OmniWeb 5 beta 1: Looking good, but not really usable

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 2nd, 2004 • 8:46 am

I’ve just downloaded the recently released first beta of OmniWeb 5. As far as looks are concerned, the application definitely lives up to expectations. It’s a very nice Cocoa application that is, in fact, much more consistent with Mac OS X interface standards than Apple’s own Safari is.

As a Mac geek, my first trip was to the “Preferences…” dialog, which offers an vast array of adjustable settings. Even more exciting to me, however, is the fact that you can define site-specific settings. It’s a brilliant idea that give back to the user some of the power that the recent evolution in web browser technology had taken away.

I also like the idea of putting tabs in a drawer, with thumbnail views of the sites as they are loading.

I won’t be using this beta for day-to-day browsing, however, because it suffers from several obvious flaws. The first one is that it appears to be based on an older version of the WebCore engine that is also used by Safari. For example, the drop shadows in my CSS for this page are not supported.

More important, however, it is far too easy to make the application become unresponsive. I typically want to open a number of sites at the same time and, since I am on a modem connection, this can take a while. The problem is that OmniWeb frequently switches to “spinning pizza” mode during the process, meaning that you cannot do anything in OmniWeb while the pages are loading. I often want to look at pages as they are loading, because if I see from what has been loaded already that the page doesn’t contain anything interesting, I just stop the downloading process for the page before it’s complete. OmniWeb cannot be used that way. Of course, you can still switch to another application and do something else while the pages are loading in OmniWeb, but that’s multitasking, not multithreading. A web browser needs to fully support both.

Safari never becomes unresponsive while pages are loading. You can still switch from window to window or from tab to tab to see what’s going on and do stuff. So for now OmniWeb 5 is just an interesting curiosity. Here’s hoping that future betas will fix the responsiveness problems.

2 Responses to “OmniWeb 5 beta 1: Looking good, but not really usable”

  1. Clint MacDonald says:

    Pierre said, “Safari never becomes unresponsive while pages are loading. You can still switch from window to window or from tab to tab to see what’s going on and do stuff.”

    Not true! If I load pages containing many images (say, more than 200) or a huge amount of text (such as those from the GenBank databases of human chromosomal sequences), Safari becomes completely unresponsive, the spinning kaleidoscope appears, my CPU usage goes through the roof, and other applications slow noticeably. (This is all on a DSL connection, not dial-up.) Under these conditions, I cannot close or open tabs, switch to another Safari window, or do much of anything.

    The same pages do not cause undue problems with, say, iCab (which, while not standards compliant, has many nice, low-profile features).

    Best wishes,

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I see. But you’re talking about a very specific case here. I never have any problems with any of the sites I visit — but of course it is only my experience. How does OW5 fare with the GenBank site? :-)

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.