Top apps: Web Browser and Email Client
Now that things are covered on the fronts of security, we’re ready to delve into the web. Whether it's the fact that using Internet Explorer has been deemed a security threat or that it's crawled to match competitor's features, most PC enthusiasts and heavy web users today use a third party application to get the job done.
Almost guaranteed to be the first web browser people run to after ditching Internet Explorer. It has come to hold the greatest usage share of all the third party browsers (21.53% as of January 2009, 41+% of TechSpot visitors) and features the widest selection of free extensions which allow users to mold the browser to their needs.
Firefox is also equipped by default with tabbed browsing, a spellchecker, download manager, live bookmarking and more to accommodate your general purpose browsing, so even if sifting through the 6,500+ add-ons (addons.mozilla.org) for nifty extensions isn’t your game, the vanilla package should suit you well.
You know, until I pulled a bit of research on the actual numbers it never occurred to me that Opera only held roughly 0.70% of the desktop usage share (as of January 2009). Surprisingly, it holds a greater share in browser usage with mobile devices and is the only commercially available web browser supported on the Nintendo DS and Wii. Regardless, it’s a worthy browser alternative, in our opinion crushes IE and offers good competition to Firefox.
Its feature-set is packed with both the usual suspects and some unique elements. Some of which include an integrated BitTorrent, IRC and email client and “Speed Dial”.
Developed and released back in 2003 by Apple, Safari has been the default browser for Macs since OS X 10.3 (Panther) as well as the iPhone and has been available for Windows XP and Vista since June 2007. Safari doesn’t offer much, if any more than other browsers in their default state and lacks the expandability that Firefox has, making this a lesser choice if you like to personalize your browser. For vanilla use, it still makes for a robust choice.
I would have to guess that a bulk of Safari’s usage share comes from OS X users that simply haven’t taken a step outside the box, and not people using it on Windows (in a similar situation, IE still holds around 67.55%). Nevertheless, it’s a browser that carries its weight and deserves to be mentioned.
Launched recently in September 2008, Google Chrome has already accumulated a following and is accepted as a quick, stable and secure web browser. Chrome does not yet support extensions (apart from GreaseMonkey), but that is an upcoming feature that could have it expanding its user base pretty quickly.
Unless you are content with your OS built-in email client, you will be glad to know there are a few good contenders that won't cost you a dime.
I personally gave up on desktop mail clients about 5 years ago and I’ve been using strictly browser based “webmail” (more specifically Gmail), and I haven’t once looked back, but for those of you that rely on them...
Thunderbird's performance and feature-set is claimed by most to be superior to the competition which isn’t surprising as it is similar to Firefox in that it can be endlessly molded with tons of potential extensions. By default it features a Bayesian spam filter, the ability to handle RSS accounts and act as a simple news aggregator, government-grade security and everything that you’d expect in a mail client stamped with the “Mozilla” name.
Opera Mail (M2)
M2 is probably the second option for those that are trying to remain independent of Outlook. It is seamlessly incorporated into the Opera browser, as such it is almost required to be relatively light and due to that nature it is a bit less versatile than Mozilla Thunderbird. It also lacks the overall expandability that Thunderbird offers but nevertheless it is a very well rounded mail client that is probably only suited to those that use Opera as their default web browser.
I would venture to guess that there are only a few types of people who truly use and appreciate Outlook these days: those that are forced to for work, those that have stuck with it from the beginning, and those that can actually make use of the seemingly unnecessary features.
Outlook packs a mail client with a journal, address book, task lists, calendar with significant dates, reminders, fax, etc. Not only are you probably not going to use half or more of the features, Outlook doesn’t even match Thunderbird and Opera Mail for security and you must pay for it.
And a last minute addition, Mulberry is an open-source desktop email client that seems to have a rather large loyal following, though it's support isn't quite as big as that of Thunderbird for obvious reasons.