Mac Software Highlight: OmniWeb

November 3, 2007  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

OmniWeb OmniWeb is a web browser from The Omni Group. Unlike Apple’s own Safari web browser, Mozilla Firefox, and others, OmniWeb isn’t free – it costs $14.95. This might lead you to ask, “why should I pay for a web browser?” Simply put, OmniWeb has many features that Safari doesn’t have – features that are worth paying for. Two of the features in particular are especially useful and save me lots of time and frustration when doing research on the internet.

The internet is an amazing tool for research. Whether I am looking up facts on Wikipedia or researching on Google, I can easily get to a point where I have 10 or 15 websites open. But having that many websites opens creates problems. I use tabs to avoid the clutter of so many open windows. With traditional tabs, though, it is sometimes difficult to remember which tab has the page I want to go back to. Tabs on Safari and Firefox show the title of the web page. The problem is that some websites have the same or similar titles for all of their pages. That can become very confusing when I have three or four pages open from a website. Even if a website uses different titles for each page, finding the right tab can be hard because only two or three words of the title is usually shown on the tab.

OmniWeb solves the problem of finding the right tab by using a small thumbnail picture of the website in addition to the website title. The thumbnails are big enough that you can make out the major features of the current page, enabling you to quickly see the differences between the pages. At the same time, the thumbnails are small enough that 5 or 6 will probably fit on the screen at one time, depending upon the size of your monitor, so you shouldn’t have to scroll much – if at all – when changing tabs.

Thumbnail tabs are a minor efficiency improvement, but this second OmniWeb feature can be a real lifesaver. OmniWeb allows you to save your entire workspace, including what websites you have open, what page is in each of your tabs, and where your windows are on the screen. There is also an auto-save feature, that constantly keeps track of your workspace. If you quit OmniWeb or it crashes, your entire workspace will be restored the next time you launch the program. Safari doesn’t crash very often. When it does crash, though, it is very frustrating to have to hunt through the browse history for “a website about X that I know I found Tuesday or Wednesday night but hadn’t decided whether to bookmark yet.” With OmniWeb, you can simply restart the application and you’re back where you left off.

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