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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.

Guide to the Internet (2000)

Jabba approves of the internet

Leigh picked up a little gem from an antiques and curios shop in Burford, titled “The Internet A to Z”. This little tome was published in the year of our Lord 2000 (so possibly written in 1999), and it was interesting to see what difference 10 years makes.

In particular, there were 2 very relevant entries:

Opera

IMG_0977

…and then iCab…

IMG_0976

…ouch!

Opera 10 is final!

With just 2 months shy of completing my first year with Opera, I’m really chuffed to see a final release of Opera 10 desktop, with some of the fruits of those labours.

img-opera10-screenshot

Amongst the new features of Opera 10 are:

  • Turbo – compresses pages to speed up slow connections:
  • Thumbnail tabs – put them at the bottom, the sides, or just leave them at the top.
  • Completely revised ‘skin’, with every icon replaced. Originally, these were updates that I was planning for v11, but I was itching to update the skin. This was quite an undertaking (and something I decided rather late on) but worth it.
  • Updated rendering engine: 100% score on the Acid 3 test, web fonts (including SVG fonts) and much more.
  • New Opera Iconand of course, a new icon (at last!) created by Oleg Melnychuk

The excellent Dev.Opera article The Opera 10 Experience gives you the full details.

If you trying Opera for the first time, it’s worth making you aware of other pre-v10 features you may not be aware of that I particularly enjoy:

- Lock tabs. Right click a tab and choose ‘lock tab’ – wonderful for tabs you don’t want to be closed accidentally
- When viewing pages, such as search results, keep hitting that space bar. When you get to the end of the page, Opera will follow the ‘next’ link.
- Save text snippets with reference to their original page. Highlight the text on the page and choose ‘Copy to note’ from the right click menu, and it does just that. The note itself also acts as bookmark back to the source.

As with all software, it’s never really finished. So as I look with pride at version 10, I’m also mentally creating a list of what I need to work on next. We’ve come far with version 10 though, and the list can wait – at least for today.

Opera DMG icon Download Opera 10 at http://www.opera.com/browser/, or if the server is struggling with the demand, direct from ftp://ftp.opera.com/pub/opera/. Enjoy!

Capability, not Popularity

Bruce Lawson recently brought to our attention the UK government’s Browser Standards Draft 0.13. Basically, the draft recommends using browser popularity (2% or more usage), rather than capability, as the criteria for choosing which one to support. I really hope they rethink this for future drafts. As a user of ‘minority’ browsers (definitely plural) I hate being dictated to about what I should use – if my browser is capable, that should be enough.

It isn’t clear how the supported browser list would be enforced, but I’m concerned that this approach will encourage browser sniffing, a move that will exclude browsers like Omniweb, Shiira and iCab, simply because their name isn’t ‘Safari’. They share the exact same rendering engine, and therefore require no further testing. You can be more inclusive without spending any extra resources, just by taking a different approach – one that isn’t based on statistics. Inclusivity is very important for the public sector, the draft itself says so!

To me, Yahoo got it spot on with their Graded Browser Support guidelines. The draft links to that article, but seems to ignore it for the most part.

If you only support certain browsers, then your website statistics will only enforce that, and not tell the true story of people trying to use the sites concerned. After all if a site only supports IE for example, then the ‘statistics’ are bound to show that to be the dominant browser.

If you feel the same way, please send polite feedback. After all, we are being consulted on this, and hopefully will be listened to.

Kestrel

Uh oh, the Browser Radar™ has been twitching again. I have high hopes for Kestrel, the codename of Opera 9.5, soon to be available as pre-release weekly builds. Aside from the CSS3 support, the section under ‘Platform integration’ caught my eye (emphasis mine of course):

To make sure that Opera remains the best choice on your platform, we spend a lot of time making Opera feel more integrated with your platform. Mac users can expect a nice new visual look and feel. Opera for Linux will add a QT4 build, so you can easily adjust the skin to match with desktop. There will also be 64-bit Linux/FreeBSD packages made available.

I’ve been impressed with Opera abilities since about v8, and especially with 9, but the ‘Opera Standard’ interface looks more Mac-like than the ‘Native Macintosh’ skin to me. I use Opera Mini on my mobiles all the time, but it’s never made the leap to my desktop due to its look and feel. I believe that 9.2 introduced proper system-drawn OS X widgets which is a step forward for sure, but with Leopard on the horizon, Opera feels as if it’s still clinging on to a Jaguar look. Sadly, I’ve never had the time to have a go at making my own skin – the process seemed too daunting.

So, I’m quite looking forward to seeing this ‘nice new visual look and feel’, and hoping that it won’t be a disappointment. If anyone at Opera just happens to be reading this, any chance of posting a few screenshots to sate the curiosity?

Safari 3 thoughts

Apple has announced Safari 3 beta for OS X and Windows. To make room for more important thoughts in my head, here’s the associated Brain Dump™.

  • Updated version of WebKit. Nothing new to Omniweb 5.5 users, but my un-scientific perception is that it’s speedier. I think there will be some users complaining of ‘ugly form buttons’ though…
  • Draggable Tabs. Yay!
  • Inline Find, and very nicely implemented it is too. Yay!
  • Resizable textareas, extra yay. Is this the only browser to do this by default?
  • The Web Inspector is in there too. Not a patch on Firebug, but a welcome addition.
  • Its wonderful looking at a website on XP, and seeing gorgeous text smoothing. Even the apps menu’s are smooth – presumably it’s using webkit to display the interface too?
  • WebClips are conspicuous by their absence, but I’m assuming that this is a Leopard only feature.
  • No session saving. I wasn’t really expecting it, but this does make Safari the only browser that doesn’t reopen your tabs inbetween launches. As some commenters have pointed out, you can ‘Reopen previous windows’ from the History menu, but sorry, there really needs to be a preference for this, so that the process is automatic.
  • Looking at the preferences window in Windows is slightly scary. Like those PC-esque interfaces in early version of Firebird/Firefox for the Mac. I did feel that the interface should’ve been a better Windows Citizen.
  • I wondered if installing this on Windows would make Lucide Grande available to the OS. It seems that like iTunes, it doesn’t and keeps it to itself. Shame, I really hoped it would available to IE, Firefox and Opera as well, although as Ben Darlow points out, it does look ropey when aliased!
  • Also wondering if Apple will give a copy of the updated webkit to 10.4 users, in the same way they did for Panther users?
  • The sizable textareas thing and smooth text rendering seem to be only new browser features to Windows users. Is that right? If you’re a Windows user, and have tried the Safari 3 beta, I’d love to know what you think: Does it make you want to switch over?
  • Developing Javascript to work in Safari in the past has been a pain in the arse, so I would love to know from any Javascript developers whether the situation is improved in v3.
  • I wonder if/when developers of Saft, SafariStand and Inquisitor will update their plugins for SF3? My money is on Hetima getting a SafariStand b18 out first. (Update: Inquisitor actually works fine! Also, SafariStand will work if you turn off ‘Enable Site Alteration’).
  • I find the new interface too dark, but I use the Uno shade which for me is just right. To clarify: I’m referring to the screenshots of the Leopard version, which I find darker than the brushed metal. The UNO shade I find just right.

