Browsers for translators (an introduction to the main five)

There’s no denying it, translators tend to spend more time on the web than most, and depending on how you work, your choice of browser can sometimes make doing things on the web (like mining information) altogether more efficient, which translates to less frustration and more time to do other things: like tweeting or walking the dog. So what then, makes one browser more efficient or ‘better’ than another? Well…that’s a tricky one, since it depends on what you want to do with it, and to some people, a browser is a browser and that’s the end of it. However, considering how much time we spend on the net, and how a browser is basically the sole means by which to access said net, isn’t it about time to at least give your choice of browser some thought? Especially since there are really only about five main contenders to choose from:

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer

Explorer is the browser of no-choice, it’s the one that everybody who’s ever owned a Windows machine knows only all too well. And it does the job well enough that most people never bother with anything else – which is a shame, because it’s arguably the worst of the lot: not so much in terms of what it does, but rather, in terms of what it doesn’t do. It’s notorious amongst developers for being behind the web-technology curve (which admittedly is a hell of a curve) and not bothering to obey the same web standards as all the other browsers, which has resulted in a perhaps unjust amount of hatred directed towards it. In short, it’s a web browser that’s never had to work very hard for its money – something that’s reflected in the fact that its popularity has been on the decline for over three years. The best that can be said of it is perhaps: it’s familiar, it comes pre-installed on Windows and it works – usually.

Safari

Safari

In the same way that Explorer comes pre-installed on a Windows machine, Safari comes pre-installed on a Mac. However, it’s more than an Explorer-like default browser: it’s a browser that’s constantly pushing the boundaries – with new functionality like ‘Reading List‘ and ‘Full Screen Browsing‘, to name but two. It’s a browser that’s been built for web surfing: it optimizes screen real estate by minimizing the height of the controls section and by hiding the vertical scrolling bar when it’s not in use and it allows you to easily reopen windows that you may have closed by mistake (or in the heat of the moment), for example, but above all, it works seamlessly with gestures, such as ‘Swipe to Navigate‘ (thereby negating the need to ever have to click on the forward and back buttons), ‘Tap to Zoom‘ and ‘Two-finger Scroll‘.

Firefox

Firefox

Developed by a ‘Proudly non-profit’ group, Firefox is by far-and-away the most popular browser for developers: partly because it’s always been free and open source, partly because it boasts a range of built-in tools (such as the ‘Error Console‘ and the ‘Dom Inspector‘), and partly because it’s a cross-platform (it actually comes pre-installed on most Linux systems) browser that’s been around for such a long time – over eight years now! It may not be as popular as some believe it should be, and it may not always integrate as well as it might with Macs (it seems to often find itself playing catchup when Safari comes out with new features for example), but the very fact that it’s the most developer-loved browser has resulted in hoards Firefox-compatible extensions – making Firefox arguably the most versatile browser available.

Chrome

Chrome

Until December 2011, Firefox was the second-most used web browser, now however, it’s only the third. Why? Well, because Chrome came along and, partly thanks to Google’s extraordinary reach, overtook both Firefox AND Explorer – taking the number one slot in May 2012 (according to the ‘Usage Share of Web Browser Statistics‘). However, it’s not just Google’s marketing clout that’s pushed Chrome to the number one slot – it’s actually pretty slick: not only in terms of design, but also in terms of speed (especially when compared to the speed of most other browsers at the time of its launch back in 2008), plus it also boasts a wealth of good extensions, cross-platform capabilities (integrating support for many of Apple’s gestures) and particularly good East-Asian language support, not to mention a function that allows you to search the internet directly from the address bar. In short, Chrome seems to be generally going from strength to strength.

Opera

Opera

With just 4.76% of the browser usage market, Opera is the least popular of the five main browsers, however, don’t write it off just yet: because it’s still quite a slick contender; that said, even taking account of features such as its handy startup screen and easily customizable themes, it doesn’t really boast much that can be said to put it ‘above’ the others. Still, in browser races anything can happen, and Opera is still very much in the runnings – partly because, like Firefox, it caters to all those who don’t want to be on one of the three main (Microsoft, Apple and Google) internet-giant bandwagons.

Which browser do you tend to work with when translating – and why?