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Testing browsers for Mac OS X

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The number of browsers for Mac OS X is growing faster day after day. Nevertheless, as the statistics shows Mac OS users prefer only four of them: Safari, Firefox, Camino and OmniWeb. Namely these browsers have been tested by We would add “Opera” to this group of four, but the authors are evidently not favorably disposed towards it.

Safari or WebKit?
The users of Safari have an unusual choice, they may not even guess about. They may use the official version of the browser, as well as WebKit – a current assembly of the application, which is updated every day. Both of these browsers are identical to each other. The only difference is that the WebKit uses newer version of WebKit environment. The lack of the latter is that sometimes it works unstable or in the most unsuitable moment undocumented “bugs” appear.

Rendering core.
A rendering core is the heart of any browser. Gecko core has been presented earlier in Netscape and is used in many open-source browsers, including Netscape, Firefox and Camino.
WebCore core (kHTML) is also elaborated within the bounds of open-source under cover of Apple, and therefore one can find it in many “alternative” browsers including OmniWeb.
There is a good explanation why Apple picked up kHTML rather than Gecko. The kHTML core is faster and has clear code consisting of less text. On the other hand, Gecko is rather complicated and slower, that will be obviously seen from our speed tests.
Advantages and disadvantages

- Functionality: availability of various plug-ins, additions and themes.
- Good support of CSS and Web-standards as compared with Internet Explorer.
- Is not an original browser for Mac OS X platform
- Uses a Gecko core, which is not working good under Mac OS X
- Has a Windows style interface
- Sometimes may work slowly

OmniWeb Beta
- Uses the most recent WebKit environment
- Possesses a number of interesting functions
- Setting parameters for different websites is possible
- Saving work session
- Favorite links interchange
- Costs money, but who wants to pay for the browser nowadays?

- Convenient to use and stable
- New versions every day
- Sometimes these new versions may be unstable
- Inconvenient architecture of plug-ins

- It looks very much like Mac-application, than Firefox
- Compliance with all the standards of Mac OS X
- Uses Gecko driver that works worse with Mac OS X.

Memory Usage
These figures were taken from Activity Monitor after switching on and opening of one bookmark. For justice sake lets note that memory usage measurement is something subjective, which is being influenced by a lot of factors. The browser “eats off” the memory not only from the number of opened bookmarks, but also from the number installed plug-ins, history, etc.

For testing the speed of page loading we have loaded 12.7MB sized HTML-document and 1.6MB sized graphic JPEG image. Both files were saved on local drive. We received the expected results for all browsers, excluding OmniWeb. The OmniWeb left behind even WebKit by depicting the whole page in 7 seconds.

All browsers, except Camino, have a built-in support of RSS feed. Safari has a full-fledged RSS-rider, which looks a little bit angular in comparison with NewsFire or NetNewsWire. The rest of RSS have a look of “live bookmarks” which are automatically updated in a stated period of time. By clicking such a bookmark you will receive a new list of articles.

PDF Preview
Safari offers a built-in PDF files previewer, which is based on Preview. It works perfect, but the panel of frequently used tools would be a nice addition to it. If you left-click the loaded PDF-document, then you can open it in Preview window, and also change the scale of view.
OmniWeb, Firefox and Camino do not support PDF files preview. These programs load PDF document to the computer desktop and then start Preview to preview it. Only Firefox is asking whether you want to open or to load the file.

Compliance with standards
To check browsers on compliance with standards, Acid2 tests were used. The Gecko core failed the tests, while WebCore did better with these tests.
At the same time, all the browsers passed W3 PNG tests.

Some people will undoubtedly blame us that we don’t like Gecko core. Let’s be frank still. Firefox is an excellent browser, if you use Windows or Linux. On Mac you have to choose among Safari, WebKit and OmniWeb, which are not only Mac user friendly, but also faster and more effective. Each of the presented programs has its own strengths. Firefox’s strength is its wide choice of extra plug-ins.
Eventually, everything leads to the banal comparison of Gecko and WebCore. This comparison threatens to grow ideological. If you like the speed of Firefox, or simply can’t part with your three millions plug-ins, then perfect. As for me I prefer Safari. The life is short, you know.

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