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Why I switched from Google Chrome to Sidekick browser

Sidekick Browser

TL;DR

Are you tired of Google Chrome eating up all your memory, or making your computer fan turn like a jet engine? Do you get lost in all the tabs that are opened in your browser? Do you always feel stressed when closing your browser because there are several open tabs with websites that took you hours to find and are still needed for some of your pending tasks? Then you might be lucky because with the Sidekick browser I found a solution to all of those issues.

Once upon a time …

… during the second browser war, I was already a converted Mozilla Firefox user, leaving the old and dusty Internet Explorer behind when I first tried out Google Chrome. It must have been in 2012 or so and I quickly felt for the new rising star in the browser sky. It was not only the better overall performance than every other browser offered but also the more minimalistic and clean UI. Why having a dedicated search field when you could just enter your google queries in the address bar? Further, it offered more space for the different tabs than Internet Explorer. Sure, some of those reasons were just opinions but it made me stick with Google Chrome for almost a decade.

Comparison of the browser designs back in 2012

The drawback of Google Chrome

Even though Google Chrome was in my opinion one of the best browsers on the market, I had to realize that all the performance came at a certain cost. The architectural design of Google Chrome starts a new process for every single site loaded in a new tab. This, combined with my excessive browsing behavior when researching a problem during work finally ended up in Chrome using up a large amount of my memory. Even with 16GB of RAM I sometimes faced the situation when my computer slowed down because of excessive memory paging.

The Great Suspender

Soon I learned that there is a simple but powerful solution to this problem that came by the name of tab suspending. Since we barely use all the opened tabs in a browser at the same time, we could allow browser plugins to suspend tabs that were not being used for a certain amount of time. After trying different Chrome extensions that did tab suspending I came across an extension called “The Great Suspender”. For years I was really happy with this setup and didn’t see anything bad until a friend made me aware of an issue on the great suspender GitHub repo that was opened on November 3rd, 2020. The issue mentioned, that the maintainer of the code, sold the extension to parties unknown, that might use it for malicious tracking and fraud actions. Soon after I found various articles that recommend removing The Great Suspender extension from the browser.

I knew that the convenience that The Great Suspender gave me wasn’t worth it to risk a malware infection. I uninstalled the extension and was facing again the same problem I solved years before. The high memory consumption of my browser led me one more time to search for another extension to do tab suspending. This time was even pickier when browsing the chrome web store and suddenly came across a browser called Sidekick, which seemed to already include a tab suspender. Even though I didn’t really want to switch to another browser, it somehow felt as it was worth it to give it a shot.

A new hope

After installing the Sidekick browser, the first thing that I noticed was the shiny “apps”-bar. After playing around, I found out that it not only asked me to import my Chrome bookmarks but also install all the Chrome extensions I did use before. The only thing that did not work right out of the box was the configuration of the Keepassxc extension. Anyway, after some research, I found a quick solution for that.

All the nice things such as tab suspender, adblocker, and fingerprint defense …

After the easy on-boarding, I was impressed that Sidekick browser not only implements the Tab suspender I was longing for but also directly integrated an Adblocker as well as a fingerprinting defense that prevents websites from tracking you.

Integrated Adblocker
Tab suspender and exclusions

Even an integrated VPN will soon be on the menu. Sure it does provide a dark mode as every modern software needs to and enables other appearance configuration such as photo background, and sidebar size as well as color settings.

Fingerprint defense and soon a VPN (2021.04.30)

Having all these nice features integrated right into the browser without the need for searching the right extensions or worrying whether one of these extensions might suddenly become malware is very nice. So is the promise from the Sidekick team to never sell our data to anybody.

Promise on https://www.meetsidekick.com/

Getting such a complete package, I even felt as I was fooled by all the other Browser manufacturers for the last few years.

… and much more

Quickly, I realized, that the Sidekick browser could provide even more than all those impressive gimmicks. It even solved problems I had for years and didn’t really believe that they could ever be resolved. Handling the tab-mess that appears when one is doing heavy research on computer problems. Finding the right pages in your bookmarks or browsing history and pinning often used applications for quicker access without making the pre-mentioned tab mess even worse. There was a solution for all of it.

Let’s start with a dashboard that really makes sense. It has a clean look and feels, and is very powerful. It prominently gives access to the search, which is one of the best features of Sidekick, since it works pretty similar to the Spotlight search in macOS or other familiar search launchers such as Ulauncher for Linux.

Sidekick dashboard

Besides the dashboard, you can also access the search from anywhere using opt+f (macOS, or alt+s). You can use it to search files, apps, bookmarks, history, or preferences. It is very fast and does provide good search results.

Sidekick search

The one to rule all your tabs and apps

Once, I tried using Toby for Chrome to handle open tabs, but at some point just wasn’t using it enough. It just didn’t give me the features I needed to handle the tab mess in my browser. With Sidekick, I suddenly saw a different approach that seems to make so much sense that I quickly fell in love with it. Not only can I add frequently used apps to the sidebar and directly use them with different accounts in sandboxed sessions.

Sandboxed session per user

But also can I open those apps without opening a new tab along with my other tabs in the top tab bar. It’s kind of a hidden tab that is invisibly opened in the background when it is used and goes out of sight when I click on another tab. When clicking on the app again, I can continue right where I left from. It like Stationhq or Franz but all in your browser without any further extension.

Per-app history search

Another nice feature is that every app in the sidebar does provide its own searchable history. This way, it is much easier to find what you are looking for.

Sidekick sessions

In addition to the very powerful app sidebar, the Sidekick browser also implements a feature called sessions. Sessions allow you to group opened tabs and independently close and reopen them all together. Due to this feature, my browser suddenly became less messy and I finally got a good overview of all my open tabs. If, for example, I needed to keep some pages for work that was not yet done I just created a new session, dragged the tabs over to that window, and closed it. With a single click, I could restore all those tabs and continue with my work. Using Google Chrome I was always stressed out because of the tab mess and all the extensions I tried to get over it did make it even worse.

Last but not least, the Sidekick browser does directly integrate with Google notes. I’m not so sure if this is the killer criteria for anyone but if it were. Yes, that is supported as well. =)

Google notes integration

Last Words

I know that all these nice features of Sidekick seem to be overwhelming, but when playing around with it, I felt like a child in Disneyland. Everything seemed to be in its place, and it looked like someone has put quite a bit of thought into it. Thanks so much for that Sidekick team. I really hope that the Sidekick browser ends the search for all of you that are facing the same problems I did. Let me know your thoughts or questions. If you liked this blog post, make sure to follow me and support my writing. Thanks for reading!

About the author

Remo Höppli is Co-Founder and Software Engineer at Earlybyte.

Earlybyte is an IT consultancy firm specialized in developing new digital solutions for companies around the world from digitalization to IoT solutions, close to the client and its business embracing agility.

Follow me on Twitter to get informed on new blog posts.

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Remo Hoeppli

Remo Hoeppli

Remo Höppli is co-founder and software engineer at Earlybyte. He is a technology enthusiast and minimalism advocate striving for simplicity and efficiency.

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