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OmniWeb is a real alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer running on Mac OS X. Just that fact is bound to win OmniWeb legions of followers among the Microsoft-hating public. I’m not a rabid Microsoft hater – in fact I really love some Microsoft products, and I can’t imagine life without Entourage. However, I now use OmniWeb on my Mac, because I use OS X.
It isn’t that I don’t like Explorer, I do. It’s the simple fact that OmniWeb is prettier and faster than the Explorer 5.1 beta that shipped with OS X. If Microsoft tunes up Explorer to work as gracefully as OmniWeb, I might move back. But, for now, it’s OmniWeb.
When you use OmniWeb, you’re tapping into a fabulous resource of programmers, with a culture reminiscent of the early days of computing. Their mission is to make software that’s useful and fun. A little more delving into their Web site reveals that they’re fully paid-up real-life tree-hugging hippies. They avoid using paper, they recycle everything, they even insist that workers move near to the company so they don’t pollute unnecessarily. Hats off to them I say.
OmniWeb started life as a NeXT application, and has been going longer than Netscape. It seems natural to port it to OS X, as much of OS X is based on NeXTSTEP. The key to OmniWeb’s beauty is simplicity. The interface is uncluttered and easy to use, and it makes good use of the Aqua design. Much of the feel of OmniWeb is only subtly different from the average browser, but it’s definitely a more pleasant experience.
The main reason for my allegiance is that it’s faster than the Explorer beta by some margin. Checking the speed of your Web connection is easy. Simply search the Internet for one of many Web-speed gauges. These are pages that measure how long it takes for you to download a special Web page. With a 512Kbps ADSL connection, I was getting an average of 450Kbps with OmniWeb. Switching to Explorer made the speed drop to an average of 350Kbps – a significant difference.
Neither of the browsers had a 100 per cent record for displaying pages correctly. So you will probably have a copy of each on your machine. I found Explorer had a problem with Hotmail from my machine – although other machines worked fine. OmniWeb occasionally failed to display text on one particular page. These quirks are found in just about every browser. OmniWeb crashes occasionally, however, it’s a very pleasant crash. After it hit a problem, it brought up a sign requesting permission to send a bug report to the Omni Group, then crashed – how polite.
Buying a browser may be something of an alien concept to many people. You can use OmniWeb for free. However, if you leave it unattended, it will plaster unlicensed across your screen as a reminder. Moving the mouse makes it disappear, so even the nagging is polite. If there ever was a browser you should pay for, OmniWeb is it.