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.

Google Reader Theme

I’ve been using Flickr as a bit of testbed for a new site theme I’ve been working on for Google Reader. C’mon after the Bloglines thing, I bet you saw it coming didn’t you?!


Same drill again then. There may well be oddness and inconsistencies, and Google may well make radical changes to the Reader’s markup tomorrow, mucking the whole show up. But for what it’s worth, here it is! Its not trying to be original or ‘better’ than the default theme, it’s just trying to make it look like a Mac OS X app – that’s all I want!

Actually, while this may create bugs, it actually solves a bug that I was seeing in WebKit browsers with the default css. When scrolling, some sidebar elements would annoyingly bounce up and down. Not any more!

The download includes a list of known bugs/todos. If you seen anything not on this list, please leave a comment! I’ll update this page when I upload newer versions of the theme.

Changes

17/4/07 – Fixed 2 bugs that were annoying most people: I’ve reinstated feed list highlighting and pressing U now shows the entries list full width

Installation

Download gReader.zip. There are 2 versions, one for Mozilla browsers and one for WebKit & Opera.

Firefox

Once you have the Stylish extension installed, just copy and paste the css into the ‘create styles for this page’ window.

Camino

In Camino, either paste this into your /Library/Application Support/Camino/chrome/userContent.css file, or if that file doesn’t exist, rename the greader.css file to be userContent.css. The theme will be applied when you restart Camino.

Safari

Once Safaristand is installed, place the greader.css file in your user/Library/Safari/Stand/UserStyleSheets folder. Then visit Google Reader, go to SafariStand > Settings > Site Alteration. Add the site, enable Site Alteration and choose the greader file from the list. Make sure the matching pattern is just www.google.com. You may have to empty your cache, restart Safari and refresh before seeing any changes!

Omniweb

In Site Preferences > Page Appearance, choose the greader.css file under ‘Style Sheet’. The change should happen instantly!

Opera

Put the greader.css file anywhere you like! Right-click on the Google Reader page, choose "Edit Site Preferences" and select the CSS file through the display tab, under ‘My Style Sheet’. Like Omniweb, the change should apply immediately.

Have you found this theme enhances your life beyond all telling?

Please consider donating some spare change to the Hicksdesign Cheese Fund:

An end to Browser pimping?

Thanks go to Doug March, who pointed me to an article on Ars Technica on Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). In particular, it was this paragraph that Doug wanted to draw my attention to:

One more tip we got regarding Leopard, is that InputManager plugins are no longer allowed. That’s right… no more little hacks from anybody besides Apple. No more Apple menu hacks. No more Safari plugins.

Oh shit! No more InputManagers = no more useful plugins like Saft or Inquisitor. OK, the use of the word ‘plugin’ is up for debate (Haxie is maybe a more appropriate term), but these are little caffeine boosts to apps with no plugin API, and I for one love them.”

The article continues:

Apple isn’t really broken up about it since InputManagers were often used for nefarious purposes anyway,” our sources said, but the loss of InputManager control will break a lot of shareware and commercial software that currently makes use of that control.

It was news to me, but apparently InputManagers are a security risk. I was well aware of the chance of crashing and sluggish performance, but not malware using it to do BadStuff™ to your Mac.

What isn’t clear at this stage, is whether this applies to SIMBL, a method of applying hacks to a specific app. InputManagers load for every application, whether it’s intended for it or not, although not necessarily being active in those apps. SIMBL got around that and could be more targeted. I’ve asked Mike Solomon if he knows, but I guess until he gets his hands on Leopard, there’s no way to be sure.

It does mention that “InputManager is not exactly the same as APE, by the way”, so perhaps Unsanity’s APE (Application Enhancer) system could be used? I must say though, I’ve not had the greatest experience with their APE modules.

There is another way of course. Apple could develop a proper plugin API for their apps (Safari in particular), but something tells me that ‘giving up control’ is not something they’d want to do, and for good reason. As the Camino developers experienced recently, 3rd party plugins/hacks can really screw with day to day bug tracking and resolution.

Somehow, I can’t help feeling optimistic that someone somewhere will find a way, and a good way at that…

A Proposal for a Safari Microformats plugin

In a nutshell, I want to be able to easily take advantage of Microformats. I want to know about and get that information with the same ease as RSS Feeds, and I want it to work on a Mac.

Firefox already has its ‘Tails’ extension, but this currently only displays microformats in the sidebar. There’s the TailsExport extension for exporting the data found, but sadly, this is Windows only.

So what tools do we have on OS X? Tantek has put up some bookmarklets that will do the export for you, but the trick is detection – knowing that there is data present in the first place. So either the site author needs to announce the presence of microformats (in the same way that they would display an icon for RSS feeds), or the browser has to check and inform you. I prefer the latter, but currently, Endo is the only OS X app I know that detects (it looks for the hCalendar format and passes it onto iCal).

What I’m doing here is illustrating a request I sent to Hao Li (Saft), Hetima (SafariStand) and Kasper Nauwelaerts (Safari Tidy), all developers of excellent Safari plugins. I can’t imagine that Apple are intending to integrate Microformats any time soon, so I thought it was worth trying the plugin developers. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Here’s what I’m imagining in Safari (although I would equally welcome this in Camino and Omniweb). Microformats are detected and announced the same as RSS feeds – an icon appears in the location bar to warn you. (Incidentally, in these screenshots, I’m using Safari Standardized Feed Icon from Mac Specialist). I’ve picked on Chris Messina’s Blog here, as it had a post with plenty of hCalendar love:

Mock screenshot showing Microformats notification icon

(Click to see the full image)

Clicking the icon reveals a sheet, with details of all the available data on that site hCards, hCalendars and so on. Each type is represented by an familiar OS X system icon:

Mock screenshot showing sheet with available Microformats

(Click to see the full image)

Data can be added individually, or all in one go. An option to cancel is there too. I’m not sure about the small + button, but you get the idea. I also think the ‘hCard’ bit is too techie – perhaps something like an email address or phone number?

I don’t know how hard this would be to implement, but I certainly needed to illustrate what I was asking for. Cross fingers! Any further suggestions and ideas welcome.

Update: Ben Ward had a similiar idea at the same time, but Ben expands the idea further. I like the concept of a ‘downloads’ style window. Go see.

Another Update: Remy Sharp has implemented this functionality as a bookmarklet !

Firefox becomes a contender

Up until a few months ago, Firefox was never on my list of browsers that I flirted with. It was never opened, not even for the hallowed web developer toolbar that so many swear by.

