Apple has been adding new features to its Safari browser recently, making the default Mac app for exploring the internet faster and more powerful than before. But if you fancy a change, there are plenty of others to choose from, including Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Brave and many more. In this article we round up the best alternatives to Safari and see what they have to offer.
Also, you might be interested to learn about DuckDuckGo – which has now been released as a browser, but is currently only with beta testers. We’ll be reviewing the new browser just as soon as we can get our hands on it. In the meantime read more here:
DuckDuckGo releases a beta test of its privacy-focused Mac browser.
If you want to increase the privacy and security on your browser then you should also read
Best VPN for Mac and
How to use a VPN on your Mac.
Apple’s Safari browser has been around for a long time, and over the years it’s been improved to the point where it’s now a very solid choice for most people. As you’d expect, it boasts the standard features found on most modern browsers, including bookmarks, tabbed browsing, a password manager, private browsing options, a dark mode, read later list, plus a Shared with You section on the Home page that lists links you’ve been sent in Messages.
The reading mode is still one of Safari’s hidden gems, as it turns any webpage into a clean, clear article devoid of ads, links, and other distractions.
With the arrival of version 15 that accompanied macOS Monterey, Apple introduced Tab Groups, which is a handy new feature that allows you to collect particular tabs together by a category of your choosing, so you don’t have to search for them among your other open tabs. This is particularly useful if you’re planning a holiday, event or researching another interest. Best of all, the Group Tabs sync to Safari on your iPhone, iPad or other Macs.
Privacy is an important part of Apple’s offering, with Intelligent Tracking Protection there to stop advertisers from watching what you do. This is accompanied by anti-fingerprinting settings that prevent sites from looking at your hardware and software configuration to work out who you are online, plus security features that block sites that could contain malware.
There’s also full integration for Apple Pay, making it easy to buy items online either through the Touch ID sensor in Macs with Touch Bars or via your iPhone. See our
How to use Apple Pay on a Mac for more details.
In its current form Safari is better than ever, and that’s before you start exploring the available extensions that can increase its capabilities even further. The truth is, the best browser for your Mac is probably already installed.
Google’s Chrome remains the world’s most popular desktop browser by quite a margin, although that does encompass Windows users too. This success isn’t hard to fathom, as Chrome is an excellent tool which has an entire ecosystem of plug-ins and extensions, ranging from privacy monitors to ones that fix your grammar.
Multiple tabs are handled very well, although it can lead to RAM being hogged by Chrome if you like to leave a huge amount open at the same time, but this is often true of most browsers. In use, it’s fast. Pages are rendered quickly and there’s a global setting for the zoom, which can be handy if you find text a bit small on modern sites.
As you’d expect, being a part of the same family, Chrome dovetails effortlessly with Google’s online apps – Drive, Docs, Calendar, Photos, Translate etc – allowing users to launch them from an app tray in the menu bar. You can also utilise the extensions available to create reminders directly from the browser thanks to the likes of Google Keep.
The extensions are the things that differentiate Chrome from other browsers, with a bewildering 150,000+ to choose from. You can use password managers like
Dashlane, discount coupon checker
Grammarly to improve your writing, and so much more. To see our pick of the crop read
Best Chrome extensions.
Password storage is secure, and you can keep your payment details in Chrome so that it’s easy to make payments online, albeit not through Apple Pay.
Google uses high-levels of security to ensure you don’t access sites that contain malware and also isolates each tab to prevent any kind of cross infection should you stumble into something nasty.
Of course, this is Google we’re talking about, so you’ll be giving your data directly to the company as you use Chrome, including your online habits, so just be sure you’re ok with that before you begin.
Microsoft initially launched Edge with its own engine, but after a while decided to adopt the Chromium one that drives Google’s Chrome browser. Since then, the app has grown into a very good option for the those who want the Chrome experience but with it’s own distinct flavour.
The design on Edge is modern and tidy, with plenty of powerful features built into the main menu. Collections opens up a side bar where you can drag web pages or add notes. It’s a great way to use Edge to plan for a trip or research a major purchase. Alternatively you can use the Tab Groups that are similar to the ones on Safari. These are displayed on the tab bar along the top, with ones you’ve assigned to group all colour coded so you can see them instantly. Then, if you want to focus on something else, click the group name and all the tabs are collapsed into that, ready to reopen when you want to see them again.
