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Camino and Safari Compared
Pages: 1, 2

Tabs, Baby

No sooner had Safari made it out into the wild, than many users were clamoring for tabbed browsing. Long available in Mozilla, Opera, and other browsers, the use of tabs to bring together a screenload of web browser windows into a smaller, single-window package has become a very popular feature (although there are some who consider tabs alien to the Mac way of doing things).



If you're one of those people who thinks tabs are essential to modern web browsing, Camino has it all wrapped up. Compare viewing four different web pages at once in Camino (Figure 2) and Safari (Figure 3). Tabs make a real difference to people with limited screen space. Camino offers a simple Command-{ keyboard shortcut for switching from one tab to the next, but in both browsers you can use the little-documented Command-` shortcut for navigating a stack of windows. Many people (myself included) find the tabbed format a useful way of browsing many pages in a short time. Others find them handy for grouping together similar pages, such as a series of weblogs, for reading in one go.

Screen shot.
Figure 2. Comparing multiple-page displays: Camino.


Screen shot.
Figure 3. Comparing multiple-page displays: Safari.

Comparing Features and Tools

Bookmark management is handled in different ways, too. Camino spits out a sidebar, inside which you can edit and manipulate your bookmarks (Figure 4). Safari's bookmark manager is much like Apple's other iApps (such as iTunes and iPhoto), but when in use covers up the browser window you were using (Figure 5).

Screen shot.
Figure 4. Managing bookmarks in Camino.


Screen shot.
Figure 5. Managing bookmarks in Safari.

Safari's history is accessed directly from a menu item, with most recent items clearly shown first and older items ordered by date (Figure 6). It's a neat, attractive solution and somewhat faster and simpler to use than Camino's sidebar, which is now home to a new global history menu.

Screen shot.
Figure 6. Safari's history menu.

Browsers are increasingly designed to reflect things that web users really want. Hence, both Camino and Safari offer simple-to-use pop-up window blocking systems, freeing your screen from unwanted, intrusive advertising forever, if you so choose. (I've used pop-up blocking for so long now, that last time I had to use Internet Explorer for something I was astonished by a pop-up--I even took a few seconds to read it.)

Another popular innovation in browser design is the ability to start a search within the browser itself, rather than having to wait a few seconds to download a search site first. Safari's built-in search box has proved itself a useful addition, but it's a pity that it can only be used to search Google. While Google is everyone's favorite search site, it would be nice to be able to change this behavior and select from a list of search options. Perhaps this is something that will appear when Safari gets out of beta ... or not!

Camino does not have a similar built-in search module, although hacks exist that enable searching from inside the address bar; still, it's a pity something like this is not available out of the box.

You Takes Your Pick, You Makes Your Choice

So, which is the better browser? Sheesh, don't ask me. I'm as indecisive as the next person, and in the last month my default browser setting has fluttered between Chimera, Safari, and Mozilla. Each has features I like, each has niggles I dislike, and none has all of the lovely features and none of the niggles.

At the time of writing this article, the default browser on my iBook is Safari--mainly because I still use a modem to get on the Internet (don't get me started on broadband access in rural England), and consequently, speed counts. I decided that for the vast majority of my web browsing, getting there fast was the most important thing. Hence, Safari.

But prior to Safari's appearance, my favorite browser was Chimera, and no competitors even had a look-in. It had much of the good stuff from Mozilla (the rendering, the standards support) but without the bloat, and it was much, much faster than its parent.

Personally, I like using tabs and that's something I miss whenever I fire up Safari. It's possible that they'll be added to Safari in the future, and this might make me less likely to turn to Camino when I have lots of browsing to do, but not much real estate. And every now and then, Safari trips up on something or other (usually a layout glitch), and my cursor flicks over to the Camino icon in the Dock. Mozilla, Camino, and Safari all have a place there, sitting happily side-by-side.

Perhaps it's too easy to get over-excited about something as basic as a web browser. In these connected times, lots of us spend a lot of time in our browsers, so we tend to get attached to certain features. Even when another browser comes along without those features, that's no reason for getting upset about it.

What we should also remember is that browsers are almost always free, and the developers of all of them--Camino, Safari, and the rest of the gang--deserve the Internet community's thanks for the time and effort they put into their work.

Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at http://gilest.org.


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