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Web browsers on the Mac

Changing from one web browser to another can be a huge wrench. This I know, I keep doing it over and over again. Like the zen surfer, traipsing around the globe in search of that perfect wave, I’m a surfer of another kind, in search of the perfect browser.

For a long time, I used Safari, but I’ve been using Mac OS X 10.3 for some time now, which doesn’t run the most recent version of Safari, with the RSS options, so I was left stranded.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back a while. Let’s look at some of the other web browsers on the Mac I’ve used, and continue to use.

OmniWeb

There’s a lot I like about OmniWeb, but the killer blow for day-to-day usage what the architectural decision the developers made, and that was to use the same mechanics as Safari, which is the WebKit, which itself is based on KHTML.

I put up with Safari, but that wasn’t to last. And finding that the Omni Group had chosen WebKit over, say the Gecko engine, was somewhat of a disappointment.

The major problems with WebKit is the lack of support for form elements, which really limits what you can do in terms of web design. A huge negative for me.

Which is a shame because OmniWeb has some wonderful features.

Instead of the regular slim list of tabs at the head of the web page like most other browsers, you get a stack of resizable, dynamic thumbnail images of each web page that slide out in a draw.

Then there’s the option to define preferences on a per-page basis, which is massively useful. So you could block adverts from one website but allow them on another. Or maybe make the text bigger on one website but not the other.

The RSS feeds option really did pave the way for the other browser developers. The same can also be said of the bookmarking tools, which are considerable.

But in the end, intermittent instabilities and the reliance on WebKit drove me away.

Camino

In many ways, Camino is a unique fusion of Safari style and simplicity and Firefox rendering. Problem for me was that the simplicity got in the way of the industrial-strength features I wanted to see, such as a good RSS aggregator and support for Mozilla Add-Ons.

So in the end, the simplicity was simply too much. It was that simple.

Flock

I remember seeing a preview version of Flock, but it was so ridiculously unstable as to be unusable. But I liked what I saw.

What set Flock apart from its elder sibling Firefox was the social glue the developers had added in. So built right in there were options for posting right into your favourite ‘blogging platform, such as WordPress, TypePad, Movable Type, LiveJournal, Drupal and of course, Google Blogger.

Then there’s support for Del.icio.us and Shadows for your favourites, which all but won me over on that point alone. Add to that the support for Flickr and Photobucket and the sale was closed.

But the love affair didn’t last. You see, Flock is needy, and I like a low-maintanence relationship. So memory on my Mac would routinely be sucked up while Flock sat idle.

Then there was the issue of some Firefox Add-Ons not playing nicely within Flock. And the instabilities persisted at times.

But while ever Flock had the better Del.icio.us integration, and ran rings around Firefox on the RSS aggregation side of things, I’d put up with these foibles.

However, after playing around with Firefox, I gave it the 7-day challenge to change my mind. So with that, I set out to find a good Add-On for Del.icio.us and a way to import my masterful collection of news feeds into Firefox, which I’d exported out of Flock as an OPML file.

After some fumbling around, I managed to import my RSS feeds, but the implementation of managing and viewing RSS feeds in Firefox is astoundingly crude compared to that of Flock.

But while Flock does offer the quicker, more instant hit for adding web pages to Del.icio.us, I found myself drooling at the myriad options for managing and accessing my Del.icio.us bookmarks through the official Yahoo! Add-On for Firefox.

One minor change, which would really make a huge difference, would be to make the window for adding a web page to Del.icio.us a slide-down sheet instead of a window.

Firefox

Not needing much of an introduction, Firefox seems to be winning plenty of new friends these days.

I’m glad to see Firefox looking and acting more like a good, solid Mac application. Even supporting in-line spell checking, which is a must these days, especially for ‘bloggers.

There are some nice, neat touches, like remembering which tab I was last on. So instead of dropping me onto the previous tab when I close down the tab in front of it, I’m instead taken to the tab I was last actually on.

The whole processing of updating Firefox, as well as installing Add-Ons is very clean, crisp and efficient.

There’s been a somewhat late entrant in the form of Shiira, but I’m not getting into that beta phase thing again. I don’t have the time these days.

All in all, I’m happy with Firefox as my primary browser for now. And the jolt I experienced when moving from Flock to Firefox was mitigated somewhat by the relative proximity of the coding of the two browsers. Certainly enough not be painful…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Web browsers on the Mac”

I’ve tried Firefox and Camino at various times but I remain a Safari stalwart through and through. I occasionally use Firefox out of necessity though.

Hi Tim!

I’m actually really impressed with Firefox.

It’s a lot more of a Mac application these days, certainly a better citizen of my computer than Flock.

After seeing just one more rendering problem in Safari this morning, I don’t really want to use that anymore. Not unless Apple sort out the rendering issues…

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