But then a few things changed. I discovered the Tails extension (for revealing Microformats) and the Firebug extension (sooo good). Combining this with Neil Lee’s G4 optimised build (with cocoa style widgets), Tab Sidebar and one of Aronnax’s pro themes I had something that looked and acted pretty much like my ideal browser. The sheer flexibility of Firefox was starting to outweigh the lack of Mac feel and behaviour.

Now, we all know that Firefox’s greatest asset is it’s extensions, but a benefit of this has only just got through to me. It allows for developers to add support for fledgling web 2.0 services (such as CoComment and the aforementioned Tails) without relying on the browser vendor to implement integration (if indeed it ever came). This flexibility is mind-blowing.

Now take a look at the new features being implemented in the Firefox 2.0 developer previews (Known as ‘Bon Echo’). SVG Text, Microsummaries, Inline Spell Checking (although I guess not using the OS X dictionary) and search suggestions. Most exciting of all, is the move to the Cairo graphics library, which on OS X, will allow Firefox (and Camino) to use the new shiny Quartz renderer, rather than the old Quickdraw, which should make a real difference to looks. I’m looking forward to this!

My hope is that the Firefox Mac theme sees an update too. Less stripes, more recent style preferences tabs and generally more Tiger styling. Aronnax has put together a proposal theme for the Bon Echo builds, but I strongly suggest setting up a new profile or user account for trying out Bon Echo. It’s not called a developer preview for nothing.

Sure, there are still plenty of annoyances, and its not seeing as much action as current faves Omniweb 5.5 and Camino, but it’s now a contender, which it’s never been before. So the browser indecision continues, only much worse, and I feel more than ever that I really should try and get out more.

Tiger Theme for Omniweb 5.5

I’ve finally updated my Omniweb theme to work with the sneaky peeks

Tiger theme for Omniweb 5.5

Changes for this version include:

  • New Icons: Mark page, Next Mark, Previous Mark, Favourites Folder, News Feed Folder. Thanks go to Dan Carson who created the ‘Mark page’ and ‘Favourites folder’ icons.
  • Added ‘small size’ icons for the main toolbar icons.
  • Improved close tab icons.
  • Added the large bookmarks image for the tab drawer.
  • Redone splash page.
  • It no longer replaces the Omniweb application icon.
  • Downloads window – tweaked to allow it to be resized narrower (like Safari). This may compress text when smaller, but I prefer a narrower window
  • Workspaces window- Changed from a ‘utility’ window to a normal one, with margins removed.
  • *New Change (4.5.06)*- Improved the smoothness of the Safari-esque buttons. Please re-download and re-install to get the improved icons.

As before, if you want to pick and choose which icons you want to install, all the original files are included, as well as goodies folders of applescripts and sample workspaces. Don’t forget to back up Omniweb first.

Download the Tiger theme for Omniweb 5.5 (888k)

A quick guide to Omniweb 5.5 sp6

Omniweb 5.5 is finally a public beta! It felt like it would never see the light of day, but here it is. To get it, you need to register on the new Omnigroup Forums, and then view this thread for download information.

Screenshot of 5.5 on Flickr

Notable changes in this version are:

  • Omnigroup have converted Omniweb to use WebKit, rather than Webcore rendering. In fact 5.5 is using a more up to date version of WebKit than Safari is – its the one that enables unstyled form buttons. (See this post by Dave Hyatt for more information). All Omniweb’s previous problems with sites like Flickr are past!
  • With the change of rendering, Omniweb is much, much faster. I’d say as fast as Safari is on my powerbook. I never thought I’d describe Omniweb as ‘snappy’, but thats how it is!
  • While the system-wide dictionary look-up doesn’t appear in the context menus, the keyboard shortcut – Apple Ctrl D – works just fine.
  • You can now specify CSS rules per site, as part of the extensive site preferences feature. On a site you want to change, select the CSS file to use, and the view is immediately updated! Per site CSS is nothing new to Mozilla browsers, but this has a nice easy GUI, as well as instant gratification!
  • There are still a few Omniweb features that need re-implementing, most importantly the wonderful zoomed text editor. For anyone not familiar with this, it provides a separate window for writing and editing text in textareas. I hope that gets back in soon.
  • Pop up windows are now opened as new tabs.
  • Finally – unified toolbars! Hallelujah!

The focus on this release was very much on the huge code change from Webcore to Webkit, so its nice to see new features like per site CSS sneak in.

Last, but not least, the spanky new Web Inspector (DOM Inspector to you and I) works too. To enable this is a similar process to Safari. Open Terminal and type:

defaults write com.omnigroup.OmniWeb5 WebKitDeveloperExtras -bool true

Next time you launch Omniweb, the ‘Inspect Element’ command is found in the context menu. I love the iLIfe/Aperture style HUD inspector, and use this a lot to look at styles affecting elements in the DOM.

Finally, if you want to hide the stripey ‘Under Construction’ banner in the toolbar, type this into Terminal (as of the new sp7 release):

defaults write com.omnigroup.OmniWeb5 HideConstructionWarning -bool true

While I’m still hoping for updates and improvements to Omniweb’s interface, this release makes it feel great again. This just causes me more browser indecision!

A wee note for anyone using my Omniweb theme. Don’t – not on 5.5 anyway. It adds some images that Omniweb no longer needs, and seems to muck things up a bit. I’ll try and get a revised theme out soon.

Browser Polygamy Movement

My favourite quote in a long, long time, comes from Mike D

Jon Hicks could be considered the King of the Browser Polygamy movement, hopping from application to application with the recklessness of a late 70s porn star. Jon likes multiple browsers, and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

I don’t just shack with any of them though. I rarely go and see Shiira, especially since she started that page transition effect nonsense (although I was impressed by the way she exposed all her tabs to me at the same time – neat trick). I used to go crawling back to Firefox whenever I needed some Dom Inspecting, but not since Safari showed me her new Web Inspector.

Maybe one day I’ll settle down with a nice browser, but until then I’ve got three/four/five of them…

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

Dark alpha PNGs in Safari 2

Here’s a weird one, and it only affects Safari 2 (Tiger), not even Safari 1.3 or earlier, or Omniweb (using the earlier rendering engine).

If you look at my ‘contact section’, or my live search function, I use an alpha png in the background to overlay a transparent white tint over the header image. In every other browser (except IE of course, which just gets a white background) this works just as I expect it to, but not in Safari 2. The effect is transparent grey – not white. Richard Rutter was kind enough to check in Safari 1.3 for me, and the png shows up fine.

Apart from Paul Haine, I couldn’t find anyone else that was experiencing this problem.

After a lot of experimentation however, it turned out that Safari just needs the repeating image to be at least 2px square, not 1px.

Here’s a comparison:

Screenshot of before, using a 1px square png, and after, using 2px

I hope this is useful to someone else, who may have come across this problem.

