My 2023 Browser Tinkering Journey

Categories: Creation

Why Write

The browser is likely the most frequently used application on many people’s computers. For those of us with a penchant for optimization, we often tinker with our work tools until they’re in a state of peak usability. Last year, I wrote about my journey tinkering with Mac software. After a year of iterations and changes, I plan to continue writing this year, especially since a friend recently asked me which browser I use. So, let’s start with “My 2023 Browser Tinkering Journey.”

Characteristics of a Useful Browser

Aside from the current browsers generally having no issues with compatibility, including security aspects where they’re more or less the same, what characteristics do I believe make a browser useful?

  1. Speed is paramount: The speed of opening web pages must be fast, which is the primary criterion. It should not feel sluggish, imparting a sense of swiftness akin to a cheetah.
  2. Highly configurable: I should be able to turn off anything I don’t need. Even if the default initialization isn’t great, it should all be disable-able.
  3. Simple, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing: It must be straightforward, with a predictable interface where I can find what I need immediately, and the window display should not be unattractive.

Browsers I’ve Used

I conducted a questionnaire survey last Saturday, retrieving 948 responses, primarily from engineers or those interested in IT. The results were more or less as expected, with an additional 40 or so respondents expressing a strong preference for Firefox.

Most respondents likely use the Chrome browser, which is simple, user-friendly, and reasonably fast after downloading. However, its performance is actually just average, especially evident when I used a 2019 model Mac for comparison. I also have a particular fondness for vertical sidebars, as the top tab bar feels like a waste of space to me.

I’ve also extensively used the ARC browser, a super stylish browser with outstanding interaction design. However, I usually find myself unable to continue using it after a few days, satisfying the aesthetic requirement but falling short in operational certainty and swiftness compared to traditional browsers.

Besides these, there’s Firefox, my favorite browser during my university days when I was a Windows user. However, I stopped using it later due to extension compatibility issues and inconsistent standards in frontend development. I’ve also tried Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave. I gave up on Opera because it doesn’t support sidebars, Vivaldi was too customizable and hence too complicated for my liking, and Brave was okay if you value privacy and supports sidebars, but I didn’t find it very attractive and eventually gave up on it. Additionally, there’s Safari, highly favored by many Apple developers for its simplicity, but its incompatibility with Chrome extensions and the need to install an app for each extension made me abandon it as well.

My Final Choice

Last year, my journey with Mac software introduced Edge as my browser choice, and surprisingly, it remains Edge this year. I have a love-hate relationship with this browser; the hate comes from its very Microsoft-style approach—great for showcases but messy in actual use, with a default effect that feels cluttered. However, thankfully, all the extra features can be turned off, and with significant UI upgrades this year, the speed feels genuinely swift. Plus, the support for vertical side tab bars makes it meet my criteria for a “useful browser.” However, reaching this state requires considerable configuration work, which is why I’m writing this article.

Starting Configuration

If you haven’t installed Edge yet, you can download the official version. After downloading, I suggest logging in to the sync feature first. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, create one to save your configurations and prevent loss when switching to a new machine.

Before starting the configuration, to ensure a smoother transition, I recommend syncing your previous browsing history and bookmarks to the new browser. You can click the first tab on the menu bar Microsoft Edge, choose Import browser data, and import the records from your previous browser, akin to one-click moving.

Of course, if you’re accustomed to Chrome, except for the section “Turning off all the unnecessary stuff,” the following can also be applicable.

Turning Off All the Unnecessary Stuff

  1. Command+. to enter the settings page, in Profiles turn off Microsoft Rewards to minimize distractions.
  2. Select Privacy, search, and services, aside from Tracking prevention and Microsoft Defender Smartscreen, turn everything else off, screenshot of the effect.
  3. Continue in Privacy, search, and services to the bottom, find Address bar and search, change the search engine in the address bar to Google, which is significantly better than Bing, as shown in the screenshot.
  4. Select Appearance, turn on Try the new Microsoft Edge appearance, Show profile icon in the title bar, Show profile switcher in the profile button, set page zoom to 110% (if you have a high-resolution Mac, a bit of zooming will feel more comfortable), in Customize toolbar enable Hide the title bar in vertical tabs, enable Show all open browser windows in vertical tabs, turn off all Choose what to show on the toolbar, turn off all Context menus, in Customize browser turn on Tab stops highlight links and form fields on webpages, Use double click to close browser tabs, turn everything else off, final configuration screenshot.
  5. Continue in Appearance to the bottom, choose Customize fonts, which should be empty by default, you can change all fonts to Helvetica Neue, and monospace font to JetBrains Mono, screenshot of the effect.
  6. Continue in Appearance, find Hover menu, you can turn everything off there, screenshot of the effect.
  7. Select Sidebar, if you’re someone with OCD, I suggest turning everything off here, then click Discover to turn off Show Bing Chat, screenshot of the effect, Discover screenshot.
  8. Select System and performance, you can configure the optimizations according to your situation, you can refer to my configuration.

After the above steps, your new browser should become much cleaner, haha, Edge’s product managers might want to chase me down with a 30-meter-long sword after seeing this.

