Miscellaneous Ramblings

Web Browsers for OS X and the Classic Mac OS

Charles Moore - 2002.12.30 - Tip Jar

The Mac Night Owl, Gene Steinberg, has posted a couple of columns recently about his Web browser preferences. I find that people's taste in browsers tends to be idiosyncratic, and since 90-odd percent of Internet users choose - or more likely use by default - Microsoft's mediocre Internet Explorer, I guess there's no accounting for taste. Here are a few observations on my taste in browsers.

Personally, I pretty much ignore Internet explorer. I have it on my hard drive, residue of the Mac OS default install, but I all but never use it. I have iCab selected as by default browser in my Internet preferences, and there are a half-dozen or so other browsers I would start up before resorting to IE.

Like Gene Steinberg, I am smitten with the Open Source Chimera browser in OS X, which is lean, fast, very attractive, and supports tabbed browsing, which is the greatest browsing innovation in years. Chimera still has several shortcomings and missing features, but the speed will blow you away.

Unfortunately, when you save a Web page as plain text with Chimera, something I do a lot for research or later reading, it includes the HTML tags and ignores line breaks, which makes the resulting jumble of text pretty useless, so I can't use Chimera for a lot of my browsing needs.

As you might have guessed from my making it the default, the browser I most often turn to in both OS 9 and OS X when I need to get serious work done is iCab. This little German browser isn't the fastest, and it still has problems with some pages that demand JavaScript support, etc., but its stability, dependability, and solid basic feature set makes it the one I used most for Google searches, general research, posting articles to Applelinks, and software downloads.

I like iCab's Download Manager better than any other browser's download support, and I just generally like the way iCab works. As a practical, workhorse browser, iCab suits me best, and it has the advantage of supporting OS X, PowerPC Classic, and even 68K Classic, as well as being the smallest full-featured browser available. Unfortunately, no tabbed browsing yet.

The other browser I use a lot in both OS X and OS 9 it is Mozilla, which would likely be my choice for an all-round, Jack of all trades browser if I was obliged to settle for just one. Mozilla is also very fast - even slightly faster than Chimera (at least on my dial up connection) in some timed tests that I ran, although for some reason, Chimera feels faster. Mozilla also supports tabbed browsing, works on my banking websites, handles downloads satisfactorily, saves plain text properly, and is quite stable and dependable.

If one is so inclined, it also includes a Messenger email client and a Composer HTML authoring module. Its main deficiency is that it is huge, making it a formidable download over dial up connections. Unhappily, the Mozilla folks have announced that they will not be developing any more dedicated Classic versions of Mozilla, so the current version 1.2.1 is the last of the Mohicans for OS 9. [Sign the Mozilla for Mac OS Classic petition if you'd like to see this changed. dk]

Until the recent release of Netscape 7.0.1, most of what I just said about Mozilla could be applied to Netscape as well. Mozilla forms the base for Netscape 6 and later. I found Netscape 7.0 a very decent browser can both OS X and OS 9. However, I've been extremely disappointed with the 7.0.1 build, which is both buggy and ponderously slow. I suggest sticking with Mozilla, which seamlessly uses the same user configuration, bookmarks, etc., as Netscape.

There is also still old Netscape 4.8, a Classic Mac OS only browser, which I still use on my 200 MHz Umax S900 for the occasional pages that iCab can't handle. It really feels like a dinosaur browser these days, but it is reasonably capable, and at least it launches quickly.

As for other browsers, in OS X there is the Cocoa-based OmniWeb, which is the prettiest browser available - and which works very well, too, although it's not as fast as Chimera and Mozilla. OmniWeb has a following of tenaciously loyal fans, and it's worth checking out to see if you're potentially one of them.

Except for Internet Explorer, I have to say that my least favorite browser is Opera, which has some interesting features and is very customizable, but which has never clicked with me. However, some folks profess to really like Opera, and as with OmniWeb, it's worth checking this browser out to see if it appeals to you.

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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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