Embracing Obsolescence

Web Browser Tips for the Classic Mac OS

- 2006.01.03

I received some great feedback from the Low End Mac readers in regards to our Classic Mac OS Web series.

WaMCom, Mozilla 1.2.1, and the alternate Mozilla port of 1.3.1 were well regarded. All versions have some odd bugs, but nothing too severe, mostly some small interface issues.

One reader had some very interesting notes on Internet Explorer. In fact, his website (in German, our English adaptation below) contains some good notes overall. I still say Internet Explorer is an okay browser with some neat features, but I do miss tabs, popup blocking, and a few other extras.

Also, I find Internet Explorer is a tad unstable on my Macs. If you can get Internet Explorer running stable for you, by all means give it a try. Microsoft is discontinuing support for Internet Explorer on the Mac, so you might want to grab the download while you can.

Another reader found Netscape 4.x to be very lacking in comparison to the other browsers. Also, while limited, Netscape 3 did a better job for our reader with basic browsing. You can even add Flash and QuickTime support by copying the plugins from Netscape 4.x to Netscape 3. Thanks for the tips, Chris.

Also, Opera 5 had a few fans - over Opera 6.0.3 anyway - but the fans did not suggest using Opera over WaMCom, iCab, or even Internet Explorer. Opera 5 may prove to be more stable than 6.0.3, but it lacks tabs or a password manager. It seems to have some page rendering issues as well. That's understandable, as Opera 5 is now 3 versions old.

Keep the comments coming. I don't have much information on Netscape 6 or 7, and I believe both are available for PPC Macs running the classic Mac OS.

Also, any suggestions for good chat, FTP, or other web applications would be greatly appreciated.

Appendix: Web Browsers for Mac OS 8 and 9

Adapted from Web Browser für Mac OS 8 und 9 with a lot of help from the Google translation.

The selection of Web Browsers for the classic Mac OS is reduced - iCab is the only up-to-date one still being developed. With a little "tuning" of the available browsers serve as passable Internet programs:

  • Assign the program of more memory.
  • Turn off virtual memory.
  • Use a RAM disk and store the browser's cache there.
  • If you connect by Modem/PPP, set the name server address to automatic configuration in the TCP/IP control panel.
  • Now and then examine whether the name server address still matches your current ISP.
  • Be sure you've installed the CarbonLib version 1.6 system extension.

The following browsers are available:

Internet Explorer

Stably and fast, with print preview, variable text size, configurable symbol border, and much more. For PowerPC-based Macs running Mac OS 8 or later. (Download IE 5.1). The Mac versions will no longer be available from Microsoft after January 2006 (info).


  • You can search the Internet from the address box: Simply enter a question mark, a blank space, and the search word in the address field.
  • With JavaScript switched on, activate the "reference in case of errors" option, otherwise you can't break out of a poorly programmed script ("options: Web contents: Active contents: Active scripts").


  • Clean, new install of the program (info).
  • Examine and/or recreate the Desktop file (e.g. with TechTool Lite).
  • Replace Apple's "Internet Config Extension" with a fresh original (download).
  • If you have several partitions, install the program on the one you boot from.
  • Simply wait: some problems are caused "on the other side of the line".
  • Change to another ISP.

Further optimization:

  • Store the History.html file on a RAM disk and put an alias to it at the original position in the System Folder (Preferences: Explorer).
  • Make an alias of the RAM disk and name it Temporary Files. Use the alias to replace Temporary Files in Preferences: Explorer.


  • Converter for IE archive files (WAX/WAC)


iCab is a fast browser with great functionality and small system requirements (info, download iCab).


Netscape and its descendants (Mozilla, Firefox) are only being updated for OS X, however older versions also run under Mac OS 8 and 9.



WannaBe is a text-based web browser for Apple Macintosh with which one can explore the Internet. Search queries are handled using the Sherlock plugin. For complete viewing of sites (with graphics, style sheets, etc.), URLs can be passed to another browser. The program is extraordinarily stably and fast (download WannaBe).



Beside Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, Opera is also available for Mac OS 8 and 9 (download Opera).


The best display font to help prevent eye strain is Geneva. By switching the "Text smoothing" option off in the Appearance control panel (in OS 8.5 and later), the display may look sharper.

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