What are the best web browsers for Mac?
When it comes to browsing the web, there is no shortage of options for Mac users. While most of us probably use Safari because it’s installed with macOS and is an excellent browser, there is plenty of choice for anyone looking for an alternative. In this article, we’ll run through the best web browsers for Mac, explaining their strengths and weaknesses.
What’s in a web browser?
It’s worth noting that while there are lots of different options when it comes to web browsers for Mac, most of them run on one of three underlying technologies. Safari uses Apple’s WebKit engine, Firefox uses the Gecko browser engine, and browsers based on Chromium, such as Chrome, Edge, and Opera, use the Blink engine. Browsers that use the same engine share many of the same features and have similar performance for things like page rendering. Nevertheless, even the browsers based on Chromium are quite different from each other in terms of how they look and feel and what features they come with.
What are the best browsers for Mac?
Below are 7 best internet browsers for Mac. We’ll include a general description of each as well as their main pros and cons.
Where else to start but with Safari? Safari has a couple of notable features that give it an advantage from the off. It’s installed with and updated alongside macOS, so you don’t need to download or update it separately. And it’s also deeply integrated with the OS, making it easy to autofill forms, use passwords saved in iCloud keychain, and pick up tabs on your Mac that you’ve recently viewed on an iPhone or iPad. Safari also makes it easy to make purchases with Apple Pay on websites using TouchID to verify transactions and supports PassKeys, an Apple feature introduced with Ventura that intends to make passwords a thing of the past.
The Sonoma version of Safari adds new features, including the ability to create separate profiles — an area where Google’s Chrome previously had an edge — and the option to turn websites into apps that live in the Dock and which you can access without needing to open Safari first. Before that, Ventura added support for QuickNotes, allowing you to easily add text, images, and links from Safari to a note in Notes. You can also pin tabs and create groups of tabs and share them with others.
Safari is also very fast, thanks to the WebKit engine, and has robust privacy features, such as preventing third parties from tracking you as you browse the web and blocking websites from identifying the hardware and software you’re using. And, of course, it blocks sites that may harm your Mac.
One of our favorite features is ‘Shared with You’ on the homepage, which displays links that you have been sent in Messages.
The one downside for Safari is that there may be some websites, particularly on internal corporate systems where the organization is Windows-based, that don’t support it and don’t work properly when you access them in Safari. Many Windows-based organizations don’t support Safari for use on their Macs at all.
If one of Safari’s big advantages is its integration with macOS, Chrome has a benefit in that it works brilliantly with Google services like Docs and Gmail. When you’re signed into your Google account, you can access your web history and bookmarks from any other Chrome browser where you’re signed in, whether on Mac, PC, iPhone, or iPad.
Chrome has a secure password manager and the ability to autofill payment information.
One feature we like is the ability to compare search results side by side. It’s a bit like having two tabs open at once, but instead of having one visible and one hidden, both are visible — one taking up most of the screen and the other in a sidebar. So, when you search for something and click on a result, you can see the rest of the search results in the sidebar. Chrome also supports tab groups.
Chrome has had a reputation in the past for being a resource hog, and while it still benefits from clearing its cache regularly, Google has introduced filters that allow you to limit how much memory and CPU Chrome uses.
One more benefit of Chrome is the vast library of extensions that you can add to it. These include everything from password managers, web clippers, ad blockers, and useful tools like Grammarly.
Google isn’t as privacy-focused as Apple, though, and still earns revenue from advertisers and their access to some of your data, so if privacy is your main concern, it may not be the best browser for you.
There was a time when Mozilla’s Firefox was the chief competitor to Safari. But over the years, it started to fall behind both Safari and Chrome. However, it’s improved markedly in recent versions and now has much to offer.
It’s fast, with no real noticeable difference in page-loading times compared with Chrome and Safari. It also supports user accounts, allowing you to log in and access your history and bookmarks from Firefox on your other devices.
There are three levels of privacy protection to choose from. The Standard level blocks trackers, including those from social media sites and cryptominers, and stops sites from identifying your hardware and software. The next level up is so robust that Firefox warns it may break some sites, and the third level allows you to customize what should be blocked.
