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Comparing Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9

A comparison of some features and user interface differences between Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been the most popular web browser since Netscape disappeared. Most of this has to do with the program being pre-installed on all personal computers. The newest iteration of IE, version 9, is out and it looks quite similar to its nearest competitors, Firefox and Chrome. IE 9 has removed the clutter from its user interface to just a unified search and URL bar and a few simple menu buttons.

User Interface

Comparing IE9 Beta, Google, and Firefox

 

Internet Explorer 9 has maximized the vertical space within the frame with its new placement of tabs. IE 9’s page room is about equal to Chrome if you hide Chrome's bookmarks bar. Unfortunately it is not easy to access Chrome bookmarks without opening a new tab, while IE 9 has a dedicated button for viewing your favorites.

Microsoft has also removed the branding at the top of the window of the IE 9 where it used to show Internet Explorer and the long name of the webpage.

With IE 9 warnings and dialog boxes no longer pop up and demand your attention. Instead, notifications and action buttons appear in a discreet bar along the bottom of the window, where you can address them at your convenience. In IE8, these warnings and notifications, such as blocked pop-up windows, appear as dialog boxes that interrupt web browsing as with downloads. In IE9, all of the notifications appear at the bottom of the window, where you can wait to acknowledge them or ignore a warning completely while you continue to browse.

Tab Placement

IE9 tab placement

The biggest distinction between IE9, Chrome, and Firefox is how they position their tabs. Firefox's are above the address bar, and Chrome's are at the window's highest point. In this way Chrome makes it easier to switch between tabs since you just move the mouse to the top of the screen. Microsoft placed the tabs next to the search and URL bar which makes sense, but "X" button for closing tabs doesn't appear unless the tab is in focus which adds an extra step.

It appears that Microsoft has adopted the single bar, often referred to as an “omnibar”, design from Google, which Microsoft calls the One Box. The improvement on Chrome’s design is that the right edge of the bar holds a drop-down menu that shows recent history and favorites, plus a selection of search engines. With Firefox, there is an omnibar add-on available for Firefox 4.

 

Menus

Both Firefox and Internet Explorer 9 have two menu buttons; one for bookmarks and one for settings and functions like printing. Chrome uses a separate bar for bookmarks and Firefox 4 also has a scattered arrangement.

Compatibility

Firefox allows the user to revert to the old interface by clicking "Menu Bar" under settings. Internet Explorer users do not have this option. Chrome does not change their interface as drastically as IE, but Chrome is not customizable.

Memory and Applications

With Internet Explorer, individual Web page tabs are hosted in a single process which helps with memory usage, but is often prone to catastrophic failures: A single crashed tab can easily take down the entire browser application.

Chrome seeks to eliminate this problem by isolating each tab within its own application process, this prevents code and data in a failing tab from halting the other processes.

IE9 has a new feature called pinned shortcuts, which allows you to treat a favorite website as if it were an application. The favorites show up as large icons with a histogram bar under each title to show how many times you have accessed each your top 10 favorites. You can remove a favorite from this list, but you can’t change the order of your favorites.

Overview

All web browsers have Web address bars that try to anticipate what you want to search for, or where you want to go, as soon as you type in a word. Chrome calls its auto-completion feature “Omnibox,” and IE is “Smart Address Bar.”

Chrome and IE have stealth surfing modes that may save some embarrassment with your spouse, but probably not with the authorities or your IT department at work.

Chrome’s is called “Incognito” mode, which you can slip into at any time by clicking on the same menu you use for creating a new tab. Browsing in Incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the Web sites you’ve visited. The Web sites you visit may still have records of your visit. Google prompts you before you enable Incognito stating that any files saved to your computer will still remain on your computer.

IE’s stealth mode is called “InPrivate Browsing,” located in the Tools menu. InPrivate Browsing ensures that history, temporary Internet files and cookies are not recorded on user’s PC after browsing according to Microsoft’s website.

You can also enable Chrome’s Instant feature (http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177873 ), which helps you search and browse faster on the web. Chrome’s Instant feature shows search results and web pages in the browser window as you type in the Omnibox, even before you press Enter. If you don't see the results you want, you can just keep typing and the results dynamically update.

 

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Comments (4)
Ranked #7 in Software

An excellent review of the new IE9 and how it compares with Google Chrome and Firefox. I used IE faithfully until I used Firefox the first time on an associate's computer, Now Firefox is my first choice in web browser.

very useful, well explained differences in our favorite web browsers.

Great info. I gave up on IE a long time ago because of how cluttered it was and how often it crashed. It's good to know Microsoft is making much needed improvements. Not sure I would give up my Firefox, but the option is good to have.

Thanks for the article.

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