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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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    10 Responses to “Camino 1.1 Beta: Not Quite a Firefox Clone”

    1. Dave says:

      I keep trying to use Safari as my default browser, I guess because I’m a Mac fan, with Firefox as my second choice. I use Camino on occasion (not the beta) and it is definitely fast. As you mentioned, I also continue to encounter web pages that Safari won’t render properly. I’m also spoiled by the Tab Mix Plus extension in Firefox. So I always end up switching back and forth between the two, but the new Camino beta sounds interesting.

    2. I keep trying to use Safari as my default browser, I guess because I’m a Mac fan, with Firefox as my second choice. I use Camino on occasion (not the beta) and it is definitely fast. As you mentioned, I also continue to encounter web pages that Safari won’t render properly. I’m also spoiled by the Tab Mix Plus extension in Firefox. So I always end up switching back and forth between the two, but the new Camino beta sounds interesting.

      Understand it is fundamentally Firefox with a more Mac-like experience. So you won’t quite be liberated from Safari — at least not yet.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Kurt says:

      Gene,

      Camino predates Firefox, as a Mozilla project! The under-the-hood “plumbing” is quite different from Firefox, because . Camino is, as the website claims, “Mozilla Power, Mac Style.” IMO, it would behoove you to attempt to interview Mike Pinkerton, the lead developer on Camino, when Camino 1.1 goes final. His blog may be found at weblogs.mozillazine.org/pinkerton.

    4. Camino predates Firefox, as a Mozilla project! The under-the-hood “plumbing” is quite different from Firefox, because . Camino is, as the website claims, “Mozilla Power, Mac Style.” IMO, it would behoove you to attempt to interview Mike Pinkerton, the lead developer on Camino, when Camino 1.1 goes final. His blog may be found at .

      As I said, Camino uses Apple’s Cocoa environment instead of the XUL language employed on other Mozilla applications. No dispute here, although the rendering engines are the same, give or take a version or two. Also, Camino has gone through a much slower development process, and it’s only now beginning to catch up on Firefox 2 features — as the latter moves to version 3 much later this year.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Dwarka says:

      I’ve been using Camino as my default browser for a while now, and I like it, but I do wish the bookmark bar was more like Firefox, with the names of the bookmarks as buttons that highlight as you roll over them. Camino’s bookmark bar puts a favicon next to the name, and since all favicons are different, it can be visually jarring. I’d also like to be able to click my mousewheel on a bookmark in the bar to load the page in a new tab, as I can in Firefox and Safari, and to be able to put RSS feeds in a folder in the bar, as I can in Firefox. Don’t know if the new beta has these things or not.

      Actually, I’d still be using Safari if it did one simple thing that Firefox, Camino, and even IE do: leave a thin border around the last link clicked on a page.

    6. Marcos says:

      Firefox’s non-mac like widgets, button, text fields, and pop-up menus make it a deal breaker for me. I never use it. It’s like using a Windows or linux browser. I want a program designed for the Mac. So, I use Safari by and large and Camino occasionally if a site doesn’t work in Safari (which is rare.)

      Things like having the Apple spell checker in text fields, pop up menus that obey fitts’ law, buttons that are aqua, form filling from address book, passwords from the keychain – these are all important features to me. If you’re browsing the web on a Mac using Firefox… you might as well be browsing on Linux. And, I don’t run OS X to for a Linux-web-browsing experience – I want a Mac browsing experience. It’s Camino or Safari, no question.

    7. Firefox’s non-mac like widgets, button, text fields, and pop-up menus make it a deal breaker for me. I never use it. It’s like using a Windows or linux browser. I want a program designed for the Mac. So, I use Safari by and large and Camino occasionally if a site doesn’t work in Safari (which is rare.)

      Things like having the Apple spell checker in text fields, pop up menus that obey fitts’ law, buttons that are aqua, form filling from address book, passwords from the keychain – these are all important features to me. If you’re browsing the web on a Mac using Firefox, you might as well be browsing on Linux. And, I don’t run OS X to for a Linux-web-browsing experience – I want a Mac browsing experience. It’s Camino or Safari, no question.

      With Firefox, it’s the price of cross-platform code. For the rest of the world, that’s the way those buttons are supposed to look.

      But I understand what you’re saying, and that’s why I’m glad Camino is finally catching up with Firefox.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. Brent Bielema says:

      I’ve been a Camino aficionado for quite a long time now, as my default browser. The speed really helps, and since I have CamiTools also installed with it, I can “spoof” almost any configuration (AOL, Windows, IE, etc.) when filling out those paid online surveys that I like to do. (Why they’re still using Explorer is indeed a mystery). Sometimes Camino has difficulty connecting to sites, but it hardly ever crashes, and I also like that ad-blocking feature. But now it’s like I can’t turn it off! I still use Safari and Firefox, but just to play web radio broadcasts. I have each one set to a different radio station’s website, so I just launch each browser (from the tool bar) and it starts playing. Pretty nifty! I also prefer Camino because I can adjust the font size right on the tool bar. It’s a really smooth ride, Mac lovers, so take it for a test spin today!

    9. Stuart Morgan says:

      “[…] hoping that the folks at Mozilla would eventually get with the program and give it the major upgrade it deserves.”

      “The folks at Mozilla” will never upgrade Camino; Camino has been developed entirely by a small number of volunteers since before 0.8. While Mozilla provides us build machines, hosting, use of bugzilla, and other resources of that nature, no Camino-specific development is done by Mozilla employees (or any other kind of paid employees). The slower development isn’t a business decision, it’s a function of the fact that it’s a few of us working on it in our spare time.

    10. “[…] hoping that the folks at Mozilla would eventually get with the program and give it the major upgrade it deserves.”

      “The folks at Mozilla” will never upgrade Camino; Camino has been developed entirely by a small number of volunteers since before 0.8. While Mozilla provides us build machines, hosting, use of bugzilla, and other resources of that nature, no Camino-specific development is done by Mozilla employees (or any other kind of paid employees). The slower development isn’t a business decision, it’s a function of the fact that it’s a few of us working on it in our spare time.

      So perhaps you can tell us: Where does Camino go from here? Can you give us an indication of how it will be enhanced in the near future?

      Peace,
      Gene

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