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  • Camino 1.1 Beta: Not Quite a Firefox Clone

    February 26th, 2007

    In recent months, I’ve settled on Firefox as my default browser. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Safari, but Firefox seems to provide fewer complications in acccssing some sites. It has, however, some issues with printing certain sites, which forces me to revert if there’s no “Print” link to access the specially-formatted variation.

    There has, however, been an alternate to Firefox, one that used the same (or at least a similar) Gecko rendering engine. However, it has largely been consigned to second-tier status as far as upgrades are concerned. The browser, Camino, uses Apple’s own Cocoa development environment, and thus has a more “Mac-like” veneer than Firefox, which is designed to look and operate basically the same across platforms.

    For this reason, I’ve put Camino on the back-burner, even though it launches faster than Firefox, hoping that the folks at Mozilla would eventually get with the program and give it the major upgrade it deserves.

    That day is rapidly arriving, witness the release of a version 1.1 beta. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, Camino pretty much incorporates everything Firefox has to offer, except for the rich selection of add-ons, which may or may not mean so much to you.

    Here’s the short list of some of the most notable new features, most of which will be familiar to you:

    • Privacy & Security: Camino now warns users if the login form on a website differs from the form used when saving the password, and Camino 1.1 Beta also supports Kerberos authentication used in many internal networks.
    • Annoyance Blocking: Camino 1.1 Beta can now disable all plugins. This version also includes the ability to block Flash animations until the user clicks on them.
    • Session Saving: Camino can now restore tabs and windows that were open before an unexpected quit, and there is also a preference to save a list of all active tabs and windows when the user quits and restore them when launching Camino again.
    • Spell-checking: “Learn Spelling” and “Ignore Spelling” now appear in the spell-check context menu.
    • Pop-up Blocking: Camino 1.1b introduces a new set of options for blocking pop-up windows, allowing users to “Always Allow,” “Always Deny,” “Allow Once,” or simply close the pop-up notification.

    As I said, nothing terribly original if you’re already familiar with the workings of the latest Firefox. There are, however, minor differences in the way sites appear, such as using Mac-style buttons on sites rather than the traditional type supported in other Mozilla browsers.

    So why switch to Camino?

    That’s a good question, and it comes down to a matter of performance and personal taste. Now I can’t say that Camino necessarily delivers Web sites onscreen noticeably faster than Firefox. However, because it’s produced in Mac OS X’s native programming language, it launches faster, and, in general, feels snappier. I noticed that on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.

    The difference is not insignificant. On my 17-inch MacBook Pro, for example, Firefox 2.0.2 takes about 10 seconds from initial launch to the full display of my standard home page, which is Google News. In comparison, Camino handles the same task in four seconds flat! This is on my standard 12 megabit cable modem connection.

    The matter of looking a little more like a true Mac application may not be so significant, so I won’t dwell on it.

    Negatives are the same as Firefox, and that won’t be changed until a new print engine is incorporated into the application. Then I wouldn’t worry about sites printing with pages and/or images missing if they don’t have a dedicated Print feature.

    Since Camino 1.1b is somewhat distant from the final release, it may not be for everyone, although it seems stable enough to me, except for one crash during several hours of intense browsing. If you’re curious, go to the Camino beta site and give it a whirl. For the time being it has replaced Firefox as my default browser.

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