Old Browser Worth Revisiting

April 4th, 2009  |  Published in etc

I bought a license for OmniWeb a while back. It was one of those purchases that I never regretted, even as Camino, Safari and Firefox slowly caught up to it. It just slowly lost its edge over the rest of them, until the purchase made sense only in the context of how rotten browsing on OS X had once been. Now it’s free, but OmniGroup keeps on working on it.

Once you remove the price tag, it’s competitive again. If you can live without Firefox’s extensibility, you end up with something that does more than either Camino or Safari out of the box.

Even though there are ways to add to Safari’s basic functionality with plugins like Saft and Glims, I prefer OmniWeb’s own suite of extras because they’re part of the core product.

Some stuff to like about OmniWeb:

  • Ad-blocking preferences that include “Matching known ad sizes” and “From third-party sites.” The latter is nice because it kills images for sites that seem like they ought to be faster, but aren’t because they’re pulling images in from elsewhere, like Google News.

  • Per-site preferences. Some sites have odd typography, produce pop-up windows you actually want, have third-party images you’d like to see or have ads you don’t mind loading. With OmniWeb, you can tweak these settings (and plenty of others) by domain.

  • Sidebar for tabs: OmniWeb has a tab bar, but it runs down the side and shows thumbnails of the sites. It was an idea ahead of its time that makes much more sense now that most displays are widescreen.

  • Zoomed text areas: Since TextMate comes with a plugin that handles this, it’s less of a feature for me these days. All the same, it’s pretty nice to be able to edit form text in a small, detached window you can resize.

  • Spiffy code-highlighting source viewer/editor that lets you edit any Web page and see the results of your edits in-browser. It also offers reformatting and compacting buttons to tidy or compress the markup.

You can find something for Safari or Firefox that reproduces any of this functionality, more or less, but the difference, again, is that it’s just part of the basic browser in OmniWeb. All those features are part of the test cycle, and they won’t come or go with every update.

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