At the beginning of the year, I was overwhelmed, frustrated, and going a bit crazy.
See, I run two blogs of my own, I write for various clients, including a few bigger accounts, and I’m trying to get back into writing fiction. It’s a lot, and all of it was taking place in one web browser. I would end up with four windows open, each with 47 tabs, and I couldn’t close one without losing whatever was there, so my computer was running slow. On top of that, a lot of apps crossed over among different uses, so I was constantly logging in and out and in and out, and it would freak out the different security measures on the websites, so then I’d get slowed down even more because they want to verify that I’m me. It was frustrating.
So I figured there has to be a better way. I started looking into digital workspaces, and while I imagine I’ll need one at some point, for right now, they were more high-powered than I need or, more to the point, high-powered in ways that didn’t help me and lacking in what I actually wanted. I’d probably be better off by working with some smart techie person to design a workspace that fits the needs of freelance content creators, but I simply don’t have the ability right now (although, if you know a smart techie person looking for an idea, let me know!), but for right now, I just needed something where I could leave tabs open but close the program, where I could stay logged into the different accounts, and where I could really streamline so that I don’t get distracted.
I decided different web browsers might be the answer. I knew about a couple, but not enough for the set-up I was envisioning, and since one of them was Microsoft Edge, which I hate, I knew it might take some experimentation to get this idea fine-tuned, so I took the opportunity to review all the ones I tried.
OK, Chrome is actually what I started in because I love it. It works well, lots of features, syncs across my devices – which is also why I left it as my core browser. If other browsers weren’t working, I could always bounce back to Chrome…or more commonly, I would sit and watch panda videos.
If you only need one browser, Chrome is the best choice, in my opinion – at least for now.
I’m actually writing in Firefox right now – that’s the browser I shifted this blog into. Before I fell in love with Chrome, I was loyal to Firefox for years, so it came as no surprise that it’s just as good as I remembered. Sure, there’s a few things I don’t love – the download manager and history being two things that I find a bit awkward – but for the things I do around this blog, it’s totally functional. I can leave open tabs about a future post I’m researching, I can keep my blog email up, my RSS feed, etc. Plus, there’s plenty of add-ons and extensions so it’s easy to pin something to Pinterest, add it to my Tailwind feed, or save something to Google Drive.
Firefox is open-source, which is great, and it’s a really excellent browser. The only reason, for me, it doesn’t top Chrome is because, while on small files it doesn’t matter, on big files where there might be issues during downloading, I find the download manager to be an issue.
This is the browser I’m currently using for my freelance work. It had excellent reviews, and it’s lived up to most of them. There’s nothing really wrong with Opera; I just, for some reason, don’t love it completely. It’s absolutely usable, although the layout isn’t completely comfortable to me. It’s fast, although not lightning speeds, especially if I have a lot of tabs open. It’s just…fine. For a browser-workspace system, it can definitely hold its own, though.
Vivaldi was one I hadn’t heard of that had excellent reviews. I have to say…they lied. I used this for my lifestyle blog, because it has built-in tab grouping, was supposed to be very fast (even with a lot of tabs), and was supposed to be extremely customizable, so I hoped I could streamline a lot.
The tab grouping was insanely sensitive, so I kept losing tabs. I found some again, but some were just released into the ether, and after about two weeks of getting frustrated, I turned off the feature. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.
More than that, though, was how after a few weeks, Vivaldi did something weird to the caching settings. I would open the browser and my site to add a post, promote a post, or respond to comments, and WordPress would look the exact same as it had 4 days ago. It would appear as if my last post hadn’t published, as if new comments hadn’t come in, as if I hadn’t managed previous comments. If I can’t see what’s going on in my site, every time, something has to change.
Skip Vivaldi. Even without the major, later problems, the browser simply was not worth the hassle.
Ok, I didn’t use Tor as a workspace. But, if I’m downloading browsers, I wanted a peek at the other side of the web.
