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iNnovation
A while ago I wrote about going back to iCab as my primary browser. Since iCab 3 is based on Webkit, the Safari engine, its failures in the area of performance, look-and-feel and standards compliance have all but disappeared. True, the old iCab had some distinct advantages, such as rendering nested <q> elements differently, but overall the improvements have been far far greater than the disadvantages one hardly ever notices. In fact this site is the only one I know of that actually employs nested quote elements and it's not too hard to give that up. iCab does have an alternate rendering method to revert to the old ways but according to the developer it comes at a performance hit so I haven't even tried to use it. iCab also gets the benefit from Safari goodies such as the element inspector, greatly increased site compatibilty and the like. Old favorites like HTML/CSS error reporting and automatic reloading of (locally saved) changed pages are all still there of course.

In the latest beta versions iCab has rapidly added a few extra features that are really interesting though. Ones that are a prime example of the vision of iCab's developer.
One of these things is a thing that's so offbeat no one else has, to my knowledge, implemented it: saving webpages as stand-alone applications.

Quite what the use of this is I had no idea, although writing about it I was thinking it might be extremely useful for doing presentations about websites in places where you're not sure you have a working internet connection. Simply go to your website beforehand, save the site as an application and everything will work as expected even if your wireless craps out. Forms won't work but basic navigation and stuff will work. You can set url filters to include which kinds of paths and files you want to capture (including CSS, Flash, PDF etc) in your application. Interesting stuff, marginally interesting enough not to be copied instantly but something that might make the browser stand out in certain areas. Applications will only work on a Mac but that is hardly a problem for such a niche feature.


The other new thing is truly a thing of beauty and one that all webdevelopers will instantly fall in love with it.
Browsers have had the ability to save webpages in a cache since the dawn on the web. This reduces network load by saving files on the harddisk and when such files are needed again referencing these instead of getting new ones from the web.
Browsers like Netscape have implemented ways to view this cache by using the obscure about:cache protocol but no one ever really used that as you were inundated with hundreds of pages of boring things to wade through in the hopes of finding that one elusive image file you were after.
iCab's latest betas have gone a step further and projected a kind of Spotlight view over this. See the following image for what I mean.

Clicky for a bigger version.


I have opened the Cache browser, available from the Tools menu, and entered the term "web" in the filters bar. I have also selected to show only CSS files. This allows me to instantly drill down to the files I'm interested in, namely those from a federated search engine I'm working on for my library. Note that I could have been even more specific and typed "webfeat" to see the only relevant results; or have been less specific and not entered any filter term, yet still I would have been able to drill down to the desired files as I can sort on last visited and url amongst other things.
This feature alone, I think is worth the price of admission to the club and it's already helped me in my job a few days after it was introduced.

iCab is shareware now and to be honest I have no idea what features are included in the standard version and the paid version, but I'm guessing this will only be available once you've registered (plus you get all these extra insights into new developments ahead of the crowd!). Still, 20 euros isn't that much if you've already spend several hundreds on webdesign bundles from Adobe and a good text-editor like BBEdit. Don't forget iCab integrates with BBEdit to allow you to view HTML source in BBEdit instead of the browser itself if you like.

I get the feeling other browser makers will soon rip off this feature as it's extremely powerful and, I am guessing here, not that hard to develop. But like so many other features (*cough* ad filters *cough*) iCab is first to the scene with a workable implementation.

If you're working the web iCab is well worth considering the admission price.

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