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Goodbye Camino

It’s bittersweet to see the official announcement, but the Camino Browser project is finally coming to an end.

I first discovered Camino shortly after the first public beta of Safari. Until then, I hadn’t been aware of alternatives, but Camino soon became my default browser. I loved it for its nimble feel and Mozilla features, but with a native Mac UI. It was through my messing around with Camino icons that I got asked to work on the Firefox logo, and the rest is history.

Over the years I helped out on the graphics when Jasper Hauser left to work on MadebySofa (and now Facebook), created the first Camino website, as well as set up PimpmyCamino.com. Sadly, when my host upgraded their server (two years ago now), PimpmyCamino (and The Rissington Podcast) databases were corrupted, and despite constant requests to restore from backups, Segpub never did, and the site died. Lesson learnt about about keeping regular backups of your own :(

Camino was always a volunteer project, and the browser landscape has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. While the end was inevitable, I’m grateful to everyone who spent time on the project. I enjoyed working on it and using it, and learned a lot in the process.

Camino 1.6

While I was away at FOWD, Camino 1.6 was released, with lovely new features like the find bar (at last!), OpenSearch support, and many more. Wonderful stuff!

In particular though, I had a lump in my throat at the new homepage screenshot, that apparently was taken for me:

Camino.%20Mozilla%20Power,%20Mac%20Style

Very touching! :D

Camino One Point Five

Much kudos the Camino developers – Camino 1.5 is released today. With so many new features, such as RSS detection and Session Saving (Ha! Take that one Safari!) it was decided that this was a 1.5, rather than a 1.1 release.

I love Camino. In February last year I wrote about being a Browser Polygamist but only a few days after that post, Camino became my default, and a year and half later, it still is. I never thought that would happen. You can keep your whines about ‘lack of Firefox extensions’, Camino’s Mozilla power and Mac style hits the spot for me everytime. What’s more, its only going to get better.

Camino, Wordpress, and the liberation of pre-made templates

For a while I’d been toying with the idea of a PimpMyCamino with people from the Mozillazine forums. The backend would be easy enough – just copy PimpMySafari’s Textpattern database tables, and take it from there. However, I became stuck. Not with the content, but with the site design.

As a designer, I felt the expectation was on me to come up with something unique for the site. And so it was for months that ‘PMC’ wouldn’t get off the ground because I never had time to design it.

The project only became unstuck once I decided to give Wordpress a try and use someone else’s pre made theme templates (in this case, the lovely Hemingway). This meant that developement time was cut down to a real minimum. I could simply upload a folder to the site, select it in my preferences, and the site was there, ready for content to be added. While on the one hand I felt guilty, the liberation of being able to get a site up and running in small space of time was incredible. The real work in PMC came when ‘the others’ (Karlheinz, the creator of CamiTools, and David Feare, who had been running a site listing themes and optimised builds for Camino) added the content.

It also gave me the chance to really get to grips with Wordpress. I haven’t tried it since v1.2, when I was originally looking for a replacement for using Textpattern. It was an interesting experience, and I just want to share a wee list of good and bad experiences with it.

What I like about Wordpress

  • The fact that I can upload images in the write window, choose whether to add it as a linked thumbnail or full-size image, and then insert the code into my post.
  • The templating system is genius. Being able to upload a folder to your server, and choose a different site layout and style is something Textpattern needs to attract people looking for a quick solution to get them up an running.
  • Posting by email!
  • Support for multiple categories, with clean category URLs. Yum.
  • Easy static pages, with the ability to nest them, and order them.
  • I didn’t like the default admin interface, but the TIger admin theme by Steve Smith makes using Wordpress enjoyable.
  • Wordpress’s category system can reproduce TXP’s sections functionality to an extent (but I still prefer the TXP way).

What I didn’t…

  • The tag system. After the logic of TXP’s beautiful XML style tag system. Wordpress’s PHP code was a realshock. Fortunately, relying on a pre-made template meant that I didn’t need to get my hands dirty with its code too much. While I get the feeling that those familiar with PHP would find it more flexible and powerful, as a designer, I’d take TXP tags any day.
  • Textpattern has a good file upload/download system that I really miss in Wordpress.
  • The root of a Wordpress install is whole heap of files. Fortunately, there is a way of moving everything to its own directory, but it would be nice to have a cleaner install in the first place.
  • I missed TXP’s ‘reset timestamp to now’ function. In WP, to make a post go to the top (for when a plugin is updated for example) I had to manually re-enter the date.
  • When editing posts, there is no easy way to go to the previous or next entry from that screen, you have to return to the ‘manage’ page first.
  • Editing User options (without changing the password) requires you to make the password textfield (which has been auto-filled) blank. If you forgot to do this, the next screen would warn you of the error, and send you back to the page with your changes lost. Grrr! I really think the field should empty in the first place.