As with most major browsers, Edge has a password manager that can store you details for web sites and online accounts, plus it offers a Password Health and Password Monitor feature so you know if your details could be compromised.
If you use Outlook, then you’ll find the quick access to mail, calendar appointments and To Do items very handy. Those with a Microsoft 365 account can also launch free versions of MS Office apps from within the browser, much like with Google apps on Chrome. There’s also a grammar and spelling checker borrowed from Microsoft 365 that helps improve your writing when online in Edge. This new Editor works across social media sites or pretty much anywhere you can enter text.
Microsoft also includes various privacy features, all of which can be tweaked in the settings, plus you have access to the thousands of extentions that come with Chrome. If you’ve dismissed Edge in the past as just Internet Explorer with a facelift, we think you should reconsider that opinion.
Another stalwart that’s received some much-needed spit and polish recently is Firefox. There was a time when this was one of the major players in the browser field, but time hasn’t been kind to Mozilla’s creation and Google Chrome has been one in particular that tempted people away. That’s a shame, as today’s Firefox version is slick, smart, and provides a worthy alternative to its higher profile competitors.
Mozilla takes privacy seriously and has a range of features to keep you safe online. Tracking Protection stops websites from following you around the web and collecting data that can be used to serve ads. There’s also ad and script blocking that speed up webpage loading times. There’s even an extension that sandboxes Facebook so it can’t follow your activities around the web. Whatever the tweaks under the hood, our experience with the app proved it to be rapid and reliable.
Firefox has always been a browser that lets you personalise things, so be sure to take a look at the various themes and extensions available that can decorate the menu section of the browser or add additional features. The menu bar itself has a number of functions that you can easily access by dragging icons onto it, providing quick links to things such as emailing links, saving the page to Firefox’s
Pocket app to read later, or sending pages directly to your phone.
The extensions might not be as plentiful as they are on Chrome, but there’s lots of useful add-ons that can tailor your Firefox experience to just the way you like it. Mozilla also offers various tools such as Relay (similar to iCloud Private Relay) that creates email alisases you can use for signing up to online services or giving to people that you don’t want to know your real address. A VPN that can hide your location, plus Monitor that watches out for password breaches that may have included any of your accounts and passwords.
It may not be the force it once was, but there’s plenty of life left in Firefox yet.
Opera is built on the same foundations as Chrome, giving it a familiar feel in terms of features and performance. That doesn’t mean it’s a clone with a different badge though, as the app comes with some interesting design choices and handy tools that make it a solidly modern browser.
The first is a column on the left side of the screen that contains shortcuts to various options. Top of the list are Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram and Instagram, all of which can be logged into and used while browsing the web. There’s also an option to add a Twitter account too, all of which is very useful if you don’t want to keep picking up your phone.
Another icon is for My Flow, an Opera specific feature that allows users to send webpages directly to their iPhone. At the bottom of the column are three dots that open the options menu. In here you can add or remove lots of other icons that take you to your bookmarks, a news section that collates the latest stories from your favourite outlets, a speed dial for commonly used sites, and plenty of other goodies.
Opera also has some privacy tools that make life easier when browsing, including a built-in ad blocker and a free VPN. The latter is great for keeping yourself safe when using public WiFi, even if the choice of server locations is limited.
Extensions are available in aplenty, thanks to the Chrome heritage, as are themes to personalise the aesthetic. You can also use Workspaces now, which is essentially the same as Group Tabs in Safari. Here you add new Workspaces (giving them names and choosing a relevant icon), then open various tabs in each one. This means you can quickly switch between themed webpages, simplifying things and stopping you having a million ones open at the same time.
If you’re looking for a browser that not only protects your privacy online, but also reduces the need for other apps on your system, Opera has much to offer.
Brave is a relative newcomer when compared to all of those listed above, making its debut as recently as 2016. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength, powered by its focus on removing all ads from the pages you visit. From a creator’s point of view this can be problematic, as most sites (including this one) rely on advertising in order to pay the writers and technicians who produce the content you’re reading. But for consumers, the freedom from intrusive ads can make the web a place where you can breath once more.