Finding Some Useful Extensions

It’s not recommended to have too many extensions, only the essentials, to avoid running efficiency problems or even making it difficult to troubleshoot page bugs. Furthermore, it’s advisable not to install extensions directly from the Edge store but to get them from the Chrome Web Store for a richer and safer experience. The following 6 extensions are ones I use a lot, which I can briefly introduce.

Maple Bookmarks

Maple Bookmarks is a bookmark management extension I wrote two years ago but have been using locally until recently, when I decided to upload it to the Chrome store for friends to use. The main reason is that the browser’s default bookmark bar blocks my view. Having it directly exposed on the page easily distracts me when I’m working on something, so I usually hide the default bookmark bar and use this extension for a smoother browsing experience.

After installation, simply press Command + E to quickly access bookmarks, even with immediate search capability, practical and convenient, like this.

Before using it, it’s advised to organize your bookmarks, adjust the commonly used order, and delete the less frequently used ones, placing folders at the back. Then, hide the bookmark bar with Command+Shift+B, and it’s also recommended to show Maple in the Toolbar for easy access.

Additionally, if you find Edge’s default new tab page too ugly, you can switch to my Maple Newtab, which supports blank clean pages, Trendy Weekly images, Bing images as background options. Place the cursor on the background image, wait for 2s for the switch box to appear, and click to switch.

Immersive Translate

This extension is the most amazing and powerful Chrome extension I’ve encountered this year, and also the best web page translation plugin. After downloading, it’s highly recommended to follow its setup instructions, set up convenient shortcuts, and it’s advised to use the ChatGPT mode for translation, which works very well.

For more detailed usage, you can visit the Immersive Translate official website, which is almost entirely free to use.

uBlock Origin

How could a browser exist without an ad-blocking plugin? However, many ad-blocking plugins are memory-intensive and not as lightweight or customizable as I would prefer. I’ve been using uBlock Origin for several years, an efficient network request filtering tool that uses minimal memory and CPU.

Once installed, you can go into the extension settings and turn off options you deem unnecessary. Also, in the rules list, select only the main filtering rules, such as those with “Chinese” or “中文”. If you want to simplify the process, you can download my my-ublock-backup and choose Restore from file... in the settings to overwrite directly.

With this, if you encounter unblocked ads or non-ad elements you wish to hide, you can directly right-click to customize and hide things you don’t want to see.


Violentmonkey is one of those tools that you don’t realize how powerful it is until you start using it. I had heard about userscripts long ago but hadn’t really used them until I encountered situations where they became essential. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. With its ability to inject JS, you can do a lot, and there are many scripts already written by others.

However, I don’t recommend installing too many scripts. Currently, I mainly use these 7 scripts, and you can selectively install as needed. Additionally, it’s advisable to turn on the sync feature in the extension settings for easy use on a new computer. If you prefer not to bother, you can import my pre-configured backup file.

  1. Twitter X -> Blue Bird: If you use Twitter, replace the Twitter X logo with a little blue bird.
  2. CSDN Ad Blocker: No need to log in anymore! Experience a new CSDN.
  3. Remove Specific Background Watermarks: A plugin I wrote to remove watermarks from web pages. It’s simple, and you can look up how to write it, making your pages less ugly. This is available in the backup file.
  4. anti-redirect: Removes redirections on Google/Baidu/Sogou/360/Zhihu/Tieba/Jianshu/Douban/Weibo…
  5. V2EX Polish: A browser plugin designed for V2EX users, offering rich extension features for a rejuvenated native page.
  6. Make Your Lark Better: Breaks Lark’s copy restriction, especially useful when you need to copy some documents and find it restricted.

Minimal Theme for Twitter

If you’re on Twitter, don’t miss this extension. It can transform your ugly Twitter page into a very clean one. My configuration looks like this, and you’re welcome to copy it.

The Very End

There are many efficient ways to use a browser, such as becoming familiar with shortcuts. Here are some I frequently use that you might find helpful to remember:

  1. Command+L for quick searches of history, bookmarks, and URLs.
  2. Command+T to open a new tab.
  3. Command+Y for history.
  4. Command+Shift+B to toggle the bookmarks bar.
  5. Command+Shift+J for downloads.
  6. Command + Shift + N for incognito mode.
  7. Command + Number to jump to a specific TAB page.
  8. Command + Shift + Delete to clear browser history.
  9. Command + Shift + [] to switch between tabs.

Additionally, I’ve bookmarked some commonly used pages that help me improve efficiency or for learning and reading:

  1. Shots: Most screenshots in this article were beautified and standardized using this tool.
  2. Dribbble: A go-to for design ideas and inspiration.
  3. For reading international tech articles.
  4. macOSicons: For finding attractive icons for Mac apps.
  5. Pexels: For royalty-free images.
  6. unDraw: For simple, attractive SVG illustrations.
  7. Squoosh: For compressing images.
  8. Iconfont: An increasingly useful icon download site.

Getting used to quick browser operations and remembering your commonly used sites can significantly enhance your browsing experience. However, I suggest not following my methods entirely but selecting based on your preferences. Still, it’s worth tinkering with, as it can be quite fun. If you have any browser tips you find useful, feel free to discuss and share ❤️.

Read More

Hong Kong and Not What I Expected

【2023-07-02】My first trip to Hong Kong was not about ticking off tourist spots but rather observing the culture and environment, leading to discoveries quite different from what I had imagined. Here's a casual chat about those observations.