Camino 0.9 alpha mini-review

29 Jun 2005

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:

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.

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