Browser Survey Results

OK, the results are in – this was a hard one to count, but I reckon I got them fairly accurate. The numbers won’t tally exactly with the number of comments – just to pre-warn any lurking pedants. Thanks to everyone who took part – it was a tremendous response.

(apologies for the fuzzy crapness of this image, but I really can’t be arsed doing it again)

The Results:

Safari 157
Firefox 53
Camino 28
Omniweb 5
Shiira 3
IE 1
Opera 1
iCab 0

Number of people who didn’t read the rules first: 25 ;o)

No surprise there I guess, Safari is king. I remember seeing another survey that showed Firefox much more on a par with Safari, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. Most people preferred it for speed, UI and OS X integration. Firefox’s popularity seems mainly due to the web developer toolbar, which lets face it, is a genius piece of work. There were a large number of Safari users who were put off Firefox as default due to its interface and lack of mac-ness.

Pretty much all those on Camino stated they were using the bleeding-edge nightly builds, which I’m not surprised at. They’re solid, stable and go like the clappers. Mozilla power, Mac Style indeed.

I’m not too surprised at Omniweb’s lack of votes, but I did hope for a lot more. Sluggishness seems to be the main issue for people not using it. Glad to hear no moans about having to pay for it though, as I did expect some “why pay when there are free browsers?” comments.

Opera and IE languish at the bottom with one vote each. I’m not assuming the IE vote was a joke, as IE Mac does have some nice features, so you never know.

Receiving no votes was poor old iCab. I expected at least one person using iCab 3 beta to come forward, but it appears not. Has Safari trampled all over iCab’s possible market?

Also, no one seemed to pick up on that fact that someone used Firefox for its ‘live boobmarks’ – maybe it was just me that found that funny?

and now.. my vote

What about me? Browser hopping as usual. I would love to say Omniweb as my default, but there are some niggles that stop that – performance, not yet updated to the latest rendering engine, doesn’t work well with Flickr, various unpolished areas of the UI and lack of find as you type. Maybe a future release will see improvements, but to be honest, I’ve not got any great hopes. Omnigroup – please surprise me!

I guess Safari would be my default, but lately I’ve been using Camino nightly builds, and found myself falling in love with my old favourite all over again. The UI is clean and looking good, and while it lacks some features I’d love (mainly RSS detection to pass URLs into NewsFire and ability to restore tabs at startup) I’m finding myself using it anyway. Its so nice to be using a fast, responsive browser again, especially after Safari overloaded with plugins. I guess its the downfall of installing plugins, but its either Safari with a features and a slightly unresponsive interface, or no Safari at all for me. Page rendering speed is fast, but simple tasks such as clicking a bookmark bar folder can sometimes take seconds to appear. Infuriating.

Shiira, while impressing with useful innovative features like tab expose, goes and adds things like the cheesy ‘page transition effect’. I’m not sure that the direction for Shiira is quite clear, but its still one to keep an eye on.

Opera is impressive, and I like the idea of combing email & browser. There’s a lot of features in there, but it looks like a dogs dinner, has strange key combos (cmd-T for adding bookmarks? Whats that all about?!) and calls tabs pages. Joe Clark has a more eloquent list of its failings – but if you’re using it and like it, good for you. I can kinds see why you’re attracted.

Firefox (Deer Park) is better, but its still no Mac app bless it.

So, while it should be a Safari/Omniweb split, I’m going to vote Camino here, especially as its an underdog in the ratings, and I think it deserves more!

OS X Browser Survey 2005

The question is simple: What browser are you using the most on OS X? With so much (good) choice on Mac these days, and the ‘field’ being very different to a year ago, I’d like to know what peoples tastes are.

This is a survey in the form of the Comping app and Text Editor surveys from last year (I.e – not very scientific). Is Safari the favourite? Have Firefox and Camino eaten into its share? Has support for underdogs (Shiira, Omniweb, Opera, iCab) increased? Or are you using apps like NetNewsWire for their browsing needs?

How to take part : Name your default browser in the first line (to make it easy for me to count), followed by a short sentence on the next line, saying what it is about that browser that ‘makes’ it for you. The only other rule: this is OS X only I’m afraid. Unlike the previous surveys, I’m going to be very strict on that point this time, you have been warned! I’ll leave comments open for a week or two before I publish the results.

Go!

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.

Safari tabs for Firefox updated

When I last explained how to hack Firefox to get Safari style tabs, there was a missing element – close buttons on each tab. There is an extension to do this called Tab X, but it only seems to work on the Mac when using certain themes, not including the default mac theme. Fortunately, a nice fella called Chad has now created a mac version, which you can install directly from here, and it works a treat.

Safari style tabs for Firefox - with close buttons

There are just a few fixes that need to applied after this. I couldn’t get the preference to hide the tab-bar close button to work. No problem, this just gets added to the userChrome.css file:

/* Tab X mods */
/* ———————————————————————————- */

.tabs-closebutton-box { /* hides the tab bar close button */ display: none !important; }

Also, when used with the Safari tab styling, the position of the close button is a little too high, but this sorts it out:

.tabs-closebutton {
	padding-bottom: 0 !important;
 	}

Finally, a separate problem I’d come across was with site favicons. Sometimes I’d get a favicon 16px high but 32px wide – presumably when the 32×32px resource was included in the favicon. This sorts that out:

.tab-icon {
	padding-top: 0px !important;
	width: 16px;
	height: 16px;
	}

If you want a true Safari tab-look with no favicons, use this instead:

.tab-icon {
    display: none !important;
	}

I’ve updated the original download package with these small changes, so let me know if you have any problems.

Pimp My Safari: As ready as it will ever be

“As ready as it’ll ever be”, is an apt description of a little side-project of mine just launched, Pimp My Safari.com. Its been a pet project for many months, and was started as a reaction to all the sites cataloguing Firefox extensions. Many excellent plugins for Safari have been developed, but because Safari doesn’t have an official ‘extension architecture’, many are unaware of these extensions. This is where PimpMySafari comes in – a resource for the pimping of your copy of Safari no less!

Its just intended to be a simple, functional, information-based site. I’m not giving it a whole lot of time design-wise, its not the purpose. I just wanted a central place to promote these add-ons. I haven’t even bothered testing in IE, but I have given it a scant look in Mozilla.

So here’s my plan. All the Safari related browser talk will now go to Pimp My Safari, leaving this blog returning to matters of design, css, music and family. Those few who are interested in such things can now read them there. When meeting people at SXSW, I often found myself apologising for running a dull browser-based blog. I shouldn’t have to, but I did feel a little embarrassed.

I’m still rather wary of blogging about my family, I’d like to do it more than I do, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. I wish it weren’t the case, but the internet isn’t an appropriate/safe place for such things – there are nutters out there. Anyway, I digress…

A quick word about the CMS

When I started this, many months ago, I was using WordPress 1.5 nightlies (I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on anything). While I was very impressed with how far it had come since the last time I’d evaluated it (1.1), it was a relief to get back to Textpattern, and thats what I’ve used for the final site. I don’t think its just a case of being familiar with it. It just worked the way I wanted it to, and enabled me to easily run the entire site.

