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A good alternative browser to Safari on Mac OS X Leopard is Camino. Camino is based on Mozilla’s Gecko engine, so it operates much like Firefox on Mac, but a hell of a lot quicker.
Camino just released version 1.6.1 (May 20, 2008), which fixed stability and security issues from their last major release, 1.6, which was made available a month before that, so the latest release should be pretty solid.
Having offered Camino as an alternative to Safari, I actually not only still use Safari, but I also use Firefox, basically the three major browsers on Mac. Why the heck would I do this? Each browser has its benefits.
Best overall website compatibility. Lets face it, Apple still has a ways to go before Mac penetration gets beyond even 15% of the user base that Windows has. As such, most websites are optimized or tested for “Internet Explorer” and none other. This can lead to rendering issues on Mac browsers such as Safari and Camino. Firefox is the least susceptible to these compatibility issues, which are generally due to Internet Explorer not being standards compliant. But, that’s another story for another time, by another blogger.
Fastest browser. Faster than both Camino and Firefox. Safari is what I think of as a “light browser”: a lean, mean, browsing machine. This was the first browser for Mac and it’s the most “integrated” with the operating system. But, it lacks some “power-user” features that I can’t live without on a day to day basis. For example: text or link searching using “forward slash” or “single quote”. In Camino simply hit the “forward slash” key, start typing, and Camino will move to the next word containing the string of characters you are typing. Hitting Ctrl + G will move to the next match. The same works with “single quote” link searching. Once the link you’re searching for is found and highlighted, simply press Enter/Return and the link is opened. This is seriously efficient and fast browsing, much much faster than messing around with a mouse or trackpad and hovering the mouse pointer over the correct few centimeters of display in order to open links. Try this inline search feature on Camino and I bet you will love it.
Safari has its own search/find feature that’s pretty tight as well, highlighting the word you’re searching for and darkening the rest of the page. This is great for serious text reading on big documents, but for navigating and general surfing, I’d much rather have Camino’s inline search with keyboard navigation.
If Camino 1.x isn’t importing your Google Bookmarks (http://www.google.com/bookmarks) properly (it can hang during the import process) an easy fix or solution is to import your Google bookmarks into Safari first (File menu > Import Bookmarks).
Then from Safari, export the bookmarks to an HTML file.
Then return to Camino and import the bookmarks from an HTML file (File menu > Import Bookmarks > Select a File [from the drop down box] and select the Safari bookmarks.html file that you just created).
So something that came as a bit of a surprise to me was that on certain sites, Safari is 4-5x faster than Firefox on page rendering. Recently I’ve been doing lots of work on SalesForce.com and I was thinking: “Man, their site is hella slow”.
After talking with a friend in Paris accessing the same site, but without all the slow loading issues I decided to give Safari on Leopard a try. The exact same pages, the exact same actions produced very different results. Safari is by far the “fast browser” and Firefox, the slow browser, at least on OS X. Pages that I would have to wait between 6-7 seconds to finish loading in Firefox would come up around the 1 second mark (or less) in Safari. This is an enormous difference when you’re talking about browsing as 5-10 seconds is an eternity to wait for something to load, but too short of a time to do anything meaningful besides becoming frustrated.
Now if only Safari could navigate links using the keyboard only like it’s possible in Firefox. In Firefox you can simply Ctrl + F to do a word search on the page (which is part of a link), when the partial word/link is highlighted, hit Esc to clear the search highlighting and you’re left with a cursor focused link that will respond to an Enter button press with opening the link. Brilliantly fast, much faster than finding links through the mouse. Somehow we need to generate enough noise so that the Webkit (which is the basis of Safari) developers to take note and build this into the next release of their software.