capsule review

OmniWeb 4.0

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The prerelease Carbonized version of Microsoft Internet Explorer may be Mac OS X's default browser, but it's soon going to have some serious competition. Opera Software has released a beta Carbonized version of Opera 5, and The Omni Group has shipped the shareware OmniWeb 4.0.1, developed in Cocoa. OmniWeb demonstrates the significant built-in advantages offered by Cocoa apps, but this browser still needs a lot of polishing before it'll be able to outshine Internet Explorer.

Gloriously Readable Pages

The first thing you notice about OmniWeb is how great it makes Web pages look. Thanks in part to Mac OS X's Quartz underpinnings, OmniWeb excels at displaying text; Internet Explorer can't hold a candle to it.

OmniWeb's user interface is also very good. For example, 1-clicking on a hyperlink opens a new window behind the current one, so you don't have to stop reading the first page to rearrange windows. When you hit a bookmarked page whose address has changed, the browser asks if you want to automatically update the bookmark. Customizable shortcuts let you type an abbreviation into the Address field; for example, you could type in mw, and OmniWeb would expand that to You can even opt to block advertising.

In addition to browsing, you can use OmniWeb to create and modify HTML pages. Its HTML Source Editor lets you enter text, offers automatic syntax coloring, and flags possible code errors. If you have upload privileges, you can save an edited page to your server via FTP from within OmniWeb.

Like Having One Foot in a Bucket

OmniWeb has only a nodding acquaintance with important Web standards such as HTML 4.01, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS1 and CSS2), and Document Object Model (DOM1), despite claims to the contrary on The Omni Group's site. There's a fair amount of support for CSS1, but it's buggy and incomplete; you often see incorrect rendering, such as lines of text overlapping or the wrong colors in page elements. Though most sites display well, a significant minority have problems.

OmniWeb's DOM is roughly equivalent to Netscape 4's, which puts it many years behind the times. Very incomplete JavaScript support means that only the simplest scripts, such as image rollovers, will work; other common site features, such as form validation, will fail. Java applets generally don't work at all.

Because of OmniWeb's JavaScript problems and some issues with its implementation of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which encrypts transactions with e-commerce sites, you won't be able to access some sites. And OmniWeb supports Web animations created with Macromedia's Flash 4 but not those created with the newer Flash 5.

Using Internet Explorer and Opera is a pleasure because they draw pages quickly and display cached pictures almost instantly when you click on the Back button. With OmniWeb, a fast cable-modem connection often feels like a 56K dial-up link. Pages load slowly, and going back to pages you have already viewed takes nearly as long. If you increase text size, OmniWeb fetches and renders the entire page all over again. The browser also crashed repeatedly during testing.

Macworld's Buying Advice

OmniWeb has enormous promise, but that promise has yet to be realized in too many important areas. Download OmniWeb for free to become familiar with how it works; save your money until the program's performance issues have been resolved.

Read the Fine Print: OmniWeb's terrific text rendering helps eliminate online eyestrain.
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