It renders Web pages quickly, easily on par with the fastest of the competition, right up there with Safari and Firefox. That's significant because rendering speeds used to be a major source of disappointment, something that changed with Omni Group's embrace of Apple's own open-source WebKit frameworks. WebKit is used by Apple itself in several of its software packages -- Mail, Safari and Dashboard, to name a few -- and the Omni Group's adoption of this technology allowed it to focus on designing an elegant user interface instead of worrying about updating its rendering engine with every new Web standard.
Among the interface niceties is the aforementioned tab drawer. Instead of offering up a layout like its competitors -- with small tabs displayed horizontally near the address field -- OmniWeb shows a resizable window pane attached to the browser. The pane, which can be displayed on the right or left side of the main browser window, previews tabs as mini-Web pages rendered in real time. The real-time page rendering allows you to skip on to other sites when one is loading slowly, while still keeping an eye on the site's progress.
OmniWeb's user experience is top-notch and Mac-like -- something that can't be said about competitors like Firefox -- but that experience comes at a price. At a time when most Web browsers are free, a license for OmniWeb 5.8 costs $14.95, while an upgrade license from earlier versions costs $4.95.
Even if you don't want to pay for a browser, I still recommend downloading the software and taking it for a free 30-day test run. The thought of paying for a browser probably won't sit well with those accustomed to free alternatives -- especially since the alternatives themselves are good -- but after using OmniWeb for a few days, you might decide it's worth the price.
-- Mike DeAgonia
Opera is a Windows-based browser that has been ported to many different platforms, including most Unix variants such as Mac OS X and Linux/FreeBSD/Solaris; cell phone operating systems, including Windows Mobile, PalmOS, BlackBerry OS, and even the popular Wii gaming station. But despite its ubiquitous nature, Opera has so far only captured 2 percent of the browser market. That's something of a surprise, because it isn't as though this browser lacks ability or features.
Version 9.6 for Macintosh is a fast, option-laden browser that represents a formidable entry in an extremely competitive product category. Opera uses its own proprietary rendering engine called Presto to display Web content; this engine is almost as capable at rendering code as the Gecko engine used by Firefox and Camino, and nearly as fast as Safari and OmniWeb's WebKit engine. In fact, there were some sites that Gecko had trouble rendering accurately, but Opera displayed most sites properly.
There are many things to like about Opera, including customizable skins, live preview of Web pages when you mouse over tabs and a welcome full-screen mode -- especially useful for recent Windows converts who are accustomed to viewing Web pages using every bit of screen real estate possible.
One of Opera's standout features is the Speed Dial startup page. Speed Dial lets you customize a page with up to nine different sites, with each site's content displayed in miniaturized format. Clicking on the mini-page brings up the site in a full browser window.