I regret that now. I’m certainly not a rainbows-and-unicorns type of woman but…that was dark. And I didn’t even really see anything. When I opened the browser, the opening tab is a how-to guide for Tor, telling you how to navigate, providing popular links, and giving you a clue what you might find. I nearly turned around there. I did venture in a bit farther but I was so scared of clicking something I’d regret (a valid concern), and then having SWAT come banging on my door (a less valid concern), that I was very hesitant to do anything. Regardless, from the bits I did see…people are dark, far darker than I actually am, and there is just absolutely nothing I need from the deep web.
Plus, due to the very nature of the browser, there is no benefit to trying to work in it.
They tout this browser as a “lightweight” option that won’t slow down your computer, which I guess is technically true. However, instead of slowing down my computer, it slowed down the browser completely. Plus, even after I adjusted the settings, new tabs would open at the end of the trail, and tabs would open for weird reasons, instead of just progressing to the next page. If I moved off of a tab to work in another window, that tab would freeze and not work or lose connection completely when I returned to it, and twice I gave up completely and closed out of tabs, opting to just work in a different browser. If you need a browser for the bare minimum – email, one or two tabs open at a time, average-not-fast speed – Flashpeak may fit for you, but there’s really just no benefit to it.
I will admit, it was very hard for me to give this one a fair shot. I don’t like to judge on appearances, but Seamonkey certainly harkens back to vintage internet – like 90s and early 2000s style. Sorry, but no. I like how sleek and minimalist and comfortable everything has become. I wouldn’t buy a boxy old sedan (I know, there are a lot of vintage car lovers out there, but hear me out) and I don’t want a web browser that makes me feel like I’m going back to dial-up. I get that the sedan might be better made, but I want the modern, sexy, smooth convertible that I can just hop in and go.
Seamonkey was a project from the creators of Firefox, and I guess I can see some of the similarities, but Seamonkey comes off as a developers’ playground, while Firefox is a bit more layperson-friendly.
Ur is a European-developed browser that considers itself to be Chrome but more secure. I have to say, I kind of agree! The layout is the same or very close to it, so the user experience is extremely comfortable, and you have access to all of the extensions and add-ons in the Chrome Web Store. Plus, the browser has a VPN built in that you can flip on with a single click if need be! The browser’s ad blocker is pretty good – almost too good, since even at medium, it blocked everything I wanted and a bit more.
It also has ninja mode, which doesn’t track your search history, and you can even arrange for websites to load only in ninja mode – a handy feature for writers worried about the search history containing questions about killing methods (we’ve all been there!).
Honestly, this may be my new favorite browser. It was fast, comfortable, and…yes, I felt more secure in that browser. I didn’t have creepily accurate ads pop up, I didn’t have pop-up windows at all…I really just have nothing bad to say here. Whether you need one browser or multiples, consider UR.
This browser is another focused on security, which is great, since as I research posts, I can often stumble upon sites trying to get my information. The browser is comfortable – it’s basically Chrome again. Plus, it has a crypto-wallet for those trading in bitcoin, and a Tor mode, where you can literally use Tor right in Brave. I don’t know how that affects the security – is Tor at all compromised being used that way? – but I also don’t particularly care, since I won’t be going down that rabbit hole again.
The browser is certainly fast. I worked on six articles for clients in the browser – each involving probably 25 tabs open, all at the same time. I couldn’t even see the end tabs. Everything loaded so fast, so easily, refreshed, saved, everything, that I was able to knock out the six articles in…roughly two hours. That’s mind-boggling! Now granted, some of that speed is a level of pre-planning and the nature of the topic matter, but still that’s some impressive speed, and a lot of it was not having to wait for sources to load and reload. Honestly, I might just transfer my main, fun browser over to Brave. I need to play in it more, because it doesn’t feel as comfortable as Ur yet, but I think it could. I strongly recommend this as a great option.
