Network: Web Design - A quick trip in the iCab

Web Design; iCab'll be the first browser that truly takes advantage of the Mac's power

ICAB IS what a Web browser should be. It is small, at a mere 900K download. It is fast, with pages seeming to appear as soon as you hit a link. It is smart, with more options than any other browser I've seen. It adheres to World Wide Web Consortium ( standards to the letter. It does everything a Web surfer needs, or at least it will when it gets out of beta early next year.

So which mega-corporation is creating this "insanely great" new browser? Actually, it's one guy in Germany, Alexander Clauss, with a few of his friends. Oliver Joppich, who is helping Alexander and handling PR, says: "The Internet has changed the rules. We can handle everything with two or three people plus many users who are helping us with bug reports via e-mail. I don't believe the big [browser makers] can do this in the future. They have marketing plans, making their interest in content too slow."

iCab has all of the best features of Netscape and Internet Explorer, but it's better thought out and more user-friendly. There's no room here to review all iCab's special features, but a few really stand out:

Graphic filtering

You can set iCab so that it will not display graphics of certain sizes or coming from certain domains. Why would you want to do this? Say you don't want to see any graphics that come from or graphics that are 468 by 60 pixels (the standard banner ad size), just tell iCab this, and they won't appear on the page.

Cookie control

Cookies are little data files that websites place on your computer for a variety of reasons, from recording your user ID and password to tracking where you have been in their website. Most browsers allow you to disable cookies, but this makes some sites unusable. With iCab you can define domains from which you will accept cookies (or not), view a list of the cookies on your machine, selectively delete those cookies, and even see what data those cookies contain.

Search anywhere

Not only does iCab allow you to conduct a standard text search on the Web page you are on, but you can also search all of the Web pages you have been viewing recently. The search screen even allows you to search your hard drive or to start a search of the Internet using your favourite search engines.

Good code/Bad code

Does your favourite site follow the rules? iCab lets you know if the page being displayed is adhering to the W3C standards by showing a smiley face for good pages and a frown for pages that fall short. You can then click on the face to see a full error report for the page. This is an immensely useful feature for Web developers, especially if you are looking at a competitor's site.

Website navigation

One unused feature of HTML is the ability to define a pages relationship with other pages in the site using the relative link tag. For example, you can define what the next page in the site should be after the one you are on by placing in the head of your page. You can also define the previous page, home page, help page or a contact e-mail for the site, giving iCab built in navigation that lets the visitor navigate the site independent of the actual Web page's navigation.

So are there any problems with iCab? Well, first off it's still in beta and there are a lot of technologies that have not been implemented yet. Chief among these are JavaScript, CSS and plug-ins. But these are all planned by the "final" release early next year. Another problem is that iCab is only available for the Mac (both Power PC and 68K versions are available). Why? According to iCab: "We like the Mac system because of the ease of use and the co-operation between programs. On Windows each program wants to dominate and they don't care about the others."

Although developers will enjoy its strong adherence to the W3C standards, iCab's current beta version will probably not be your everyday browser. But, when the final version hits the Web, iCab will be the first browser that truly takes advantage of the power of the Macintosh - and is not just a pale imitation of its PC cousin.

Download the iCab browser at html

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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