The Best Browser for Older Macs
Evan Kleiman - 2001.10.29
Q. What is the best browser for my older Mac?
A. There are many different browsers out there for your computer, both old and new: Netscape, IE, iCab, and Lynx, among others. But which one is the best for your system?
Many of us still use an older Mac to do our Web browsing, since it doesn't really require that much power. The only reason we think it does is because of the huge memory requirements of browsers such as Netscape 6.0 and IE 5.0. But if you don't really need to do anything big or that complicated, IE 5 is not necessary, nor is a computer to support it.
iCab is one of my browsers because of it's simple to use interface, easy features, and the fact that it will run on pretty much anything. All it requires is a System 7 and a minimum of 5 MB of installed RAM.
iCab has many of the more important features of smaller browsers in its category such as Java and Java script support and tables, graphics, etc., just like any other browser. However, it also offers many extra cool features, such as the ability to change icons or the tool bar. Lastly, iCab allows you to pretend that you are using a different browser via its control panel. This lets you pretend that you are using IE 5 or Netscape 6, since some Web sites don't allow certain browsers in. This feature will stop Web sites from doing that.
iCab is best for the older Power Macintosh or any color 68030 or 68040 system. You'll probably want at least System 7.5 and a little more RAM than it suggests for optimum performance.
While the current version of Internet explorer is 5.0sr1, you can still get older versions that are compatible with your older Mac. My current older favorite is Version 2.0b1. It has all the features you'll need to view pages and check your email. The version I've downloaded off of Pure-Mac even included Eudora Light 1.5.4, so you can even use your older computer to get email, too.
In the end, this isn't the best browser you can get for your older system - I prefer iCab or even Lynx - but it's the best you can get if you must have Internet Explorer.
Older versions of IE (as well as Netscape) are good for any kind of 68020 or above computer. Use it if you want a little more familiarity with the browser than those who use iCab. Remember, it's also tried and true, so you know it will work almost everywhere, unlike iCab, which is still in its beta form.
While Netscape 6.x seems to be a ogre for memory, the older versions were faster and more compatible with older computers. My favorite for the older system is Netscape 3.0, which is available at Pure-Mac, too, just like IE.
Netscape 3.0 has many advantages over Netscape 2.0, with pretty much close to the same requirements, even though it will not run as quickly on some older systems.
In the end, any older version of Netscape (other than Netscape 1), will be good for your system. If you want the familiarity of a "brand name" browser instead of something like iCab, then this is your best bet.
Netscape 3.0 is best for those of you, like the IE users, who want a more modern browser for their older system but seem to have an aversion to IE and Microsoft products. However, I still find that Netscape of that era was in better shape than Internet Explorer and will probably be more compatible with the Internet now.
MacLynx is a program designed for text browsing. This is good for Macs such as a Mac Plus, and it doesn't even require a mouse to run, since it is all text (and keyboard) based. It's all black and white as well, so it's not like you'd even be missing out on anything for the color screens of anything about an SE/30.
In the end, the Mac version of Lynx is probably best for anyone using a "somewhat ancient" computer, such as an SE/30 or even a Mac Plus with few resources available for browsing - and not having a color screen hinders it in no way.
MacLynx is best for anyone using an older system that is pre-color or just only wants text-only viewing.
I recommend never using the built in browser with AOL 3.0 and above, because when the browser (IE 3, 4, or 5) crashes, so does AOL, and then you get knocked off-line. There's nothing you really can do about it if you have AOL 2.7 or lower, or if you just don't have the memory or hard drive space, because AOL 2.7 and lower just won't let you use an outside browser (maybe there's some kind of fix out there), and if you don't have the resources, you just can't use the program.
My pick for the best browser on an older Mac is iCab. It offers many of the features of the other browsers as well as some of the advanced features of newer browsers. It is also stable and has a low memory footprint.
In the end, as you can see, it really is easy to get on the Internet on any kind of computer, even a Mac Plus or SE/30. Even the old Macs can have fun on the Net too!
Not sure if you should upgrade your old Mac or replace it? Check the Mac Daniel index to see if we've already addressed your problem.
- Mac of the Day: Performa 550, introduced 1993.10.18. The color all-in-one Mac reaches 33 MHz.
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Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
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the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