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Mac Musings

A Promising New Browser

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- 1999.03.02 - Tip Jar

Have you heard about iCab, the new shareware web browser from Germany?

With Internet Exploder and Netscrape Communicator (sorry, couldn't resist) available at no charge, what are they thinking?

Frankly, Microsoft and Eudora both have free email clients, but I'm sticking with Claris Emailer. It handles several email accounts with alacrity, has powerful filters, and works very comfortably.

That's worth money.

Font Size

iCab shows that some programmers think different about browsers. Netscape lets you choose your default font size, but I've found you can crash Netscape by changing that and not quitting and restarting the browser.

Internet Explorer lets you pick larger and smaller type, within a very limited range of sizes, but it never lets you set a default font size such as 12 points. iCab works both ways: you define your default font and size, but then you can increase or decrease to your heart's content.

Considering the number of Windows sites with "size = -2" type, this is a blessing. That was the first feature I noticed that I really like - and that clearly sets iCab a step ahead of the competition.

HTML 4.0

If you're a webmaster, you know that many programs (including Claris Home Page 3, which I use to create this site) don't produce HTML code that's fully compliant with the HTML 4.0 specification. It works, but because HTML is an evolving standard, there's no promise that pre-4.0 code will display properly on tomorrow's browsers.

iCab displays an un-smiley face (a red face with a frown) when you're viewing a noncompliant page. Better yet, it will tell you where your code is noncompliant.

The Footprint

Not only does iCab have a small footprint on your hard drive (2 MB), but it doesn't cry out for 8 MB or more memory. In fact, on a Power Mac with virtual memory enabled, it can runin 2 MB (if not, it wants 3MB). And for owners of legacy Macs, the iCab programmers are developing a 68K version of their browser.

Imagine running an HTML 4.0 compliant browser on a PowerBook with only 4 MB of memory.

The Danger

One feature of iCab that I don't appreciate is the ability to block graphics of certain sizes (such as the most commonly used banner sizes) or from certain sources. While it sounds nice, using this will have a negative effect on sites that rely on banner ads for income.

Besides, sometimes those banners lead to a great new site or a nice bargain.

Overall, iCab has a lot to commend it. It's still rough around the edges, still under development, but worth a look. I think iCab could easily grow into something you'd gladly pay to put on your Macintosh.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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