Brave takes things one step further by giving users the option to view ‘privacy-respecting ads’ that will pay them for the honour. This is all done via the Brave Rewards scheme, which is an innovative idea and has the added bonus of allowing users to essentially pay tips to sites they enjoy.
All that aside, Brave is a slimline app that speeds its way around the web. You’ll find plenty of settings to hone its performance to your whims, plus there’s the normal collection of password managers, bookmark menus, and accompanying mobile apps that can sync your profile.
Brave offers its own Independent Search function that won’t track your enquires, there’s a private video-conferencing feature, the new Playlists capability with which you can compile videos and tracks from the web and have the playlist automatically available to enjoy on your iPhone, plus a customisable news feed that again won’t track your reading activities online. Have you gotten the idea yet? Brave is all about privacy, but not at the expense of functionality.
As it’s built on the Chromium engine, you’ll find all the normal Chrome features, but without some of the ads and tracking behaviour. Whether you support the idea of a total ad-blocking browser or not, there’s little argument that Brave gets the job done in style.
There’s a good chance you haven’t have heard of Vivaldi, or at least the browser rather than the 17th century Venetian composer. It’s a name you should familiarise yourself with though, as the company was started by Jón von Tetzchner, who co-founded Opera back in 1994.
Vivaldi has some two main focusses: privacy and customisation. So, if you want to take control of your browsing experience in a granular fashion then it may well be the grail at the end of your quest.
At its heart, Vivaldi is similar to Opera as it uses the Chromium engine. This gives it the advantage that you can use Chrome’s plugins. Where it differs is in its attitude to your data. Once you set up a password on your Mac you can sync your devices (only macOS, Windows, Linux or Android at present) knowing that everything in protected by end-to-end encryption that not even Vivaldi can see. Abusive ads that track you are blocked by default and there are various other settings to minimise any intrusions to your privacy.
Like Opera, Vivaldi has a side bar containing various options such as downloads, bookmarks, history, plus a few innovative options. One is Notes, which allows you to quickly jot down information without having to leave the browser and you can even include screenshots. This is great if you’re researching something or just want to remember a quote.
Web panels is another clever feature, in that it enables users to setup mini versions of webpages that can be accessed by clicking on its panel name. This is best suited to messaging services but also for Twitter and mobile optimised sites, as they will fit into the single column view.
You’ll also find further options in the bar across the bottom of the page, including the ability to capture a screenshot, adjust the zoom level via a slider, turning off images and videos on a page, as well as a comprehensive list of page actions you can instantly enable or disable by clicking a tickbox.
That’s not all though! Vivaldi lets you set whether the tab bar appears in the traditional vertical position at the top of the page or move it to the the flanks or along the bottom. You can also open multiple tabs at once in a split screen view, so you can work on them at the same time.
New Vivaldi tools that are currently in Beta are intergrated Mail and Calendar apps that can help you stay organised without ever needing to leave the browser, there’s also Vivaldi Translate that means you can look up words and phrases not in your native tongue, but without Google getting to see what you’re translating.
There’s so much to explore in Vivaldi and it keeps growing at a steady pace. It might be one of the newest browsers around, but we think it could well be the way they all go in the future.
Avast Secure Browser
Although this browser remains in a beta stage at the moment, it’s another interesting option to those looking for a Chrome-style browser but with beefed up security and privacy. Avast is a name that will be familiar for anyone who has looked at antivirus software in the past, and its putting those years of data security to good use in its Secure Browser.
Using the built-in tools you can have your browsing protected by the included VPN, manage and monitor your passwords, stop trackers from using digital fingerprinting techniques to identify your device, plus a variety of other security features.
Of course, as the Chromium engine is underneath, you can use all the standard Chrome features such as bookmarks, private modes, dark modes, not to mention the wide wealth of extensions available. Syncing all of your data and settings across devices is also available, with the Avast Secure Browser also available on iOS.
It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Opera, Vivaldi or Brave, but if you want a fast, simple, secure browser for your Mac, it’s well worth a look.