- Salesforce Development Posts by Matt Lacey

Developer Tools: Choosing A Browser

Posted 2016-05-09

All developers have their favourite tools, and at some point I'm going to cover most of the tools that I prefer to use when working on the platform, but today I'm going to post about my choice of browser. The odd thing is, I'm not sure what my choice is right now because I may have just changed it.

Until Today

I use a Mac, primarily because I need to do iOS development from time to time but also because I've always liked OS X. When it was first released I couldn't afford a Mac, but I was a GNU/Linux / *BSD user and longed for a nice UI on a *nix base. These days I'm rapidly falling out of love with it and am keen to get on board with the new Linux subsystem for Windows 10, but that's another story.

The reason I raise the point of using a Mac is that aside from when it was first launched on Windows, I've never used Safari as my primary browser. I'm not sure I can even offer a good reason as to why, it's just never displaced Firefox or Chrome in my personal software world.

So until a couple of weeks ago, and pretty much for the last 3-4 years, Firefox has been my primary browser. The one that's always running and that I use for 99% of my development work.

But the venerable 'fox seems to have lost it's spark. The reason I've changed recently is that I was seeing the OS X beachball just too many times in the few weeks prior and it's driving me crazy. Apart from the obvious pauses, it just feels slow too—pages with a lot of GIFs for example often struggle to scroll smoothly—which is simply unacceptable in 2016. Our computers are faster and our software should feel fast.

If you're a developer then one way to drive yourself crazy is to accidentally click on a brace or a blank line when adding a breakpoint in Firefox's JavaScript debugger. If you've got a lot of JavaScript you could be stuck waiting for upwards of a minute!

The reason I chose Firefox to begin with was that a few years ago you simply couldn't beat Firebug for web debugging, but that's not even been installed on my machine for a couple of years since the built in Firefox development tools have become so good. Over the last couple of weeks I've been giving Chrome a chance.

The Trial So Far

Chrome is killing it. I've not noticed any of the slowness (perceived or otherwise) that I've been dealing with when running Firefox, and it's making my day easier.

Yes, this is a completely unfair test, I've been running Chrome as my brain browser for all of two weeks, but I was inspired to write this because it already feels much, much faster. The single page app that I'm developing is loading faster. The dev tools are responding nicely and not pausing for unknown reasons. So far no pages have chugged while scrolling no matter how many GIFs they contain.

I know Chrome handles threads and processes differently to Firefox but something just feels better right now. That's a completely subjective feeling of course, but to and end user, feel is everything. Anyone who ever tried BeOS on their PC back in the days of Windows 98 will understand that better than anyone.

What Else?

Will Chrome become my defacto choice? Maybe. I installed Opera for the first time in years the other day, but haven't yet given it a solid run. I'll do that for a few days next week so I can draw a decent comparison. Vivaldi is also garnering a lot of attention right now, and it seems neat, but except for a few UI customisations that I'm not too bothered about it doesn't seem all that different to any other webkit based browser. I'm probably being unfair and I feel I should give that a fair go to.

I'm curious to know, what do other web developers choose as their weapon of choice?