2 Browsers, an Email Client, and a 68k Mac

2005 – Much has been made in recent weeks about the dearth of acceptable Web solutions for legacy Macs. To some extent, I agree with the position taken suggesting older Macs are in fact limited by their software in an increasingly connected, global community.

However, I find there remain several very good, existing solutions for pre-OS X Macs. Obviously, my choices are colored by my own needs and work flow. However, I think the applications listed in this two-part introduction will either find a home or will already be at home, on the Macs of many Low End Mac readers.

Part one focuses on the 68k Mac platform, but the information should prove useful to any pre-OS X Mac user.

While there is no one perfect browser for 68k Macs, arguably there is no perfect browser on any platform. There are two applications which do a credible job of filling the gap – iCab 2.9.8 and WannaBe.


For a good three-fourths of my web browsing, I use WannaBe. If you are of a similar mind and believe web browsing actually entails browsing, WannaBe will serve you well.

WannaBe browser

WannaBe’s layout and design is clean, simple, and effective. I found myself spending very little time getting to know how the browser operated.

WannaBe download windowWhen you start the application, you are presented with a URL field and a simple window. When a URL is loaded, the window displays the text sans accouterment. No Java, JavaScript, CSS, tables, frames, Flash, sounds, images, or anything else to distract one from extracting relevant information from the text within.

Everything extraneous is abandoned for the sake of speed and simplicity.

Most URLs will work, assuming no JavaScript is needed, and images receive a place holder link, allowing you to download them to disk for separate viewing. Downloading files from sites that don’t need login information is possible as well. The process is easy: Simply click on the link and a window will pop up detailing the files size and progress rate.

Open page with iCabWhen you do come across a site where you need to log in, or if WannaBe simply refuses to load, select Open This Page In under the Go menu. Not coincidentally, iCab is one of the default browsers to select as a helper application.

The key to WannaBe’s continued success is its plug-in architecture. Those familiar with Apple’s Sherlock – especially Sherlock 2 – will understand how useful it is to have plug-ins for searching specific websites. WannaBe uses the same format for developing plug-ins as Sherlock 2.

While Sherlock is a stand-alone application that doesn’t need a separate web browser, WannaBe uses Sherlock 2 plug-ins to enhance and extend its functionality. The developer was kind enough to included a nice starter set of plug-ins. There are many sources for extra plug-ins which we will explore in a future article.

iCab 2.9.8

This leads us to iCab, the second half of our dynamic duo. Other graphical browsers may be available for 68k Macs, but iCab 2.9.8. is the only one to see any sort of development effort in recent years.

If I am not mistaken, both Charles W Moore and Dan Knight also have high regard for this little browser. (Yes, I felt the need to reach to a higher source, since I have not yet established a reputation comparable to my esteemed colleagues.)

If you are still doubtful as to why iCab 2.9.8 is worth a look, here are some more reasons:

  • Tabs – the only 68k browser with tabs
  • Customizable interface – move, add, and remove interface elements (buttons, URL field, search field, etc.)
  • JavaScript filters – useful for getting rid of annoying popups, popunders, etc.
  • Filter Manager – a flexible way to fine tune browsing preferences for spec
  • Modest system requirements, although you can’t ever have too much RAM.

I’d suggest spending a couple days playing with the preferences and fine tuning iCab to fit your work flow. In fact, I’ll spend time detailing my own iCab setup in a future article. Fun stuff indeed.

Unfortunately, all is not rosy with iCab 2.9.8. Many pages are not rendered correctly or have limited features because CSS, Java, and JavaScript are in various stages of implementation. Further, development has halted for the time being on the 68k version, but there is some hope that maybe one day the new features can be backported from the iCab 3.0 beta (more information on iCab 3.0 beta to follow in the PPC section).

Although continued development on the 68k version is not likely, there is enough substance to make do. iCab 2.9.8 remains the only credible graphical web browser for 68k Macs.


The last of the web trifecta is SweetMail. SweetMail is a very nice email client, with one big advantage over other email clients – SMTP authentication. Many ISPs and email services require authentication to validate you are indeed the user, and not a spammer. The dubious benefits in preventing SPAM aside, SweetMail is one of only two email clients providing this feature for 68k Macs. I believe Musashi may be the other, but SweetMail is freeware. True, I am a cheap fellow.

Beyond the necessity to authenticate outgoing email and the great price – free – SweetMail has flexible customization options. You can set keyboard shortcuts, items to display, filters, mailboxes, address book shortcuts, and many more small, clever touches make SweetMail a joy to use. Fast, flexible, and stable, there is nothing better.

My advice to customize your SweetMail work flow in order to improve productivity:

  • Use the address book to enable shortcuts in order to avoid excessive typing every time you need to address an email.
  • Be aggressive with your filters. When your mail arrives, let the software do your sorting for you.
  • If there are keyboard shortcuts, use them. If not, set up keyboard shortcuts for frequently used tasks. No need to keep reaching for the mouse or trackpad.

Even with these three applications, there are holes in the 68k software library for interacting with the Web. I hope I’ve presented a few ways to keep older Macs running strong.

My next article will focus on the PowerPC side of the fence. After we get these introductory pieces completed, we’ll delve into more specific ways to keep our platform, pre-OS X Macs, viable despite with the increased abandonment by Mac developers.

OS X may be the present and future, but we do not have to abandon the past. Why throw the baby out with the bath water?

Keywords: #wannabe #icab #sweetmail

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