So there we go, I hope someone finds it useful. I’d love it if people felt like contributing, so let me know if you feel the urge!

Omniweb wishlist II

Since my first Omniweb Wishlist, 2 of the wishes have happened, RSS feeds now open in new tabs, and its merged with the latest webcore. Since then, 5.1 has been released, and the list has grown somewhat.

I use a mixture of Omniweb and Safari all the time now. Nowadays, Firefox only gets opened up for DOM inspecting or javascript debugging, and Camino hasn’t been used in over a year. The main thing that makes me use Safari is that its interface is a whole lot easier on the eye than Omniweb. OW has the all features I want (apart from find as you type, which I get from Saft), but after prolonged use, areas of the UI make me long for Safari. It’s probably just the designer in me, but I desire a little more ‘OS X slickness’ that other apps have. The tab drawer and bookmark manager feel just right, but other areas let it down for me.

So here are a few wishes.

Interface tweaks -remove the drawer?

When I have Mail, Ecto, xPad and others open, I get a bit sick of flippin’ drawers everywhere, and long for a simplified outline like Safari.

Here’s an idea. Apps like Ecto and NetNewsWire have started adopting the interface evolution shown in the Tiger version of Mail, and its worked well for them. The fact that Apple has removed the drawer from Mail makes me wonder if many other apps will continue to use it? Anyway, here’s a mockup of how Omniweb could look with these sorts of changes:

screenshot - click for larger image
Click for full sized mockup

As you can see, the tabs become more like a sidebar. This screenshot also includes mockups of other wee interface changes I’d like to see:

  • Download Manager – Aqua alternate row striping to differentiate each item, and larger file icons, as in Safari, NetNewsWire 2, Transmit 3 and Unison.
  • Favourites Bar – No folder icons or shadow. A bit more safarish I guess.

RSS Reader

Omniweb’s RSS Reader is so almost there as a useful aggregator. It has more features than you might expect from an in-browser solution, but its drawbacks are:

  • The only way to read excerpts is to view the feed bookmark with ‘site info’ showing.
  • Omniweb doesn’t seem to handle large amounts of feeds very well. With 150+ feeds, my bookmarks refuse to synchronise with .mac (but works fine once they’re removed). There were also other performance issues until I deleted all the feeds.
  • You can’t set a frequency to update feeds globally. If you have ‘never’ checked in your preferences, each feed you add has a daily frequency applied to it despite this. So if you only want to check manually, you have edit the preferences for each feed individually.

This is how I’d like to see RSS incorporated:

  • Keep them as bookmarks, but treat them separately. In the same way that you can view bookmarks as a tab, have the ability to view RSS feeds in a tab, with a simple 2 or 3 paned interface, like the bookmark manager. All the information is already there – source, headline, dates, excerpts, I wonder if it would be hard to bring them together in a new interface?
  • Have the preference to pass auto-detected feeds onto your default RSS Reader if you don’t want to use the in-built one.
  • It’d be great if the dock menu didn’t hide feeds over a certain amount. The greyed out ‘more’ doesn’t allow you to see the rest of the feeds. NetNewsWire overcomes this by scrolling if it needs to.

Other functionality I’d love to see at some point

  • Find as you type – FIrefox has an excellent implementation of this, but currently Omniweb will only do this with links. (There is a hidden preference which you can enable via the terminal, but its not something OmniGroup have worked on, and it will only find the first instance of your search term)
  • I’d like a better idea of when Omniweb is doing something. Whether its still checking RSS feeds, synchronising bookmarks or whether those activites have finished. The Activity window tells you this, but I would find a Growl message more useful. Growl is already an excellent system wide notification app, and many apps have started using it. There are many apps already supporting Growl.
  • Apply custom CSS files per-site in the site preferences.
  • Drag and drop tabs between workspaces in the workspaces window. So if you have some tabs that you want to move to another workspace, you can move them, or alt-drag them to copy them across.
  • Open a search in a new tab. The Location bar supports this with cmd-enter, but not the search field
  • Saft has a great feature whereby a search is triggered by selecting a different search engine from the search fields drop down menu, rather than having to additionally press enter.
  • A preference to always show the tab drawer. When new windows open drawer-less, and then shift as tabs are opened, is mildly annoying. (I always have the drawer on the left).
  • A preference to disable the focus rings around the search box.

Bugs

No application is perfect, and everyone has their list of pet hates they’d rather were fixed sooner rather than later. This is mine.

  • The pixellated search bar after resizing the window
  • Moving bookmarks and folders in the bookmark manager creates a duplicate. This one is really starting to annoy me.
  • View Source: This still has the bug whereby you sometimes get the external css file, or even garbage code instead of just the HTML.

Everyone’s a critic eh?

So yeah, a long list. Don’t get the wrong impression though, its still very much a favourite. I’m just looking forward to seeing what Omnigroup do with it next.

Skinning sites in Safari with PithHelmet

It would easy to to think that Firefox is the only browser with cool extensions, and overlook the excellent ones available for Safari, such as Saft, Stand and PithHelmet.

Like Saft, PithHelmet started life as an extension with a single purpose, and and has since grown beyond its remit. Starting life as an advert blocker, PithHelmet now boasts powerful per-site preferences, and the ability to apply custom css AND Javascript to individual sites. This takes Omniweb’s site preferences and expands it even further.

Late last year I began playing with the custom css function, and while it didn’t work at first (preferences weren’t saved after quitting Safari), Mike Solomon, PithHelmets developer, soon ironed out all the glitches. Its been a real pleasure to communicate with Mike. I’ve questioned, he’s responded with new versions, and now he’s added the ability to create a single theme file that can be sent to others. Dragging a site rule from the preferences window into the finder creates .phr file (Pith Helmet Rule), but now it will include all the css, javascript and images for your site skin.

Why bother skinning a site? Actually, there is a purpose of sorts. Lets say for example that you’re a heavy Gmail user, but you’d like the interface to look a little less PC. With a site skin you could alter it to look more OS X.

So here’s the one I’ve been working on. A Spotlight-ish skin for de.licio.us. The start of this idea came from Tom Coates mockups of bookmark tagging inside Safari. My aim was to make de.licio.us look more like a part of my browser, rather than a web page.

delicious after being skinned

(click image for full sized version)

If you’d like to give it a go, download this site rule (ctrl-click and ‘Save linked file as’), and then drag and drop it into PithHelmets site preferences window. That should be all you have to do, but this is a ‘first try’, so do let me know if anything goes wrong.

The css for this is a bit quick and sloppy. I’ve coded it so that the css can be used in a usercontent.css (that would get applied to every site), so while it’s flexible, it could be cut down when being used in the PithHelmet context. Ways to improve this (if I had the time) would be to use a javascript to dynamically create classes for the alternating rows, rather than the limited adjacent sibling selector method that I used in the css. All in all, it’s not perfect, but its enough to demonstrate what you can do. Someone with more time could take this and improve on it.

