Is DuckDuckGo for Mac worth using?

The DuckDuckGo browser for Mac was released in beta about a week ago. I received an invite after joining the waitlist and tested the browser. Here are my first impressions of the app.

Preconditions

You must have the DuckDuckGo application installed on your iPhone or Android mobile, and register to test the Mac browser. It takes a few days for the invitation to arrive, when it does you will see a notification on your phone. Tap it and it will display an invite code. Download DuckDuckGo browser for Mac from the official website. Install the app, run it and paste the invite code in it. You cannot use the browser without an invite code, it acts like a license to unlock the app.

Invitation DuckDuckGo for Mac

DuckDuckGo for Mac first impressions

First run

When you first run it, DuckDuckGo for Mac offers to import your bookmarks and passwords from other “less private browsers”. You can also import credentials from a CSV file from other password managers. Then the application prompts you to set it as the default browser for the operating system.

Try visiting a web page and DuckDuckGo for Mac will display a message asking for your permission to manage cookie consent pop-ups. Enabling this option allows the browser to minimize site cookies, to protect your privacy. All of these parameters are optional.

Preferences

DuckDuckGo’s settings page is quite straightforward. It has two themes: Light and Dark, which you can choose, or you can set it to follow the system theme automatically. The browser can show the full website address in the URL bar, instead of just the name.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - theme preferences

Note: The dark theme made some stuff on reddit unreadable to me, YMMV.

Privacy settings

DuckDuckGo for Mac - privacy settings

Ad blocking

Unfortunately, the ad blocker is the browser’s biggest disappointment. DuckDuckGo for Mac blocks ads on websites, but does not hide the area where banners appear, making web pages look weird.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - block ads on websites

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google search ad

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google ad

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google ad

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google ad

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google ad

It fails to prevent ads in other search engines, take a look at this Google search example.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - google ads search

The browser does not block YouTube ads, so video ads play and banners and pop-up banners that appear during the stream are not automatically hidden.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - youtube ad banner

The app is still in early beta, so hopefully this is an area where it can improve.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - youtube video ad

Blocking the tracker

DuckDuckGo has a built-in tracker blocker that protects your privacy by blocking web requests before they load. It uses Global Privacy Control (GPC) to prevent websites from sharing your personal data with trackers.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - protection against trackers

Click the shield icon on the left edge of the address bar to view tracker protection for the current website. It displays some information about the site, lists trackers that have been found and blocked. Toggle the switch at the top of the panel to disable website protection.

Fire button and fireproof sites

If you’ve used the DuckDuckGo app on your phone, you’ll probably know what the Fire button does. It erases all your browsing data at once. You can whitelist sites to avoid being logged out of your account, by using the Fireproof option in the browser menu or the tab bar context menu.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - fire button

Manage fireproof sites from the Privacy section, it also has a toggle to disable cookie consent popups. The Fire button lets you choose whether it should remove all data or just data from the current tab or window.

New tab

Click the + button to open a new tab. It lists your favorite bookmarks and displays a summary of blocked tracking attempts on web pages you have opened. The sites are listed in reverse chronological order.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - blocking trackers

A new customizable tab page with speed dial and a custom background would have been better, but that’s a personal choice.

Tab management

Click and drag tabs to rearrange their order, middle click closes the tab. The tab bar context menu does not offer options to pin a tab or sort tabs by website or title.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - tab bar menu

The context menu contains shortcuts to fire the page, close the tab, close tabs on the right, close other tabs or move the tab to a new window. The DuckDuckGo browser for macOS does not support grouping tabs or allowing you to reopen closed tabs.

Browsing experience

The browser address bar does not have a paste to go option. DuckDuckGo for Mac’s context menu is quite similar to Safari, which isn’t surprising given that it’s based on the WebKit rendering engine. But if you access the application from Firefox, Chrome, etc., you will definitely notice the lack of options in the menu. DuckDuckGo for Mac does not have a private browsing mode. There’s no Reader View for distraction-free reading, and there’s no Dark Mode for web pages either.

Bookmark management

The browser’s bookmark manager is acceptable, you cannot directly add new bookmarks to a folder. You’ll need to bookmark a page, then go to the management panel and drag it into a folder you’ve created. You can bookmark web pages by clicking the bookmark button and then the star button.

Password management and autofill

DuckDuckGo for Mac has a built-in password manager, which you can use to store your logins, credit card information, and addresses securely. The data is stored on your computer and protected by your Mac’s password, which you’ll need to enter to unlock the vault.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - autofill menu

As I mentioned before, the app can import your passwords from Apple Safari, Firefox, Chrome, LastPass, 1Password, etc. The browser will ask you to save username and password, addresses and payment methods when you enter them on websites. You can add credentials manually by accessing the Autofill panel from the application menu.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - autofill UI

When you visit a login page, click the wrench icon in the input field and the browser will automatically fill in the username and password for you. The autofill option locks when the computer is idle for 15 minutes, although you can customize the timer.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - autofill

The browser does not yet support syncing passwords or bookmarks across all devices.

DuckDuckGo for Mac - autofill settings

Extensions

DuckDuckGo for Mac doesn’t support extensions, but the company says it’s looking into adding support for add-ons. Given Apple Safari’s API limitations, I’m not sure what to expect. Although I’m not holding my breath for uBlock Origin, I hope we can use the AdGuard extension for Safari.

Overall, DuckDuckGo for Mac seems like a decent browser for a beta product. While the privacy-focused features are great, the extensions need to be supported to compete with other browsers. Above all, it definitely needs a good ad blocker. If you’re using the DuckDuckGo extension in Firefox or Chrome, you’re not missing much except the Fire button.

Have you tried DuckDuckGo for Mac?

Summary

Is DuckDuckGo for Mac worth using?

Article name

Is DuckDuckGo for Mac worth using?

The description

Here are our first impressions of DuckDuckGo for Mac. Let’s see what the privacy-centric browser has to offer.

Author

Ashvin

Editor

Ghacks Technology News

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