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Why Safari is no longer my browser of choice on MacOS – and what I use instead

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MacOS is not my go-to platform. For that, I use Linux. However, when I need to mobilize my day (which actually means to go write in another room in the house), I turn to my MacBook Pro. Or, if I’m editing videos, I stand before my iMac and have at it.

On both of those Apple machines, I had been using the built-in Safari browser for years. However, with each passing day, I became more and more frustrated with Safari and wound up having to turn to a different browser as my default.

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Let me explain.

Safari is good but…

Safari is a good browser. It has features that I like (such as great tab management) and it’s one of the best options for Apple laptops because it’s optimized for MacOS battery life. When I purchased my first MacBook Pro (I think it was 2016), any time I tried to use a different browser, I noticed the battery life dropped dramatically. Because of this, I refused to set a non-Apple browser as my default.

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Things are quite different now and most browsers don’t drain the battery nearly as badly as they once did. Of course, that battery drain wasn’t totally on the shoulders of those third-party browsers. That first MacBook Pro I purchased simply had unacceptable battery life. Now, it doesn’t matter which browser I use, as the battery life on my MacBook Pro (with Apple Silicon) is outstanding. 

Beyond what was once a dreadful battery drain, there are two issues with Safari that frustrate me to no end.

The first is how random the browser is when opening links from other apps. Sometimes the app will open the link in the current window I’m using. Other times, the clicked link will open a new window. And it doesn’t matter that I’ve set Safari to always open links from other apps in a new tab…the browser is just too stubborn.

Sure, Safari has a handy Merge Window feature, which makes it possible to merge all open windows into one. But I shouldn’t have to do that. If Apple includes a feature to force all links to open in new tabs, it should be honored. Every browser I’ve ever used on Linux doesn’t suffer from this problem, so you’d think Apple could get it right as well.

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But that’s not the biggest frustration I regularly experience with Apple Safari.

On a daily basis, I’ll be viewing a site and Safari will inevitably pop up the message that the site is using too much memory. When this happens, the site most often reloads (which means I lose my place). Although this seems random, it happens far too often to be acceptable. 

To make matters worse, there’s nothing that can be done about this. You can’t increase the amount of memory Safari uses and you can’t block the warning. And because so many sites are very poorly designed and developed, this behavior is not going to stop.

What I use instead 

Combine those two issues and you have the making for one very (and regularly) frustrated user. Because of that, Safari is no longer my default browser on MacOS. In it’s place is…

Opera.

The Opera browser on MacOS.

The new Opera browser doesn’t suffer from the idiosyncrasies of Safari.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Why Opera? First off, Opera has become my default browser on Linux (which I use throughout the day). So it makes perfect sense that it would be my default on MacOS. On top of this, Opera’s tab management is even better than Safari’s, which is a big win in my eyes. It also doesn’t hurt that the recent redesign of Opera makes it perform considerably better than Safari. It also has a better-looking UI and all the features I need.

Even better, it doesn’t force reload pages because it believes a site is using too much memory. That means whatever I’m reading or working on won’t get interrupted by that ridiculous popup.

Also: Firefox vs Opera: Which web browser is best for you?

Apple should be able to do better with Safari. But until it does, I cannot continue working with a browser that doesn’t work with me.

If you’re a MacOS user, I recommend dropping Safari as your default browser and giving Opera a try. It works brilliantly on MacOS and doesn’t have those frustrating quirks that inevitably interrupt whatever it is you’re doing to remind you that it’s not quite up to the job.


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