To create your own site theme, you have to use copious amounts of the inherit value to override the site’s own css rules. Then once you’re ready to go:

  1. visit the site you want to change in Safari
  2. open up PithHelmet menu>Show Site Preferences. If you haven’t already set preferences for that site, it will be at the bottom of the list.
  3. under ‘style’ select your custom css, and javascript, if applicable.
  4. type in a theme name
  5. If your theme requires images, create a directory with the theme name:
  6. ~/Library/Application Support/PithHelmet/com.apple.Safari/themename and then add the files to that directory
  7. make sure that images in your css file refer to file:///~/Library/Application%20Support/PithHelmet/com.apple.Safari/
  8. themename/newlogo.png (You can leave the ~, as this will choose the current users home directory, and allow the theme to be used by others). If it all looks OK, drag and drop the theme onto the finder, and this will create the .phr file with all the theme information.

The ability to create an easily sharable site theme opens up possibilities. Sites like de.licio.us are perhaps a little easier than some to theme, as all the styling is done with external css.

So, who’d like to have a go?

Hicksdesign theme for Omniweb 5

For that <1% of the Hicksdesign readership that use it, here is the Hicksdesign theme for Omniweb 5.

Download the theme here

Screenshots

Please note, I am using Nathan Skinner’s Tiger Theme, in these screenshots:

Overview (click for full sized image)
overall view

Toolbar (click for full sized image)
customise toolbar view

Download Manager
download manager

Preferences
preferences

Status Bar
status bar

Source Editor
source editor

Background

This has been a personal project since February, and even though its not finished, I feel the need to get something out as a starting point. The thing is, there are so many flippin’ icons in Omniweb, and while I don’t want to change them all, I do want to change a lot of them. The goal here (as always) was not to create a highly original theme. I just wanted something that blended into OS X as much as possible.

Originally, the theme was a redraw of my Camino theme, but I tried a straight rip-off of the safari/finder style buttons, and found that I much preferred this look. This is now the main style, but the rounder ‘iTunes’ style is there as an additional installation option. The rest of the icons are partly inspired by Stephen Horlanders icons for Firefox (mainly the history and RSS feed icon), but I’ve redrawn these myself, rather just steal them!

I have also supplied a ‘restore’ installer if you want to revert back to the original icons.

Also in the download, is a folder called ‘Goodies’, which contains extra applescripts, web badges, workspaces and a very simple shapeshifter theme, to remove the shadow on the bookmarks toolbar. Most people will probably like to keep the shadow, and even those that aren’t, probably wouldn’t go to the extent of installing a theme just for that. In short, if you want to use it, its there.

Huge thanks to Buzz Anderson of SciFiHiFi who answered my plea and set me up with Iceberg project files for creating the installer. Thanks Buzz!

Icons still to do:

  • The small bookmark icons
  • The large bookmarks image in the tab drawer
  • Main toolbar icons – Mark Page/Next Mark/Previous Mark

Updates and feedback

I intend to add more replacement icons to this set in the future, as well a improve the existing ones. I’ll be posting details of updates to my ‘OS X Browser News’ section, so the RSS feed will let you know when new versions are uploaded.

I’d particularly like your feedback on the status bar icons. Should they be in colour, or stay grey, or a combination of the 2? I can’t decide, but I’ve gone with mainly grey icons in this release. If you do like the theme, but there is a particular button that you use that I’ve not covered yet, let me know.

Update – I’ve done a quick to revision to solve a couple of issues people were having. Please re-download.

Optimized Firefox for G5's

Last week, I linked to a guy who was producing optimized builds of Firefox specifically for Powerbook G4’s. These unofficial builds were noticeably faster, almost blinding. Now, Neil Lee has gone and cooked up a build just for G5’s too.

Grab the build from here, which also includes Kevin Gerich’s pretty widgets as standard!

Unfortunately, this coincides with my G5 being taken in to Oxford Macintosh Solutions (my local lifesavers) to have its graphics card poked and prodded, so I haven’t been able to try it out myself yet. I’m hoping a free advert might help with the bill…

Help wanted: Creating a browser theme installer

I’m in the slow process of getting my Omniweb 5 theme ready for public consumption, and it strikes me that something like an applescript would probably enable the easy install of a bunch of image files into an applications hidden resource folder. Normally you would have to ctrl click an app, choose ‘show package contents’ from the context menu, and then navigate through the hidden folders to dump replacement images. Not the hardest job in the world, but I feel it could be so much simpler.

The trouble is, I start to look at such things and whooooosh (motions a plane swooping over the head).

If anyone has the skills to pay these particular bills, advice or pointers, please drop me a line, or leave a comment here. I’d be very grateful for any help!

Some Omniweb 5 tricks you might not know

  • This is my favourite! Pressing Enter will trigger any ‘next page’ links. When looking through search results in photo libraries, this feature is a god send.
  • Option_apple_b will open up the bookmarks manager in a new window, even if you have it set to appear in the browser.
  • Option clicking a toolbar bookmark folder highlights the name for editing.
  • Double clicking a tab will close it, and open that page in a new window
  • Double clicking the sites favicon will open the site in a new window, without closing the first instance.
  • Double clicking a bookmark toolbar folder will open all the bookmarks in tabs. Dragging the folder to the tab drawer does the same.
  • Drag a finder-level folder onto the window to reveal its contents. This has the added benefit of revealing the iPod’s hidden music folders too! (thanks Sean)
  • To export the page as one long PDF with no page breaks, type option-shift-command-s. Holding down option while exposing the File menu will also reveal this menu. (Thanks to Nick Matsakis)
  • If you select some text before outputting to pdf, it will be saved with the highlighted text.

New Safari Stand features

Sorry, this will the be the last browser post in a while – promise. Stand for Safari has been updated to work with v1.2.3 (v125.9), and has added some nice new features.

First of all Doug Bowman pointed out that there is an english translation page for Stand here. That makes life easier.

You can now replace either the Bug Report, Autofill, Add bookmark or Home buttons with an ‘Action’ button. This gives you a drop down menu with the following options:

Action menu

(Note: This menu now includes the ability to view HTTP headers, cookies for that site (with another option to delete them) and a selectable menu of all css and images etc from that page – amazing!)

Workspaces can now be opened in new tabs as well as saved, and you can make ‘labelled bookmark separators’ by adding a folder with the following title:

-:-label here.

This adds a greyed out text label – nice.

Menu label

Another nice feature I’ve discovered is that you can get the history and bookmark searches to display within the browser window rather than in a smaller, separate window. To try this out, drag and drop these links to the toolbar: “History search”:safaristand://jp.hetima.history/ and “Bookmark Search”:safaristand://jp.hetima.bookmark/.

