Miscellaneous Ramblings

Miscellaneous Ramblings Review

Cruz Browser Introduces Useful New Features

Charles Moore - 2008.11.17 - Tip Jar

Rating: 3 out of 4

I have a new favorite WebKit-based browser.

I'll cop to not being much of a Safari fan. Safari 3 is a perfectly competent browser, fast and stable, and it has pretty well every feature I consider non-negotiably necessary in a web browser, but there is simply nothing about it that I find compelling, unlike Opera, my perennial fave browser, or even Firefox, which are the two browsers I use most.

However, a new WebKit open source browser project by Todd Ditchendorf, developer of the somewhat geeky web-app browser application Fluid (Leopard only), has got me using WebKit technology for production work. The Cruz browser (also Leopard only) is genuinely different - notwithstanding that it looks superficially an awful lot like Safari - and some of the differences are really convenient and useful advances in browser functionality.

Cruz browser window

WebKit Engine Plus Plugin Architecture

Cruz takes the familiar, solid WebKit browser engine and basic Safari-esque front end and adds a Firefox-style plugin architecture - only with a native Cocoa plugin API that opens up virtually unlimited customization and extension potential

A couple of plugins are included with Cruz, which is a modest 3.7 MB download, including one called "BrowsaBrowsa" that allows you to display three Web pages side-by-side in the same browser window or tab by way of two hideaway sidebars toggled by buttons on the toolbar, each page subwindow having its own address field and navigation buttons.

BrowsaBrowsa plug-in for Cruz

This is slick for doing side-by-side comparisons, coordinating research from multiple resources, and keeping an eye on a particular site while you surf in another site and/or have a search engine at the ready. Obviously, it shines best on wide displays.

Cruz browser

More unique and interesting Cruz features include a menu command that takes you to a site called "Down for Everyone or Just Me?", which lets you know if a website is having problems, and another that instantly creates a "tiny URL" to replace the long web address string for the page you're on. I use tiny URL conversions a lot, so this is a really convenient time-saver for me.

Down for Everyone or Just Me?

Thumbnails and Web Address Shortcuts

Another Cruz feature is a CoverFlow plugin that can display link thumbnails on websites that support it, although I found that considerably less useful than BrowsaBrowsa,. It will also display thumbnail images in Google search results that support it.

Cruz also supports Greasemonkey scripts, of which I am ignorant. There's a "Mail Link To This Page" command that may prove handy if you use the built-in OS X Mail email client. I don't, so it doesn't help me. What does work for me is customizable Web address shortcuts. For example, just type g in the address field, hit Return, and up comes Google.

Yet another interesting and potentially useful wrinkle is a Web Inspector window that can display page detail information and a Network Timeline represented in color-coded bar graphs.

Cruz Web Inspector

There's more: built-in user scripting, user styles, single-window browsing mode, full-screen mode, integrated Gears-loading, custom user-agent strings, and custom window opacity/level/style.

Stable and Speedy

Despite being a 0.1 release, Cruz has proved to be quite stable. I've been running it now for about three weeks, using it a lot, and have had just one crash in that time and not much in the way of other unwelcome behavior. Cruz is also at least as fast as Safari, if not faster, which is to say satisfyingly speedy.

Negatives? Unfortunately, there is no bookmark import function yet, something I expect will be added in a later build. Session Restore, which I really can't abide being without anymore, is there already. It works great for routine shutdowns and startups, but for some reason was unable to recover the session I had open at the time of that one crash. Having two Macs in production service still running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger", I was also disappointed that Cruz requires Leopard, but one does have to eventually bow to the inevitable.

Good browser. Three stars with a bullet.

System requirements: OS X 10.5 Leopard

System Support: PPC/Intel


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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