By Frank Petrie
Today, there must be nearly three dozen web browsers to choose from to use on your Mac. Back in the day, there were basically three main choices for a Mac browser – Safari, Netscape Navigator, or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (which was nicknamed Internet Exploder for reasons obvious to users). There were some browsers on the fringe but they were few and far between.
As computing became more common in the household, the number of browsers to choose from slowly started growing. I tried several but settled on one choice that I particularly liked. The name: iCab (http://www.icab.de/).
“iCab is an alternative web browser for the Apple Macintosh with numerous useful features not found in other browsers. iCab is shareware and costs $10 / 10 EUR, but it can be also used for free with a small limitation.
“Certainly, iCab has a lot more features than you can examine in one day. Try it once, and you will see it has addressed all your needs, and iCab can grow with you, to fully meet your personal tastes and preferences—with much wider choices and options than any other browser!”
And what makes me feel as if Christmas has come early is that its developer, Alexander Clauss has not only kept it around but has updated it with increased power and customization. Plus he has tailored a new release specifically coded for El Capitan, macOS Sierra, and beyond. (If you are running an older version OS, you can still download an operating version as far back as Mac OS 7.5!)
Since its initial release back in 1999, iCab has turned into a power user’s browser.
It comes with the usual customizable toolbar, kiosk mode, download manager, choice of search engines, and such. But it provides you with such an incredible plethora of customization. iCab (http://www.icab.de/) preference pane could easily be mistaken for macOS’s preference pane due to it’s size alone.
Because of its thorough cookie controls, Java scripting controls, and filters, iCab offers a great control over your privacy and safety on the internet. You can choose to “allow or refuse” any illegal HTML/HTTP or security practices you encounter. You can set warnings for any dangerous sites you might visit where your computer or security are threatened by rogue code. You can be apprised of data exchange that is conducted in an insecure environment.
Power features include removing or restraining scrolling text messages in the status-line, windows that alter their size or position automatically to interfere with your organizing preferences, web pages that switch off all the navigation toolbars, and more. And you can take advantage of all these features without completely disabling the technology used by these features, as opposed to other browsers where you have only an “either/or” choice (or sometimes no choice at all).
And Alexander says that he has more unique features planned for future releases.
My regular everyday browser is Safari and I have it tailored to my workflow and the way I like to use my browser. There were a few functions that I unfortunately could not replicate in iCab.
I can’t use my swipe gestures. And a major drawback is that I could not get iCloud to recognize iCab. That is a possible deal breaker for me personally as I have left Evernote and other cloud services behind.
I haven’t used a mouse in about a decade. I much prefer using my trackpad. Two functions that I take for granted is using a two-finger swipe within a tab to return to previous pages. I couldn’t find anyway to do this in iCab. My other goto is to perform a two finger tap on a site’s copy and have it fill my screen, thus increasing the font size. (I hate wearing reading glasses!) Again, no luck. I searched through System Preferences and iCab’s preferences but could not find a way to replicate these actions.
A minor thing that I had to adjust to is that menus and buttons are located in different places than I expect them to be (I have been using Safari since the Wright Bros. had a bicycle shop …) For example, if I wanted to email a page, I had to turn this function on from within preferences.
Something that I found interesting is that when my Macbook Air would crash, after rebooting, all of my Safari tabs would have disappeared except for my selected homepage, while iCab kept all of tabs exactly as I had left them. I have no explanation for this.
I did find iCab (http://www.icab.de/) to feel a bit zippier than Safari. But it did have problems with some sites. ScreenCastsOnline (https://screencastsonline.com), for example. If I left the page, even without closing the tab, it would ask me log in again. This happened every time. Again, I have no explanation for this. It may be a bug or it may be that iCab requires more tweaking than I can provide with my limited skill set.
The look is not pure minimalist but the eye candy is kept to a minimum. Put this in the plus column.
Will I return to iCab? Hard to say. Y’know – ‘Old dog, new tricks.’ It requires more setting up than your average browser. But I was most definitely impressed. They also have a version specifically designed for iDevices but that, the developer insisted, was a somewhat different beast and would be best served with its own review.
©2016 Frank Petrie