Miscellaneous Ramblings

The Best Browser for Recent Macs: Another View

Charles Moore - 2001.11.06 - Tip Jar

Evan Kleiman's column on the best browser for recent Macs made interesting reading, although I found some of his conclusions puzzling and substantially different dissonant with my own experience.

Netscape 6.2

First, Netscape 6 PR1, Evan? I make that four (or is it five?) Netscape 6 releases out of date. PR1 was indeed truly awful, but comparing it to Internet Explorer 5 is hardly fair ball, let alone relevant.

The just-released Netscape 6.2, and the current Mozilla 0.9.5 (Netscape 6 is based on Mozilla 0.9.4) still have of few rough edges to iron out, but they are as stable as the Rock of Gibraltar - on my PowerBook anyway.

I have been using Mozilla daily since the 0.9.2 release back in May, and it has never crashed or locked up on me yet. Internet Explorer 5, before I banished it from my hard drive last fall, was a relative crashorama, and my overall system stability improved remarkably when I mucked all the Microsoft shared library junk out of my System Folder.

I will concede that Internet Explorer 5 is, in terms of features and capabilities, probably the most comprehensively complete browser available for the Mac OS right now - if you can tolerate its bugginess, instability, and don't object to using Microsoft software, which I do.

However, I have never missed IE since purging it, and I never liked using it even when I had it installed.

iCab 2.6

iCab is my browser of choice for most things, although I do hope they get JavaScript fully implemented soon, as lately I have been running into more and more websites that won't respond to iCab. In such cases, I just switch to Mozilla, and I have not yet encountered any site where one or the other of these browsers couldn't do the job. Since they are both free, there's no reason not to have one of each.

If push came to shove, and neither Netscape 6/Mozilla or iCab was available, I would still use Netscape 4.7.8 (which Evan didn't mention at all in this article), in preference to IE on the basis of its performance and smooth refinement alone. However, Netscape 6/Mozilla are now at a level of development where they can displace classic Netscape if you have the hardware capacity to run them properly. I still recommend Netscape 4.7.8 to folks with less powerful Macs, along with iCab.

Opera

Another browser Evan didn't mention is Opera, which is beginning to shape up in its Mac version to be a very satisfactory alternative to Internet Explorer. I just downloaded the latest Preview 4 version of Opera. The Preview 3 build was still a bit too crash-prone for my liking, although it has lots of cool features and is quite fast.

Bottom line, Internet Explorer, which Evan recommends as the best choice, is a passably decent browser, but I'm convinced that Netscape/Mozilla is now a viable, fast, and stable alternative, and used in tandem with iCab, there is virtually nothing on the Web that you won't be able to handle.

For general-purpose browsing, I personally prefer the speedy and quick iCab which (like IE) can save Web pages as Web archives or plain text, has an excellent Download Manager, and handles history and its hotlist better than any browser, IMHO.

And Opera is showing plenty of promise.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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