Alternate Browsers - May 15, 2001

By: James Reynolds - Revised: 2006-07-13 devin


Netscape used to be the ONLY browser as far as I was concerned. So I think I was not alone in my despair at the sale of Netscape to AOL - many people I know joined me in saying "Oh, [expletive deleted]..." Today, bugs and instability persist despite numerous and frequent updates, and old versions of the browser continue to be "improved" as if to indicate the new versions aren't up to snuff either...

As for Explorer, most people's balking at it can be summed up in a word: Microsoft.

Presented here are three alternatives to the buggy bloatware that are Microsoft's and AOL's attempts at web browsing.


iCab is currently in preview mode, meaning it has an expiration date which will require you periodically to download an update. This also means that, as a beta, the software doesn't claim to be rock-solid (iCab has frozen my machine before...) The latest version (as of 4/30/01, 2.5.1b2) includes many bug fixes, some new features, and some support for CSS. The final release will be offered in a free version as well as a pro version for $29.

iCab has many features, some of which are exclusive:
  • Full control of all navigation items (i.e. buttons, toolbars, status bar, etc)
  • Control of Contextual Menu items, including speed of window pop-up
  • Selection of options for source display, including helper apps
  • IMAGE FILTERS - ability to exclude ad banners and such
  • Identity options - appear as Netscape or IE to other systems
  • Behavior options - behave/display like Netscape or IE
  • Navigate menu - see sites from Today, Yesterday, Older than 2 Days
  • Error button - views compliance with standards, lists code errors
  • Customizable buttons, themes, etc


Opera is also currently in technology preview mode, with similar expiration dates and requiring of current downloads. Again, as beta software, it doesn't claim to be rock-solid, however I have thoroughly beat it up (hitting multiple sites simultaneously, downloading large images in three windows or more at once, etc) and it has performed at least as well as Netscape does (meaning at worst it will just crash unexpectedly but not hang the machine).

Features of Opera:
  • Accessibility - keyboard commands for moving around
  • Browser Identification - similar to iCab, pretend to be someone else
  • Document presentation options - minimum font size, CSS support, frames, etc
  • Document presentation options - minimum font size, CSS support, frames, etc
  • Privacy options - such as document referrer on/off
  • Program options - external source viewers, download managers
  • Start/Exit options - remembering windows, etc
  • View menu - greater control of button bar, address bar, status bar

OmniWeb (Mac OS X only)

OmniWeb is a final release (4.0), available as shareware. It is a cocoa app, so it is multi-threaded, takes full advantage of OS X, and is integrated with the general rules of configurability (i.e. similar view preferences as the Finder's System Preferences). The design is very sleek, and the performance has been quite solid for me so far (even the beta never crashed on me). Its features are similar to any run-of-the-mill browser - it doesn't have all the sneaky and cool features of Opera or iCab, but it's a solid browser that is customizable to a satisfactory degree.


Right now I still use Netscape Communicator primarily, but that's only because I still use OS 9.1. (OS X 10.0.3 is a bit better but still contains some infuriating bugs that make me not quite able to use it all the time.) Once Opera and iCab are in full release versions available for OS X (assuming X is sufficiently improved by then as well), along with OmniWeb, I will see pretty much no reason to use IE or Netscape, EVER, except maybe to test web sites to see if they play nice with browsers that don't respect the standards ;)