Like iDude had said, Firefox has been getting less standard compliant with every new release. I’ve noticed this with JavaScript specifically.

    Firefox really is an amazing browser and I can’t pass it up due to the addons specifically. Either Chrome has to get better extension support or Firefox needs to stop becoming whatever it is becoming with each new release.

    As of right now, I develop in both Chrome and Firefox, but only because each browser does one thing better than the other, I really want to switch to one browser only and I’m hoping that browser is Chrome.

  • Since Chrome and their Developer Tools, IE or Firefox hardly gets used. The only time that I use FireFox is to launch Adobe Browser Labs because Adobe Browser Labs fails to launch in Chrome. (Hint! Hint! to anyone from Adobe that reads this.)

  • Clintonio

    I browse in Opera, develop the site while only testing in Opera, then make it cross browser when I’ve hit the right milestones.

    I’m happy with Dragonfly, it just has a few hundred millisecond delay when starting up that makes me feel impatient.

  • thewebwiz

    I use all those you mention, depending on what I’m trying to find out.
    Yes – the Opera JavaScript console messages are very helpful for tracking scripting errors…

  • @iDude and Ryan Mortier
    Do you have a link to details about your Firefox JavaScript/standards problems? It might be something we can feature on SitePoint.

  • RobbieGoD

    I typically use IE7 or Chrome. I also have IE8 installed on an extra PC running Vista Ultimate. I also have a test PC with windows XP pro installed and it has IE6 on it. Too much of the world still using IE6. I can’t wait to put IE6 to rest.

    I also have a windows 7 installed on my PC at work and i plan to installed the Virtual Boxes so i can get rid of some of these computers! Win7 makes it great to run ie6, 7,8.

    I have Firefox, Safari, Chrome, IE7 installed on my primary PC. I also have a mac mini and i have safari and firefox on the mac. I have a mac laptop that I use for testing.

    That’s my setup at work.

  • Raven-sb

    Whilst I browse and develop using Firefox, I also tend to use Safari, I.E, Opera, etc. to test out my web pages. I do my best to ensure that the web pages I develop run and look good in whatever browser a user may choose to use.

  • jesusjams777

    Chrome = Speed

    I think that is the highest priority these days

    But the best developers use all the browsers, you should have a box for ie6 and a mac mini for firefox on mac. Then on your main pc have chrome, firefox, safari, ie 8 and so on.

    F5 should be worn on for most of you…

  • Firefox is the one I use but I always check it in IE6, 7 and 8 when it’s done. 90% of the time it works fine and other times a few tweaks to ensure it’s working. I can’t say I have many issues with Safari and Chrome and there normally isn’t need to check them. Maybe only for full CSS websites I do a full check…

  • thehetre

    I’m using Firefox for development and Safari is the default web browser. Sometime I’ve used Chrome for testing.

    Also, IE6 still install on my computer because japanese partner required.

  • AaronM

    I actually tried out Chrome exclusively as my development browser. As others have said, the extensions left a lot to be desired, so i found myself opening up Firefox from time to time for some finer debugging ability.
    Ultimately, I have switched back to exclusively using firefox for development. Chrome was crashing my system, either due to installed extensions or some other unknown reason. So not quite ready for prime time, although I am happy with its performance. Firefox has been disappointing with its latest releases.

  • crypto

    I used to love Firefox. Alas, on Snow Leopard, Firefox 3.Last periodically runs out of gas and I have to Quit, Force Quit, or Reboot. So…
    On monitor 1, I use Chrome as my primary browser for Gmail, Calendar.
    On monitor 2, I do Rails / PHP development in Aptana.
    On monitor 3, I test in FF / Safari and run Fusion for the Win/IE browsers
    On all browsers in all OSs, I run Xmarks and LastPass.
    I find the dev plugins are better for FF (PageSpeed, ySlow, Hammerhead)
    I also use the Charles proxy and it has a great FF add-on.
    There are great FF add-ons for Snagit and Colorzilla.
    I also prefer stepping through JS code in Firebug
    Often when I’m testing I like different browsers to get different authentication / session info and cookies. It’s really nice to just bounce around.
    There are so many corps that are still locked into IE6, I find myself needing to re-learn all the hacks like zoom:1. On my latest endeavour, I found the YUI 3.1.0 reset classes to be fantastic. Coupled with SASS for DRY CSS and it’s almost like having fun again.

  • I use Firefox for almost everything.
    Occasionally I use Opera.
    Once in a while I look at a page in IE6 or IE7, but they don’t work very well on my system under wine.

  • Lou

    I love Firefox/Firebug for development. The ability to add/modify CSS styles is essential. IE’s Debug Bar is useless because nothing can be modified. I test in IE7 and IE8 using IE Tester; also Chrome, Safari, and Opera. I have terminated support for IE6.

  • Graphic Lingoes

    Can anybody recommend a good IE emulator that you can test your new web sites in from firefox or other browsers besides IE? I know that best thing to do is test in a real IE browser but sometimes I don’t have access to one till I drive into the office. Thanks

  • Graphic Lingoes

    Great, thanks for the tips!

  • Achshar

    hmmm i always use chome… both for development and for surfing… i dont know why but i find it decent enough :)

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