OmniWeb 5

technology

I was hoping to be watching Steve Jobs' keynote from Macworld San Francisco around now, but I'm getting an 'insufficient bandwidth' error message on the stream. Grrr. So I'll talk about OmniWeb 5 instead.

I'm a big fan of OmniWeb applications. Thanks to their rather generous academic pricing, I'm the proud owner of OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle Pro. OmniGraffle — in particular — is beautifully designed, with a lot of very innovative touches. I even use it as a simple page layout program, and to produce the posters and catalogues for Mr. Bsag's art exhibitions. However, I didn't fall for OmniWeb in the same way.

Before they started using Safari's webcore, my main problem with it was that it was really poor at displaying sites using modern CSS design. Some sites looked wonderful, but this blog — for example — displayed as a single ultra-thin column, with the main text and sidebar drawing on top of one another. This was hardly ideal. The latest version using WebCore has solved these problems, and it renders as well as Safari. There are also some nice touches with zoomed expandable text fields for filling in forms, good history searching, notification when a bookmarked page is updated (useful for pages without RSS feeds) and so on, but now that I'm used to tabbed browsing, I just can't get used to opening each page in a new window.

The upcoming OmniWeb 5 is going to include tabs, and they've implemented them in a rather unusual way. The tabs are in a drawer at the side, and are represented by thumbnails of the page, so that you can identify each page by its appearance. There has already been a fair amount of debate about whether this will be usable or not, but a sneaky peek at a video of it in action here1 suggests that it might be pretty nifty.

Even better, OmniWeb 5 offers something called 'Workspaces'. These are sets of tabs or windows — along with their respective browsing history — which can be saved as a snapshot and restored as a group. This strikes me as a fantastic idea. I often have multiple tabs open for different reasons. When I'm at work, I don't really want or need the stuff I was browsing at home2, and vice versa, but it's a chore to manually save those as bookmarks to return to them later.

I'm certainly going to give it a good try out when the beta is released on 2nd February.

1 The link was provided by John Hicks in the comments of this post.

2 No, not for the reasons you might be thinking...