OmniWeb eulogy

Well, I finally did it. I’ve been using OmniWeb for a long long time now, but I’ve finally had to say good-bye. This is my eulogy. I first used OmniWeb (in fact, I can distinctly remember the first time I even heard about it) in v4 for quite some time as my main browser in Mac OS X, even after people were complaining about its lack of standards support (it wasn’t much of an issue to me at the time, since few things seemed obviously broken to me because that was all I knew); OW’s paragraph builder was much prettier than any other, even today, I would wager. After jumping around a bit (Camino was my next browser of choice for quite some time), I then went back to the fold after Safari was released, as OmniWeb stood on its shoulders to provide the best of both worlds: standards support and an ace application. Since then, it’s had a single major update to 5.1.

So what was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It was sort of the opposite, actually. OmniWeb has so many great little features that I love, I’m going to detail them here because I can. I’ve put off leaving because of all these things, and I hope I won’t miss them too much.

  • Per-site preferences really was one of the killer features for me. Being able to set the font size individually for each site you visit is so natural, because you’re never distracted by small type because it’s fixed once and for all. (This is probably more of a problem for someone using, as I am, a notebook of some kind.)

  • The tabs in OmniWeb really rock. They exist in a drawer, so they don’t use up any vertical space (another problem only with those with 1024 by 768 resolution screens or smaller). They can be rearranged at will, and even dragged between windows. Oh so nice.

  • Before syndication took over the world, I really enjoyed the way that OmniWeb would inform you whenever a site had been changed (it was so good to be able to actually know when to re-load a site — I forget what it used to be like). It worked so well for so long, that I didn’t like RSS at the beginning because I wanted to see the real web-page, dammit, not some plain-text version thereof. Especially for really beautiful websites, it’s sometimes half the experience to soak in the design while you read. (More modern feed readers tend not to suffer from this problem so much, but it’s still a bit of an issue for me.) It still galls me that what was possible in OmniWeb so long ago hasn’t been developed into a really good solution to syndication.

  • On a sour note, OmniWeb’s support for RSS was quite poor, at best, and only really worked for collections of, say, 50 sites at most that were updated fairly often. I did use it for a while, but NNW Lite won me over. I really hope that the OmniGroup create a really decent feed reader for v6, but I’m afraid that NNW has probably already taken all of its customers. John Siracusa admitted to using NetNewsWire as his main browser half the time because he liked nesting in the app so much, as a case in point!

  • I liked the shortcut feature for the URL address bar (e.g., type g hello to search Google for “hello”; gl I defined for “I’m feeling lucky”) but in the days of Google search fields, it’s not that relevant.

  • Finally, it was great that even if it crashed, OmniWeb would bring back your whole stack of tabs on relaunch (and I’m sad to say that crashes still did happen to it every now and then quite inexplicably; another big straw). I’m aware the saving tab functionality is now available through Safari plug-ins, so I’ll check that out ASAP as well. OmniWeb also had this weird workspace mode in which you could segregate your browsing windows by category and hide everything not currently relevant; I tried this out a few times, but never really became enamoured by the idea. Minimising works a charm, most of the time, anyway.

So, it’s over between me and OmniWeb. In a word, because it’s slow. The OmniGroup’ve really fallen behind the mark in keeping up with WebKit advances (since they had to fork the WebCore code to do all the fancy things they’ve done) and when I compare even just regular browsing between OmniWeb and Safari the difference is night and day. Don’t even ask about my crappy Java internet banking application. Dear doG.

I’m interested to check out FireFox 1.5 when it’s released, and similarly Camino. My browsing habits don’t really require that much, I guess. I’m not a web developer, I just want to read some stuff, use Google Groups, browse around, and have my passwords remembered in the Mac OS X keychain. All this kow-towing about is good for competition, but at the end of the day, there’s not too much between them any more from my point of view.

A final note on bookmarks. Now that I think of it, I haven’t been using bookmarks at all for as long as I can remember. I’ve got a whole slew of them that have been faithfully imported into Safari (Import Bookmarks..., I thank you) from years ago, but generally now it’s just as easy to search Google.

Looking through some what’s in there, I realise that there’s a whole bunch of information that I’ve read and thought was interesting, so I’ve left a reminder to myself that I like it. I would much prefer to have this information stored offline, so it would be searchable and properly browse-able, but I’m not sure that there are any programs that will do this nicely for me. Something to think about, for sure…

That’s me, anyway, on ditching OmniWeb. It’s of right now, so if I change my mind tomorrow, I’ll have to recant some of the things I just said. But don’t worry, OmniGroup; I’ll come back to you if you show decent improvements in the future (I did pay for a license, after all).