You can also add RSS Feeds. Create a Bookmark Collection called ‘Stand Bar RSS’ and bookmark feed URL’s there. You can then read these feeds in the ‘Stand Bar’ under the ‘R” menu. While I probably won’t use this feature, its good to know that there are developers wanting to add value in this way.

Stand Bar RSS Feeds

When you combine Safari, Saft and Stand you get one very good browser.

Omniweb 5 wishlist

Now that Omniweb 5 is finally released after many months of beta releases, we now have a sturdy, feature filled Webcore based alternative to Safari. For anyone that uses a lot of tabs, OW is godsend, but I’m left with just a few niggles that I would love to see changed in the next version:

  • Preference for ‘Always show tab drawer’. When you have tabs set to open on the left, its annoying when new windows shift when the tab drawer opens.
  • RSS feeds to open in new tabs, not windows.
  • Improve the look of the download manager. Safari gets this right. Its particularly bad when OW is downloading. The text is badly compressed. Just ugly.
  • Use the latest webcore (this is planned for 5.1)
  • Remove the ‘image well’ shadow from the bookmarks toolbar, or introduce a Tiger style Mail.app look. I’ve actually created a shapeshifter theme just to remove this shadow. I know, you don’t have to tell me I have no life.
  • Ability to save the current set up as workspace, rather than having to create a new space and set it all up first.

I also think the documentation could be a little less waffley and childish. Humour is a difficult one to pull off – and with the PDF manual I felt myself saying “For goodness sake, just get on with it!!!”.

Apologies for yet another browser related post.

Extending Safari 3: Stand

I’ve recently discovered another plug-in for Safari, called Stand. I can’t tell you a whole lot of detail about it, as the site is written in Japanese. What I can tell you is that its free, and it allows you to do the following slick actions:

  • Allow syntax colouring in viewed source (no control over colours used though)
  • Specify a font and size for viewed source (I like this – I have a thing about using Lucida Grande for source view).
  • Search your bookmarks and history (very nice, although I tend to use Quicksilver to find bookmarks quickly, this is even faster).
  • Specify that all links to a ‘_blank’ target open in a new tab instead of a new window. This is nice.
  • Save tab layouts as workspaces alá Omniweb.
  • Assign categories, colour labels and comments to new bookmarks
  • Create search shortcuts (as in Sogudi and Saft)
  • ‘Site Alteration’. This allows you some basic preferences on a per site basis, such as what encoding to use, and whether images, pop-ups, plug-ins or javascript are to be allowed.
  • Remove favicons.
  • Set a time delay for auto-closing the downloads window after completion.
  • It also seems to add ‘Copy Link HTML Tag’ command to the context menu when ctrl-clicking links. (I’ve only just noticed this though, so it could’ve been there all along!)

This is a beta, so although I could save windows as workspaces, I couldn’t find a way of reopening them. There is also a window called the ‘Stand Bar’, which includes searchable bookmarks and history again, plus 2 other menus which haven’t been ‘hooked up’ yet.

Having said all that, it appears to be very stable, and chuffed with my lovely new source view. Its another worthwhile addition to make Safari the browser it should be.

OS X Browsers news feed

To avoid alienating too many readers with my OS X browser talk I’ve added an extra sidenotes type section to the journal, with it’s own RSS Feed. Here is where I will now post all information about new browser releases, themes and such like. (I’m loving this Textpattern ‘set it up in 10 seconds mullarkey!). This is a trial run – lets see if I can keep it updated, and if anyone’s interested!

Shiira theme

Screenshot of my shiira theme

To install this set, all you have to do is go to Shiira’s icon preferences, choose ‘load icons’, and navigate to the ‘ShiiraIcons.plist’ inside the Hickstheme folder. This will load the main toolbar icons. If you want to use plain folder icons to clean up the interface (along with some other improvements), these have to copied manually into > Shiira (ctrl-click to choose ‘show package contents’)> contents> resources>. Just a replacement icon for icon preferences is yet to be done.

Screenshot of all the icons

Shiira

As if I didn’t already have enough choice in OS X browsers, along comes another. Shiira is an open source browser, built using Safari’s webkit, that the Japanese developers intend to be “a browser that is better and more useful than Safari”. As it uses the latest verson of webkit, it will only run on 10.3.

The interface, at first glance, looks a lot like Safari. The tabs implementation are almost identical (although tab labels aren’t bold), and the preferences window layout shares many similarities. However, unlike Safari’s interface, Shiira uses a fully customisable Aqua toolbar and bookmarks/history are displayed in a sidebar drawer instead of replacing the window, just like Camino 0.7. Most importantly, it doesn’t have Safari’s elegance or good looks in the toolbar icon department. Take a look at this screenshot and the various icon options being offered. The Jade stone set is the default.

Elements like the icons on the toolbar folders are unnecessary, but like all these things, can be themed however you like! So, to make it more pleasant to use, I’ve thrown together bits from my Camino and Omniweb themes and made a temporary one for Shiira:

Screenshot of my shiira theme

If you’d like to try this theme too, download it here (if your browser doesn’t understand .sitx files, you may have to control-click the link and choose ‘save file as..’). All you have to do is go to Shiira’s icon preferences, choose ‘load icons’, and navigate to the ‘ShiiraIcons.plist’ inside the Hickstheme folder. This will load the main toolbar icons. If you want a plain folder icon, these have to copied manually into > Shiira (ctrl-click to choose ‘show package contents’)> contents> resources>. I haven’t redone all the icons, but the main ones are there

There are several advantages in using Shiira:


  • Re-orderable Tabs. This is my main reason for feeling excited by Shiira. I use this a lot in Ominweb, and I’m looking forward to when Camino gets the function (soon).
  • New Tab button situated to the right of the tabs is quite handy.
  • Its fast. Runs faster than Safari for me, and it’s level-pegging with the latest Camino builds for speed. It seems to use the least amount of CPU of all my browsers.
  • Customisable search bar, out of the box.
  • Option is given to switch between metal or aqua appearance.
  • Pace of development seems quite fast.

It shows great promise, even though the interface might not quite be there yet. On one hand it feels a little basic, but then throws in some great features like the drag and drop re-orderable tabs. Another one to keep my eye on…

a little browser quandary

which one to choose...

For me, choosing a default browser on my PC was very, very easy. Should I use IE with its basic features and crappy standards support? Opera with its flashing ad banners, and messy interface? Hmmm, it’ll be Firefox then.

However, for the last year, I’ve been unable to stick to one browser on OS X as my default for long. I don’t have this problem in any other area – default text editor: skEdit, default DTP app: InDesign CS. No other Mac user I know seems to have this problem – they just use Safari all the way. I flick between browsers as much as 5 times a day, and I’m starting to really bore myself with it. Switching is inevitable, as no one browser will be able to do absolutely everything you want it to, but I would really like to decide on main browser. I’d like to get a life please.