For hicksdesign, I still prefer to use Textpattern, but I’ve enjoyed seeing life from the other side.

As for PimpMyCamino, its still very early days, but unlike PimpMySafari, this will be a community driven site, not relying on me to keep it updated!

Camino 1.0!

I never thought this would really happen, but today Camino is finally 1.0. I hope you’ll allow me a moment to celebrate this, and explain why if you’re a Mac user, you should have a copy of Camino in your applications folder.

Camino released on Valentines Day 2006

What is Camino?

If you’re not familiar with Camino, first a little background. Camino is an open source browser that embeds the Gecko rendering engine in a native Cocoa interface, instead of the XUL that Firefox uses. This means it doesn’t support Firefox’s extensions, but, it does integrate more with OS X than Firefox (for example opening URLs in Camino via the Services menu or from Apple Address Book). More background information on all that here. Unlike Firefox, Camino, looks, feels and behaves like a true Mac browser, in fact, it was the first OS X only. It has a clean, well designed mac interface with superb crisp icons and some features that Safari lacks.

A few months ago, I wrote about how I was impressed with the recent Camino nightly builds, and how far it’d come since I’d stopped using it a year and a half ago. At the time, I didn’t think it would replace Safari or Omniweb in my affections, because of a lack of features. It still hasn’t replaced either, but it has become an equal default browser alongside Safari or Omniweb (I flit between those 2 a lot until Omnigroup get 5.5 out with WebKit).

Why Camino?

First of all, its speedy. Not just in rendering pages, but the whole UI feels snappy and responsive. This in itself makes it such a joy to use. Also, unlike some other browsers, Camino doesn’t seem to get bogged down by a large history cache. So while it doesn’t autocomplete bookmarks, it does do it for items in the history. I have a cache going back to July (almost 8000 items), and its stored all those urls without any performance issues.

While Camino doesn’t support XUL extensions, there is a range of extensions and apps available for extending Camino. First I highly recommend that (if you haven’t already) install CamiScript and CamiTools. These provide plenty of extra spice, from Ad Blocking, Bookmark Syncing and theming, to site styles and advanced preferences. See this thread for more.

Also, Mozilla bookmarklets play nicely in Camino too, so that goes a long way to filling the gap left by the Web Developers extension.

There are also those little things that help the Camino experience:

  • You can specify per-site CSS rules using usercontent.css.
  • When you drag an image, or HTML page to the dock icon, it opens in a new tab, rather than a new window.
  • Images can be set to fit the window (like in Firefox).
  • You can sort bookmarks.
  • You can delete the label in the bookmark bar, leaving you with just the favicon.
  • The location bar drop down contains the page title (Safari only shows the URL)
  • You can set a groups of bookmarks to show up in the dock menu.
  • Open bookmarks in new tabs (leaving your current tabs intact)
  • Find as you Type as default.
  • Finally, Camino has a excellent community centered around the Mozillazine Forums, which is no small thing.

Coming soon in Camino’s future

(To pre-empt some of the inevitable “I would use Camino if only it..” comments)

  • Native spell checking in textfields. I imagine this is a big deal for many, it is for me too, but it is coming.
  • RSS detection, to pass URLs on to your news reader.

As well as the move to using Cairo Vector graphics, which will mean an end to using Quickdraw and a move to the Core graphics rendering.

What I’d love to see in the future:

  • Session saving / workspaces. This can be done at the moment, with the ‘bookmark all tabs’ function, but to be able to restore tabs on startup (especially with Crash Protection) would be superb. Also, CamiScript has a command to save tabs at close, and one to restore them.
  • Omniweb style tabs, like this. This is my preferred way of browsing, and I can get it in Safari and Firefox with extensions. However, I know in my heart of hearts that this isn’t going to happen, even if someone comes up the patch. Something makes me think that that this would be against the idea of Camino.

In short I love Camino. While it doesn’t have the extensibility of Firefox, or the features of Omniweb, it is a fast, lightweight browser thats made precisely for that job. Rather than open Firefox to get a gecko view of a site, its Camino for me everytime. Its not the browser I use all the time, but its certainly a browser I use most of the time.

The Camino developers should be proud of themselves for releasing such a nimble, honed, browser. I’m certainly proud of them, for sticking to their guns, demanding that there be a native OS X gecko-based browser.

