With Web browsers now deeply in the realm of commodity software, The Omni Group is persisting with its shareware browser, OmniWeb, by releasing a public beta of the upcoming version 5.0.
OnmiWeb 5.0 beta is simple to install and get started; however, as opposed to other browsers, a window does not appear by default and must be opened in a second step. Other windowing problems include the inability to maximize to the windows on the screen properly so getting OmniWeb to maximize screen real estate involves manually resizing the browser window.
This has its advantages in that there is better visibility of each ‘tabbed’ page but comes at the expense of a fair chunk of browsing space. The tabs in the side drawer can be compressed so that just the page name is displayed and tabs can be easily switched with the 1-arrow (up or down) keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately, closing the tabs drawer doesn’t return OmniWeb to its original size and another manual resizing is required.
Also making its debut with this release is OmniWeb’s “Workspace” utility that enables snapshots of browser characteristics such as pages, tabs and history. Using workspaces seems unintuitive at first, but definitely comes in handy during times of deep surfing when many tabs may have been loaded for Internet research and the like. When starting OmniWeb after workspaces have been set, it gives the option to restore a workspace, making it easy to resume browsing.
Like workspaces, OmniWeb now supports site-specific preferences, which also saves time when visiting many sites.
Regarding page display, OmniWeb 5.0 beta is just as good as Safari or Mozilla, and version 5.0 shows significant speed improvements over its predecessor. Also, despite being branded unstable by its makers, the beta performed well and rarely froze. The first beta of OmniWeb 5.0 is available for free download and testing, but does expire so purchasing a licence is necessary.
OmniWeb 5.0 looks like gaining some nifty features that will give it a leg-up. How long it stays with us will depend on the willingness of users to pay for a browser when they get Safari for free. People using the Web for research, however, may find the time-saving features of OmniWeb’s workspace functionality worth the price.