This is another browser I wasn’t a fan of. It has three rendering engines, which you’re supposed to be able to switch between seamlessly, and is supposed to improve security. I can’t really vouch for either of these claims. I don’t know how to tell if it switched engines, and it didn’t seem more secure than Brave or Ur, but further reading indicates it’s not that type of security (with ads and such).
Honestly, I can’t provide a solid review and it’s because of how I use internet browsers. For me or people like me, who are researching articles, doing basic searches, that sort of thing, Lunascape was uncomfortable, unimpressive, and felt a bit outdated.
That said, I think (but don’t know) that where the browser could shine is web developers. I think what web developers need to work more efficiently is what Lunascape is offering, and I think people who simply understand the mechanics better will get more out of it. If you’ve used it and want to weigh in, good or bad, drop a comment below – I’d love the input.
The last browser I tried, and one I really need to explore a bit more. Developed in China, it supports two simultaneous engines, which probably matters, but I didn’t notice (see Lunascape). Beyond that, it has a built-in email management system that’s designed to reduce spam, a notes extension so you can document information while you browse, an RSS feed so that you don’t have to go to a specific website to find out what’s going on on the internets, and other features that are designed to make it easy to use, particularly for work.
That said, they’ve had security issues in the past, and honestly, even more than that, the browser felt slow. I want to toy with it a bit more to see if it improves, but it’s kind of like they sacrificed speed for some flashy accessories – not a good choice.
Avant is another three-engine browser – I don’t know why I kept playing with these. Regardless, it allows you to open multiple windows in the browser, so if you need to look at Tab A while working in Tab B, this might be the program for you. There’s also a built-in RSS feed, so you can stay on top of industry news while you work.
For once, the browser actually was fast with the three engines. It’s a minimalist-looking program, but not ugly or outdated (although the skins certainly did bring me back a bit!). I could definitely see me using the tiling feature, but I’m not sure it’s a big enough selling point. Trying to add extensions for customization proved to be more trouble than it was worth, and overall…the experience was meh, at best (and yes, that’s a technical, professional judgement).
For users like me, Avant is…not designed for what we’re looking for. This another browser I could see web developers enjoying, although at first glance, it looked like Lunascape had more features in that vein. It’s kind of like the developers tried to satisfy both sides of the coin, and managed to satisfy neither.
Conclusions: The Best And Worst Of Web Browsers
By the time I tried Avant, I was web-browsered out. The final results are:
What I’m Using
These are the four I’m using day to day right now. They’re classic, they’re fast, they’re reliable, they’re comfortable. Those are the things I’m looking for in a browser, and these hit those marks.
What I’m Uninstalling
I’m deleting Tor because it scares me and I don’t need it, not because it doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it lives up to the hype too well – I’ve seen things now. And it’s far worse than the time I googled “old turkey” (I did it for a Thanksgiving thing – don’t repeat my mistakes!). If you’re looking to dabble in bitcoin or whatever, Tor is still the browser for you.
As for the others in this group, Lunascape is the only one I would say deserves further investigation by someone who maybe wants what they offer. The issues I had with Lunascape are due to what I’m looking for from a browser, not necessarily due to the browser itself. If you’re more technologically-inclined (and I’m no slouch, I just don’t want to have to engineer a basic tool if I don’t have to), this may be a favorite of yours. The others – skip them.
What I’m Keeping As Backup
I might replace one of my go-to choices with Brave, because I actually really like the browser. Or I may use it for my writing, since it does have security benefits that will keep me from getting arrested when I perform weird google searches. It is a really nice browser, and if you prefer Chrome browsers, it could absolutely replace Firefox or Opera in your lineup.
I’m keeping Avant and Maxthon for now, because I feel like both of those warrant further investigation. I definitely see potential there, but I can’t decide if one attractive feature can make the browser worth it. Both were late trials for me, when I was already impressed by some, disappointed by others, and tired all-around, so these two I think may have gotten the short end of the stick.
Regardless, after trying 12 browsers, I’ve narrowed it down to some seriously viable options for you! Have you used browsers as workspaces before? Have you used any of these browsers? Any recommendations for me?