At the moment its more or less a 2 horse race between Saftari* and Omniweb 5, but there is still the occasional dalliance with Camino and Firefox. I’ve been really wowed by the latest Omniweb 5 betas, if you tried an earlier version and gave it up for being too crashy, try it again. At least the latest Opera 7 Mac beta is an ugly duckling, and iCab still doesn’t ‘do’ CSS, so that helps to narrow the choice a bit.

This post was intended to be a bit of personal browser-therapy – admit to my obsessive problem, hoping that you don’t start avoiding me in the street, and invite you to let me know your thoughts. Does anyone else have this problem? Do you have a definite favourite? Let me know. If I can get almost 200 comments for doing a little icon, hopefully you’re all dying to let me know your opinion!

*Apologies if you find my pet name for Safari with saft annoying. I’m not going to stop though.

Safari menu separators

screenshot of the menu separators

I’ve come up with a very lo-fi hack for creating bookmark menu separators in Safari. By combining a grey line favicon, with the most minimal page title I could find (unfortunately, Safari doesn’t allow blank titles) you can get a passable separator. If you like the look of example above, simply go to http://sep.hicksdesign.co.uk/, and bookmark it. Once in your bookmarks it can copied into other folders by alt-dragging.

Updated: As clever clogs Shaun Inman has pointed out in the comments, you can remove the title completely by editing the bookmarks.plist file and changing <string>·</string> to <string></string>. Safari accepts this and just leaves with the grey line.

Updated again: If you prefer to use a plain-as-possible favicon (a single-pixel of pinstripe colour) then go to http://sep2.hicksdesign.co.uk/ instead.

New Browsers

After excitedly downloading the Omniweb 5 Beta yesterday, I was all prepared to give a critique, but as usual, John Gruber says it best.

Suffice to say that OW 5 shows a lot of promise, but the beta crashes and hangs too much too often to use it for any length of time. The thumbnail tabs are wonderful and I’m no longer a sceptic. The toolbar icons are not to my taste though. I feel a browser theme coming on…

There’s more activity on the browser front – Safari 1.2 has just been released, and is even zippier, as well as adding few more features. Safari Enhancer and PithHelmet have both been updated to work with 1.2. There are bug fixes too: The aggressive caching issue is fixed, so I no longer have to use Firebird to view Dunstans Blog. Dan Cederholm reports that the hover bug is fixed too. This was causing my site logo to stick on ‘home’, so I’m glad to see the back of that. The one downside is that you now have to use Panther to get the updates – Jaguar users have to stick with 1.0.

Also, Firebird 0.8 is due out next Monday. In the nightly builds annoying OS X bugs such as no new browser window when clicking the dock icon, have been fixed, and its looking good.

OmniWeb 5

For the past year I’ve been dithering between Camino, Safari and Firebird as my default browser on OSX, unable to settle with one. They’re all really good, but each one has something that niggles me or leaves me wanting. In Camino its the lack of autofill and its centered tabbed browsing. In Safari, it’s the lack of toolbar customisability, its icons and non-configurable pop-up blocking. Firebird is the one that comes damn close, but at the end of the day, its not a cocoa app, so no native form widgets and (more importantly) I can’t use the funk in the services menu like ‘subscribe in NetNewsWire’ or ‘Encode into HTML’ (Character Convertor).

One other browser that I’ve been really impressed with was Omniweb 4.5. Its heavily laden with features, but that doesn’t seem to slow it down. It now uses the WebCore Framework (Safari’s rendering engine), so its CSS and Javascript problems are in the past. One of my favourite features is its form editor. Everytime you come across a textfield, you’ll see a small icon the scrollbar -click that and a larger editing window zooms out. This is particularly useful when fiddling with MovableType templates. I’m not keen on OW’s back/forward/stop toolbar icons, but that can be changed. The real drawback was the lack of tabbed browsing. Why pay $30 for a browser, when all the free ones supply this important feature? So I’ve been waiting for news of the next version, in which the Omni Group promised to bring in Tabs.

Finally, details have been released of Omniweb 5, but I couldn’t help give a huge sigh of disappointment (and feel a little angry) when I saw how they were going to implement tabs. The Omniweb way is going to be a side drawer with thumbnails of each site. If you’ve ever opened a multi-page PDF in Apple Preview, you’ll have an idea of how this will look.

This seems a very odd move. For a start, its screen-hungry. It might not be too bad on a widescreen PowerBook, but on normal proportion monitors it looks as if it’ll steal far too much space. Also, if there are more thumbnails than there is space for, you need to scroll down and then select one. Traditional tabs mean that everything is just one, easy click away. They obviously felt the need to be different – now that it uses the safari rendering engine, they have to work harder to convince users to buy something they effectively already have.

There are some interesting new features, such as an in-built RSS reader and ‘workspaces’ which allow you to save a set of tabs. There’s a google search box to compete with the others – but they’ve also included an interface to add your own search engines. (Safari and Camino require fiddling to do this, while Firebird has a wide selection of add-ons available from Mozdev’s Mycroft). The new page marker feature looks like Safari’s ‘snapback’ in all but name, but the ability to save preferences for each site (pop-ups, text size etc) looks handy. It all looks really promising, with just the tab-thumbnails dampening my enthusiasm.

Having said that, I’m slowly starting to come around to this new approach to tabbed browsing. When the public beta becomes available in February, I’m going to be eager to try it out.

Update: If you want to see how the new tabs work, have a look at this movie. This shows that you can view sites as a list, rather than thumbnails, as well as resize the thumbnails.

Update II: Omniweb 5 was previewed at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco this week, and Your Mac Life have a video interview with David Kasprzyk from the OminGroup. The video shows that it has the ability to resize the tab thumbnails, from huge to tiny. Looks even more promising….

YML at MWSF – Omniweb 5 Movie

Extending Safari

Just wanted to share with you my favourite apps for extending the capabilities of Safari – There might be one here you haven’t tried…

Safari Enhancer – Does a whole variety of tasks, but I use it to enable the debug menu (contains a spoof user agents menu), remove the metal skin (looks great in Panther!) and deactivate the cache.

Sogudi – creates search shortcuts to use in the location bar. For instance, to search for ‘skEdit’ on Versiontracker, just type ‘vt skEdit’ into the location bar. Comes with some preset searches, and the ability to add your own.

Pith Helmet – Blocks adverts, particularly annoying animated gif banner ads. Just makes life so much nicer. You can specify sites to always block or never block content from.

Safari No-Timeout – get longer than 60 seconds before Safari times out.

What’s more, these apps are all free. There are some nice people out there.

Incidentally, the new OS X 10.3.2 update, seems to include enhancements Safari or the WebCore, as I’ve just noticed that title attributes now show up as tooltips, as promised by Dave Hyatt. This doesn’t seem to be mentioned in Apple’s release notes. Presumably, this means that the other niceties on his list are now installed too.

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…