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OmniWeb

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OmniWeb

OmniWeb is an advanced web browser, written in Cocoa, which uses Mac OS X's rendering engine just like Apple's own web browser, Safari. But OmniWeb adds a lot of extra flexibility and configurability beyond Safari.

As I write this addition to this page OmniWeb 5.5 beta 1 is the latest version. Omni seem to be on the right track with this update. There aren't many new features, but the performance and reliability seem to be significantly better. The rendering speed is impressive, and delays when changing tabs, etc seem to be gone. Its a really useful performance improvement. This version is also very stable, especially for a beta. Previously OmniWeb would crash a bit - not a lot, but more than Safari. Now after a week of intense use I have had no crashes at all.

This is a list of what I consider to be OmniWeb's advantages (mainly compared with Safari which is the new standard browser for Mac OS X)...

It is fast. Even faster than Safari which is faster than most other browsers.
It is reliable. The current version is very stable, although earlier versions weren't so good.
It is easy to use even though it has many advanced features.
It has tabbed browsing in a drawer at the side of the main window. Better than Safari's, I think.
Auto fill works well. Its flexible and configurable, but sometimes not as smart as Safari.
The Java works well in most cases but there are still a few sites which fail on this.
Javascript is quite reliable, but like other browsers it can't be relied on 100% of the time.
Its written in Cocoa, so it interacts with other programs better.
It only works on Mac OS X. It isn't a program designed for another platform.
Omni have been writing programs like this longer than Apple. They are very good!

Unfortunately there are a few disadvantages as well...

Its big and takes a bit longer than Safari to launch.
Compatibility with badly designed sites is probably a bit less than Safari.
Its not free.

Note that it might be inevitable that compatibility issues will always be with us. Many web developers aren't actually that competent. As long as their site works on Internet Explorer 6 on a Windows XP PC they think it is correct. Well many aren't, but they either don't care or can't fix the bugs and badly designed sites they have created. These problems particularly apply to Java and Javascript.

Features

OmniWeb's handling of tabs (multiple web pages open simultaneously in their own tab in the main window) is very nice. The pages are shown in a drawer at the side of the main window, either as miniature pictures of the page, or as the name of the page. It is easy to handle 10, 20 or even more pages open at the same time. Other browsers don't do this as well. Displaying a miniature version of the page is particularly cool.

Tabs

The picture above shows two ways to view the web pages you currently have open. Both appear in the tabs drawer, which appears at the left or right of the main window. The list view (left) is good if you have lots of pages open simultaneously (as I usually do) because you can see the name of 30 or 40 pages without scrolling. The picture view (at right) gives good recognition, but you need to scroll it if you have lots of pages open.

Preferences can be set for individual sites. You can change the handling of the page display, fonts, ad blocking, animations, preferred languages, animations and security for any site without affecting others.

Shortcuts can be set up to access common sites. For example, I type g to go to Google. This approach is fast and easy, even for large numbers of shortcuts. The bookmark system is also quite advanced, and can be accessed through a list like Safari, or through the more traditional menus. Bookmarks can be checked for changes at user-defined intervals. There is also a shared bookmark system.

OmniWeb can set up workspaces which are collections of web sites which can be opened together. For example, i have a set of sites I go to when I want to look for answers to technical questions about computer, another set for general news, a set for information about programming, etc.

OmniWeb can even be used to create web pages. there is a source editor built in with full syntax colouring and syntax error detection. The page can be previewed as you work on it and uploaded to your web server. Its quite a useful feature for making quick changes to pages although I still use BBEdit as my main web page creation tool.

You can download OmniWeb and use it with a trial license (basically fully functional) for a trial period. Even after that you can still use it with a few minor annoyances. Buy a license though, having a good web browser is important in this Internet-centric age and power users will appreciate the extra functionality of OmniWeb.

Discussion

Comment by Les on 2006-12-17 at 14:57:09: I have used OmniWeb too but I don't think its so much better than Safari that I should pay for it. Also I thought it was a bit buggy. It crashed a lot on some sites.

Comment by OJB on 2007-03-02 at 17:16:19: I use OmniWeb all day on my machine, often with 20 to 30 web pages open simultaneously. Apart from some cosmetic bugs it never gives me any problems. Maybe you were using an older version. The version I'm currently using is 5.5.4 and I'm running it on a MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz with 2G of RAM.


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