Go get Camino

Camino 0.9 alpha mini-review

Back in January 2003, when I first discovered that there more options for browsing in OS X than IE and Netscape, Camino (then called ‘Chimera’) became my browser of choice. The first beta of Safari had just come out, and while showing promise, it didn’t become something I wanted to use every day until v1.2 came out the following year, and discovering Saft. For at least a year, it was Camino all the way.

Ever since Saftari though, my Camino usage has become almost zero, although I still pulled down the latest nightly every few weeks to check up on whats been happening. Its been a slow process (let’s not forget that Camino is run and developed by volunteers), but Camino 0.9 alpha is out there, and there are many improvements that demand attention.

When I first started using it, it looked awful, It had ugly, over-complicated toolbar icons, and the interface lacked a little polish. It was this that started my obsession with browser theming. Its come a long way since then. It now sports Jasper Hausers lush new icons and the toolbar uses the latest ‘unified toolbar’ look, which I’m definitely a fan of.

Advantages of using Camino?

First of all it’s fast – easily the fastest browser I have on my Macs. It feels responsive and nimble. All the bookmarklets and apps like TiddlyWiki that only work in Firefox/Mozilla, work in Camino too, but with the added bonus of having a cocoa wrapper with services integration (I’m not clear on Camino’s Applescript support – anyone got a comment on that?)

Its also the only Mac browser to support 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4. If you’re concerned about Safari engine being too closely tied to the OS, Camino may be what you’re looking for.

Finally, they’ve added important features such as autofill, and (what was my biggest bugbear), a global history menu. These 2 were key usability obstacles for me. The browsers tabs finally got their own look (rather than using the system tabs, which were intended for things like preferences), and it makes the world of difference.

Reasons to use Camino over Safari:

  • Option to bookmark all current tabs
  • You can choose a bookmark folder to show up in your dock menu.
  • Midas (Rich Text Editor) support
  • Preference options to stop javascripts changing the window size or position
  • Find as you type
  • Bookmark separators
  • Configurable pop-up blocker (allow pop-ups for certain sites)
  • Basically, all the goodness of the Gecko rendering engine, but in a native cocoa app.

Having said all that, its still not my browser of choice. If you’re looking for just ‘a good browser’, Camino will probably suit. For me, there are a few key things that I miss, such as session saving, that I get from Omniweb, Firefox or Saftari. The lack of extensibility is a drawback for me, although things are looking up on that front. Over the last year or so CamiTools have been evolving nicely, and give hope for the future.

Om Malik stated ‘Camino is Firefox done right for Mac’. Its not quite, but its getting there. If there was such as thing as a Cocoa Firefox, I’d be using it in a flash. Alas, Firefox’s extensions use XUL, and Camino is Cocoa, so its not to be. Camino is definitely one to keep an eye on though.

Josh has come to save our Aas.

I posted this as a browser news sidenote earlier today, but I think it’s worth mentioning this significant event here too. Until now, all the paid workers at the Mozilla Foundations were those on Mozilla/Firefox. The Camino project – embedding the gecko rendering in a native cocoa browser was undertaken entirely by volunteers, mainly Mike Pinkerton. They didn’t just work on Camino though, as I understand it, Mike also helped produce the Mac builds of Mozilla. (As an aside, read this fascinating interview at Ars Technica).

Josh Aas is a fairly recent addition to the the Camino development team, and he’s helped bring new life to the project. Now, in a move that shows solid commitment from Mozilla to the Mac platform, they’ve hired Josh. This is great news, and makes me very hopeful for the Mac future of Firefox and Camino. All the best with your new role Josh!

Update : Josh has clarified his new role further. It seems that his role will cover Firefox, Thunderbird and Camino, and code that is shared amongst these 3. This is just fantastic news, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Full Metal interface

Many users are divided over Apple’s use of brushed metal windows. My personal feeling is that I like it in certain apps, but not others. It’s overuse by Cupertino seems to have given many independent software developers the impetus to use brushed metal too, in an attempt to ‘keep up’. While the Human Interface Guidelines are full of good solid reasoning, it doesn’t help when Apple go against them, and then produce beautiful interfaces as a result. It feels as if the pressure is on – you must use metal for your app to look cool and sell.

I’ve been following what John Gruber has to say on the matter with interest, there are two excellent articles about this subject, and I’ll try not to go over old ground, but there is one argument I’ve not heard before, and it’s the reason I like Safari’s metal interface – differentiation. Take a look at this example of one of my favourite sites in Camino:

Airbag in as seen in Camino

and now in Safari:

Airbag in as seen in Safari...mmmm...

