Most internet users never try a new web browser, instead relying on the default software that came with their OS. But by using different browsers in different situations you’ll be able to get more done in less time and experience the web in a new way.
For example, some browsers excel in areas such as standards compliance, which is ideal if you’re developing a site. Or if you’re into social networking, there are browsers built around that.
Some are more specific – there’s a browser for anonymous web access and one that specialises in data manipulation. When you’re clued up about the pros and cons of different browsers, picking which to use in a given situation becomes a necessary skill.
Built around the same Gecko engine as Firefox, the web browser Flock is as extensible and speedy as its open source cousin.
Despite familiar foundations, Flock looks quite different from Firefox. In addition to the usual browser navigation icons, there’s a series of sidebar buttons.
That’s the first clue to Flock’s unique selling point – it integrates with popular sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, LiveJournal and many others to give you access to all their features without having to visit them directly.
Want to check out which of your friends are online at Facebook? Logging in to the ‘People’ bar will help you keep track of them. Need to post an entry on LiveJournal?
Open the built-in blog editor and post an update from the browser. You can even upload photos directly to many of your selected sites. In that respect, Flock is designed with social web users in mind.
Best for: bloggers & users of social networking sites
K-Meleon is also based on the Gecko engine, but is lighter and more tightly integrated with Windows than other Gecko-based apps.
Its interface is built on the Windows API rather than Firefox’s bespoke system, so its resemblance to early iterations of IE is understandable. It may not be the best-looking browser, but it is one of the fastest.
In contrast to Flock, K-Meleon does browsing and nothing else. There are no additional features to slow down your browsing experience, though essentials such as tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking and themes are included.
For people who want to get things done fast, K-Meleon’s best feature is macro support. Create your own common command sequences to speed up browsing or download them from the browser’s site.
Best for: Windows users who want to get things done fast
Maxthon is all about usability.
Built around IE’s rendering engine, it boasts a customisable interface and a host of bolt-on features. It’s an ideal substitute client for IE fans who want Firefox-style extensibility.
Fully skinnable, with pop-up blocking features that even remove banners and floating ads, one of Maxthon’s best features is web service integration.
You can add your own, but the package comes with Whois services and a list of anonymous web proxies for stealth browsing as default.
There’s also one of our favourite features from Safari – the ability to group pages together and give them a single bookmark.
Best for: IE users who want a Firefox-type toolkit
The browsers we’ve looked at so far are all good for general use, but there are some that are more specific in their applications.
Kirix Strata, still in beta, is a Gecko-based browser with good standards support. Alongside the usual features you’ll find tools that help you access and manipulate website data, including web tables, RSS feeds and server-side databases.