Mac Musings

More Thoughts on Mac Browsers

Daniel Knight - 2001.11.27

I've received a lot of feedback on The Best Browser for the Classic Mac OS. I'll cover them in the same order I discussed the browsers in that article. Note that these comments apply to the classic Mac OS, since I don't have OS X on my PowerBook.

Netscape 4.7.x

My biggest complaint about Netscape is that it forces you to use its own email client. I prefer Claris Emailer, so that's been a big drawback. Two or three readers sent in hacks that let you modify Netscape to use another email program. Nice, but it would be even nicer if the program had that capability all by itself and didn't require a hack.

Internet Explorer 5

Except for the crashing, I really do like IE 5. Well, it's kinda slow, and there is a tendency to put lots of empty space at the end of a Web page (what's up with that?), but it plays nice with Emailer, displays well, tracks my eBay auctions, and mostly just works.

One writer suggested that the crashes weren't the fault of Internet Explorer, but of the pages I was visiting. I'm sure that's the case, but the point is that a browser should be engineered to gracefully give up on poorly coded pages, not lock up the program or even the whole computer.

iCab 2.6

Thanks to several readers who pointed out that iCab does support secure pages. Older versions didn't, so preferences were set to use an alternate browser when accessing secure pages. By changing the Internet Protocols to allow HTTPS, iCab is now working beautifully with secure pages.

Opera 5 beta

Opera may be the fastest browser on earth - or not. Its betas are certainly the fastest expiring; I had to install a clean new version to launch it yesterday. Opera definitely thinks different, providing a different visual interface than Netscape, Internet Explorer, and iCab. Different may not be worse, but it is disconcerting.

Opera 5.0b4.411 also displays headings in a much smaller type than the other browsers. For instance, all the "large" headings (H1, H2, H3) appear the same size as regular text text; on all the other browsers, H3 is one size larger than regular text, H2 a size larger, and H1 a size beyond that. At least that's the way it behaves on LEM pages. Not good at all.

Netscape 6.2

The hack mentioned above also works with Netscape 6.2. The browser has a nice display, takes a long time to load, and wants 30 MB of RAM (on my VM-disabled TiBook). It's a nice step in the right direction, but I sure wish they'd speed up launching and cut the memory footprint. (I wonder if removing the unnecessary email client and HTML editor would help.)

Another gripe: It always opens with "My Sidebar" open on the left. I've looked for a preference to turn that off, but no luck so far.


Because we try to keep up on what's happening around the Mac Web, a URL manager (not just a set of bookmarks) is a very helpful tool. I settled on Jeremy Kezer's WebChecker years ago and find it nearly perfect. Alas, it doesn't work with iCab, just Netscape and IE. That keeps me using Internet Explorer, the only Microsoft application I use daily. (I have Word to open Word files, but that's all I use Word for. For better or worse, it has become the default word processing format.)

I like iCab and use it a fair bit, but the incompatibility with WebChecker may be the only thing that keeps me from making it my default browser. (I've asked Jeremy Kezer to do what he can to address that. I hope he'll be able to make it iCab compatible.)

As I noted in my first look at iCab, "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."

But for now, I'll continue using both IE 5 and iCab, anticipating the day when I can use iCab all of the time.