I don’t know about you, but I find the Safari one much more pleasant to look at, because there is a clear demarkation between what is the browser, and what is the web page. I haven’t done a survey, but I’d be willing to bet that a large majority of web sites have white, or at least pale backgrounds. In the standard aqua coloured window the distinction isn’t as immediately clear. I’m not sure why this thinking doesn’t extend to other areas such as text documents, but there it is. I like differentiation.

(Having said all that, one thing that does give me that differentiation in a non-metal app, is the grey tab background on my safari style tabs for Firefox…

Airbag in Firefox

I find that the darker grey is just enough to create a visual separation.)

No Camino till next year?

I feel like a boy who’s been told that there’s no Christmas this year. The news from Mike Pink is that there may not be Camino 8 until next year. The last milestone release of Camino came out in early March, and since then there has been the huge upheaval of AOL sending Mozilla out to fend for itself. Mike is now one of a very small team (I’d heard it was 3?) developers working on Camino. Its great that he won’t let it die, but frustrating that there aren’t more hands to help. It seems that Camino’s direction, development and communication all rests heavily on the shoulders of someone who has a life too, and simply hasn’t the time.

For those OS X users who haven’t tried Mozilla’s Camino, these are my reasons for using it over Safari:

  • Configurable search bar (Add as many as you search engines as you like – although it would be nice if there was an interface within Camino to do this, rather than editing a .plist file.)
  • Configurable pop-up blocker – choose which sites you allow pop-ups from
  • Better CSS rendering (I.E Mozilla’s!)
  • Tooltips – rather than Safari’s illegible status bar
  • Proper display of page titles
  • Send link facility
  • A true OS X style customizable toolbar
  • Option to prevent sites resizing your window. (I hate that – its like having a stranger come up to you in the street and reorganise your clothes).

Having said that, Safari has autofill, the ability to spoof user agents, and an elegant interface. Camino’s buttons make it look as rough as an old badger, and uses standard OS X tabs, which doesn’t help.


I don’t want Camino to go. Its a great little browser, with fantastic potential, but I fear the silence and passing of time with no roadmap or release dates will mean that it will just grind to a halt.

updates to the camino theme

Aqua Camino theme

I’ve just tweaked my metal theme for Camino to work with Aqua and Panther. It’s essentially the same, but the toolbar icons have been reworked to be brighter and not so heavy around the edges. Its also got a hint of graphite colour just to lift it.


Until the current speed problems with the metal theme and the searchbar are ironed out, I’m using a Panther OS theme from ResExcellence. I’m not normally a fan of these things, but it looks more professional than aqua pinstripes.

camino lives!

The good news from Mike Pinkerton is that Camino development is still carrying on. Things have been a little quiet of late, but he reports:

“I’ve got a couple people working on the download manager as well as a full bookmark infrastructure rewrite in progress by someone else.”

Now that the hoo-haa has died down after Safari’s 1.0 release (which crashes at least 3 times a day – my latest nightly build of Camino hasn’t crashed once!), hopefully Camino will get a chance to shine. Mike also reported CNETs comparison of Camino and Safari with glee. I hope it continues to cheer him up…

camino buttons

I’ve just uploaded a couple of new buttons to the camino resources page – Open Tab and Close Tab. My intention is to add to this set in the future (maybe even get round to doing a full set?!). I’d like to have a go at things like the popup unblocker icon.

I’ve also updated the Metal theme to work with the recent nightly build – 17th May – which includes the popup unblocker. As new features get introduced into Camino, you will need to check here for a new version (or else those nice new features won’t work!).

Finally, there is an issue of speed when using the metal theme with recent nightlies. If you have the google search in the toolbar, it will be slower to scroll and type inside textfields (can be quite painful actually!). Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about this (and don’t bother Mozilla about it, this is a hack, not part of their original application). This may change as the nightlies change, who knows?

Camino update

Camino has just had a nice feature added to it. If pop-up blocking is turned on, a wee icon appears to let you know when a site is trying to open a pop-up window. Clicking this lets you unblock pop-ups for that particular site. (Useful for sites like the Mull Historical Society where the popups are worthwhile ). See Mike Pinkertons weblog Sucking less, on a budget.

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The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

Upcoming Talks

I sometimes pop up at conferences and waffle about design, icon creation in particular. Here's where I'll be next:

An Event Apart Chicago- "Icon Design Process" - 25-26th August 2014

Web Expo Guildford- "Icon Design Process" - 26th September 2014

Beyond Tellerrand Berlin – 3rd-5th November 2014

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