Batter Up: Safari -- OmniWeb on Deck

On Monday, our distinguished Managing Editor, Jeff Gamet, explained why he uses OmniWeb as his browser instead of Safari. Having used OmniWeb myself for most of Safari 3's lifetime, I can empathize. However, I found that OmniWeb, while great, isn't for me anymore, and I'm now back in the Safari 4 camp.

I'm in a good position to comment on Mr. Gamet's blog because I too was seduced by OmniWeb. I particularly like the vertical drawer of thumbnails instead of scrunched titles in Safari tabs. I found it much easier to jump between working pages just by looking at the thumbnails.


OmniWeb with its drawer of thumbnails for recent pages

There are a lot of other things to like about OmniWeb. I particularly like the handling and UI for bookmarks. Also, OmniWeb doesn't try to be too cute by half by putting the reload button in the URL field, something that Apple seems to be doing with an eye towards multi-touch more than creating convenience for Mac users. On that, I agree with Mr. Gamet -- agenda has gotten in the way of a great UI. At least with OmniWeb, the reload button is big, intuitive, and easy to find.

Deal Breakers and Makers

I think what did me in with OmniWeb was something that I can't really explain. When I was doing afternoon news, I was hitting a lot of different sites. Time was critical. And more often than I would have liked, OmniWeb just wouldn't load a page, and Safari, when I checked, would. Now, both browsers use Webkit, so I don't know what was happening. I just know that I got frustrated in a time critical environment, and that was the first deal breaker.

Also, because I hit so many sites, I like the ability to often do a Safari Reset: Safari Menu -> Reset Safari... In one place I have the ability to clear cookies, cache, history and anything else I might need to do to sanitize my browser after an afternoon session of crawling around in Internet mud. With OmniWeb, I have to hunt around in several different places to do what Safari does in one place. That was the second deal breaker.

When Apple tried to put the tabs at the top of the window in the Safari 4 beta, I immediately downloaded "Safari Buddy" to put them back. Thankfully, after a long beta period and customer feedback, Apple elected not to lock the tabs at the top of the Window. But even if Apple had locked them up there, I would have probably stayed with Safari, grudgingly, because of the two deal breakers above.

As for the drawer of thumbnails in OmniWeb, which I dearly love, I find that Safari 4's "Top Sites" page, after I learned to rearrange the page and lock in some top positions, works almost as well for me. That was a deal maker for switching back to Safari.

Security and Compatibility

There's another reason to stay with Safari. While every browser developer is keen on security, Apple has a lot at stake with Safari -- and the most to lose if there's a breach in security. I know that Apple is sometimes later than we would like with patches, but the Safari team takes its time, and generally does a good job. I like that comfort level in being a co-stakeholder along with Apple in the security of Safari.

Finally, when developers work on add-ons, they usually think of Safari first. While Safari is number one in Apple market share, OmniWeb has, at least from our own Web stats, less than one percent of the market. As a result, if there's a companion product or add-on or some other app that interacts with a Mac browser, chances are, things will go better with Safari. Again, it's a matter of no-fuss efficiency.

Bottom of the 9th

Frankly, I don't have time to mess around with a low market share browser and make sure every supporting product works -- even though I can't put my finger on an specific instances. I suppose I'm like a Microsoft user in that regard using IE -- I don't have the time or motivation to mess around with a 3rd party browser when all the action is at the Safari watering hole. Color me guilty.

Of course, that goes against my grain of being a maverick, but I do that when it gives me a definite edge, not an obstacle. And from time to time, I do use Firefox for various reasons, but Firefox falls in the same boat: I've never figured out a compelling reason or operational edge in using it.

The net-net is that I really like OmniWeb. I paid for it before it became free. But like many of you readers, I have some specific priorities, and those priorities may be different based on experience. For now, I'm back with Safari 4 and a happy camper.