Omniweb? Omniweb!


I have to admit, ever since Safari came out for Mac OS X (even during its preview and beta stage), I never truly looked at another browser. I use Firefox and Camino every now and then, but Safari’s text rendering and user experience were always superior.

5.0 never saw the light of my desktop either. It was way behind in terms of rendering engine. The Omni Group decided they need to ship their own version of WebKit because of some of the more advanced features they implemented and as such the application simply cannot immediately benefit from changes and progress the Safari developers make.

Yesterday, I took Omniweb 5.1 for a test drive. The final version of 5.1 has been out for no more than 5 days now. It doesn’t really come with an armada of new features (text zooooooom aside, which is nifty to say the least) but it comes with an updated rendering engine. And apparently a lot of effort was put into bringing it back to par with Safari.

What can I say. I’m hooked.

Although several reviews of Omniweb 5.0 have already been published, I’m trying to spotlight some of my major hooking points to Omniweb 5.1.

Omniweb51 Workspaces-1-1

  1. Workspaces

Workspaces separate your daily tasks by.. well.. task. I setup myself with a workspace, an ADC workspace, and a Default one for all the rest. For now. I’m sure there’ll be a couple more coming.

The neat thing is, everything attached to different workspaces just moves out of the way if you switch to another workspace. And switching workspaces is as simple as hitting one of your F-Keys. It even remembers screen positioning of the browser window(s) and allows you to take snapshots of the currently loaded URLs to be able to snap back (isn’t that a Safari term?) to that previously stored configuration. Really good.

Omniweb51 Tabs-1

  1. Graphical tabs

Tabs might be one of the best inventions for web browsing since sliced bread. All modern browsers (‘cept \*cough\* Internet Explorer \*cough\) have them.

Omniweb takes them a step further though. You get graphical tabs that have miniaturized screenshots of the corresponding web page as a visual identifier attached to them. Omniweb’s tabs run across the vertical side of the browser window (as opposed to the horizontal variant the rest of the world uses).

The screensnap thing is purely optional, too. If you prefer the title only, so be it.

Tabs in Omniweb can also be rearranged by dragging them around, moved to different windows, closed with a single click even if they’re not the current tab (hello Firefox!) and URLs can be dragged right onto them.

  1. Miscellaneous

Omniweb comes with many features, Safari users can only get access to by using third party extensions such as Saft (which is nice overall, but it’s third party, requires a license fee and needs to be hacked up to support every new version of Safari). I’m talking about things like “always open new pages in tabs”, type-ahead support, saved browser sessions, etc.

Other eyecatchers include:

  • a “real” text editor for textareas in HTML forms—it zooms right out of the form into a resizable window with the ability to import any text file on your harddisk, spellchecking and undo support.
  • per-site preferences—you can control font sizes, popup-blocking behavior, cookie management in most modern browsers. In Omniweb, you can controll it on a *per site basis
  • .Mac syncing of bookmarks—Safari might be the only browser developed by Apple, but that didn’t prevent the Omni Group from finding a way to synchronize your bookmarks through your .Mac iDisk similar to what NetNewsWire will get for 2.0 final. Omniweb also imports your current Safari bookmarks in the blink of an eye.

Omniweb51 Toolbar-1

After all the praise, I have one request: The toolbar icons are ugly to say the least (I’m mainly talking about the quadruple of back/forward/reload/stop buttons)—can we please get a replacement here? Jon Hicks? Anyone?

Update 11/01:** Due to a harddisk crash I lost the comments to this entry. Sorry.

Update #2 11/01: One of the lost comments actually pointed out that Jon Hicks did indeed make some replacement icons for Omniweb—thanks Ryan.

Filed Under: Software