The Mozilla Foundation now owns the Pocket app, which allows you to save web pages for viewing in the Pocket app, and so that is deeply integrated into Firefox. There aren’t as many extensions as there are for Chrome, but it has the basics covered. Mozilla also offers a VPN, a tool similar to iCloud Private Relay, and a monitoring system for password breaches.
There’s no doubt that Firefox doesn’t have as many features as Safari or Chrome, which is its main weakness, but it’s well worth considering nonetheless.
Mac users have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft browsers. There was a while in the late 90s and early 2000s when Internet Explorer was the browser of choice for Mac users. That ended when Apple launched Safari, and Microsoft mostly ignored the Mac. But Edge is now a really useful browser and well worth considering. One neat feature is the Edge Insider program that allows you to access brand-new builds of Edge before they’re released to the public. Add that to Microsoft’s integration of ChatGPT in Bing, and it’s a great way to explore the new AI frontier.
Edge’s other great benefit is its integration with Microsoft 365. A button on the homepage allows you to quickly access online versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, and other applications that form the Office suite. And because it’s built on Chromium, you also have access to all the extensions you use in Chrome. There’s no doubt that Edge is one of the best browsers for Mac if you are not concerned about privacy since it collects a lot of personal information.
Opera is another browser built on Chromium, but it looks very different from Chrome and Edge. In terms of its user interface, its most obvious difference from other browsers is a bar down the right side of the window that allows you to quickly access services like social media sites, including Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, ChatGPT, and a media player that hooks into Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, and others. The sidebar also allows you to access Chatsonic, an AI alternative to ChatGPT, and Opera Flow, which allows you to send messages and files between your Mac and mobile versions of Opera on your phone or iPad. The sidebar is also where you access your history, bookmarks, and a dedicated shopping channel called Shopping Corner.
We particularly like the battery saver feature, which recognizes when you’re running your laptop on battery power and reduces background activity to save energy.
Being built on Chromium means you have access to Chrome extensions, though you won’t need an extension for VPN because there is a free one built into Opera, along with an ad blocker. If you want a web browser that does things a little bit differently, Opera is a great choice. At the same time, some users claim that Opera installs too many plug-ins and add-ons, which may significantly reduce browsing speed.
Vivaldi is another Chromium-based browser. Like Opera, Vivaldi has a sidebar that allows you to quickly access web content. And the sidebar also has a notes feature, allowing you to make notes and add screenshots as you browse — very useful for research. You can create groups of tabs and stack them in the tab bar or put them at either side or the bottom of the window. And you can open multiple tabs in a split-screen view. You can also put pages in what Vivaldi calls Web Panels and keep them in the sidebar. When you click on one, it opens alongside the current window. And you can change the width of the sidebar, reorder panels, and zoom in to see their content more easily.
Vivaldi also has built-in mail and calendar apps, a translation feature, excellent privacy controls, and an integrated Mastodon client.
If you want a browser that’s integrated with Apple, Google, or Microsoft tools, Vivaldi isn’t the one for you. But if you spend a lot of time doing research and value privacy controls, it’s excellent.
Brave is the new kid on the block in this list. It’s a Chromium-based, privacy-focused browser that blocks trackers and invasive ads by default. It also has a VPN, though, unlike Opera, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to use it. It also has a built-in crypto wallet. That wallet is used in Brave’s most innovative feature, Brave Rewards. This feature allows you to earn tokens for enabling and viewing adverts. You can control which ads you want to see. And you can use the tokens to reward websites whose content you’ve enjoyed. Brave also has its own independent search engine that’s privacy-focused and a video conferencing tool.
Brave doesn’t have as many features as the other browsers on this list, but it stands out by trying to do things differently. If privacy and getting rid of adverts are your main criteria in a browser, it’s well worth checking out.
There are lots of web browsers available for Mac. So many that deciding which is the best browser for Mac is a tricky task. Most use Safari by default because it’s there. And it’s great. But browsers like Opera and Vivaldi have lots to offer. And Chrome and Edge offer good integration with Google and Microsoft products. Read the guide above, download the ones you like the sound of, and give them a try.