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Firefox and Chrome/Chromium trade off capabilities

Firefox used to be the most popular Web browser in the world. It took the lead from Internet Explorer in 2009, but in 2012 Google Chrome took over the top spot.

Chrome (along with its open-source alternative Chromium) and Firefox bring Web access to most personal devices and operating systems on the market. Both can be installed on Windows and Mac OS.

Firefox is the default and preinstalled Web browser on most Linux distros, including Ubuntu, Manjaro, Linux Mint, and Zorin. Most of these operating systems are designed to run on Intel and AMD processors, but a few of them have been built for ARM-devices, such as Raspberry Pi 4 and PineBook Pro. Firefox is the preinstalled browser on several of these systems.

Google’s flagship product also runs natively on many Linux distros designed for Intel and AMD processors, and while it cannot be installed on ARM processor systems, Chromium has been made ready for these, as well as their Intel/AMD counterparts.

Both distros are available for iPhone and iPad. Chrome is the default browser on most Android devices, and Firefox can be installed with a few clicks from the Google Play Store.

Chrome is by far the more popular of the two. With Google’s list of Web-based products and marketing capabilities, Chrome has dominated the browser market.

However, Web browsers are interchangeable, for the most part. Firefox can do most everything Chrome can and take users to just as many places. Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox, has been able to make its browser better in a few ways.

This article covers some advantages each has over the other.

Chrome/Chromium

The advantage this browser has is its capabilities with some of Google’s Web applications, particularly Google’s office suite, Drive. In both Chrome/Chromium and Firefox, the office applications can be used. Documents, in all formats, can be edited, and Google formatted documents can be created. 

The image depicts a document open in Microsoft Word Online in Manjaro, running on Pinebook Pro. It is running in Google Chromium and voice diction is being performed. Through Chromium, users can have access to all the functions in Office Online and Google’s office suite, regardless of the operating system and processor.

There are a few features missing when Google apps are being run in Firefox, however. The most notable is Voice Typing found in the Tool menu in Docs, the word processor. This allows the user to speak and what he says will be typed into the document for him. This item is missing from the menu when a document is open in Firefox.

Chrome and Chromium also work better with Microsoft Office Online. Like Google Docs, the online version of Word also has the ability to turn spoken word into text. The Transcribe icon appears in the ribbon in Firefox, but it is difficult, if not impossible to get the microphone set up to work with it.

It comes with a dialog that states: “We don’t have access to your microphone. Please check that your your microphone has permission to use your microphone.”

Chrome and Chromium will automatically connect to the microphone. Click Connect in the dialog that appears. Settings will appear in a pane to the right of the document. Change to the desired language and adjust the other settings. Click the microphone icon and begin speaking. Typing will appear in the document.

Firefox

Chrome is more popular, and some Google applications work better in it than they do in Firefox. However, Firefox has a few advantages over the highly used browser. It has more flexible search capabilities, and it performs better at sharing bookmarks, search history, and open tabs. These are the two covered below.

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, has also created several products to enhance the privacy and security of its users. Several of them are not directly available in Chrome and Chromium. Here is information about Mozilla’s products.

Search capabilities

Google Chrome and Chromium have one search engine built into the URL bar across the top. This by default is Google, but it can be changed through Settings. However, there is not a quick way to change search engines at the time when search terms are typed into the address bar.

Firefox, however, has multiple choices in the address bar. Type a term, and when suggestions are shown, there will be a list of search engines at the bottom of the drop-down menu. They are:

This is Firefox shown in Linux Mint. When a user starts entering text in the address bar, suggestions appear in the drop-down menu. Below the drop-down menu are choices of search engines. Firefox for Linux Mint has different choices by default than Firefox on other operating systems.

  1. Google 

  2. Bing 

  3. DuckDuckGo 

  4. Ebay 

  5. Amazon 

  6. Wikipedia 

Other engines can be added to this list, and those listed above can be removed. Here are some engines that can be added:

  1. Yahoo

  2. YouTube

NOTE: Some versions of Firefox for some Linux distros do not come with Google as the default search engine. Linux Mint is an example of this. It uses Yahoo as the default browser. Google and others can be added.

Multiple devices

As mentioned above, Firefox has been written to work on almost every operating system, and users, who set up an account through Firefox, can share bookmarks, browsing history, and passwords across multiple devices. They also can send open tabs to another device.

A user can send an interesting Web page he found on his phone to his desktop at home while riding the subway. He can send a PDF that he was reading on his laptop to his phone, so he can read it on his way to work.

Chrome and Chromium also have this feature. They can share search history, bookmarks, and open tabs, but sharing works better in Firefox.

In Chrome, a passphrase is required to perform syncing. If the user changed her login password for her Google account, Chrome may display an error when syncing is turned on because the passphrase is an old password. Changing the passphrase is difficult to do. It may also not work well when sending a tab from a device using Chrome to one using Chromium.

Conclusion

The two Web browsers are mostly identical, and most people can use them interchangeably. Google has made Chrome more popular because of all the services and software-as-service applications it has created. The company simply designed those services to integrate better with its own product.

Mozilla has responded by making Firefox better at protecting user data and privacy. Firefox users can more easily access a variety of search engines than Chrome/Chromium users can. They may also be able to sync their bookmarks and search history with other devices more easily.

The conclusion is that Firefox is better for surfing the Web and for bookmarking pages. It also is probably better for online banking and online shopping. Privacy and security, however, are not covered in this article.

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