Today, Apple released Safari 16, a major release that was first released before it Ventura. Browser update mostly focuses on things that users can’t see, like security and performance. But there’s a new user-facing feature that’s been on my wishlist for nearly a decade – sidebar tabs.
Sidebar tabs are not a new idea of course. Microsoft’s Edge offers this feature out of the box, Chrome and Firefox both have extensions that enable this feature, and safari verb simultaneously too. But the browser that introduced me to the concept – and really spoiled other browsers for me due to the elegance of its implementation – was OmniWeb.
Twenty years ago, OmniWeb had a sidebar (the “drawer” in the Interface Builder-talk) that faithfully served up thumbnail images of open web pages. They are updated in the background and can be rearranged by dragging them. When tabs get too many, you can collapse them into smaller text-only buttons. You can refresh the entire stack in just two clicks and see which pages were updated just by taking a peek at the thumbnails. For web geeks in the early 2000s, this was a power user’s dream.
Image credits: Tim de Chant / TechCrunch
For this crowd, vertical tabs are the best way to go. Computer screens have been wider than they are for a while now, and placing tabs on the side of a window makes better use of that space, allowing users to see more of a web page’s content. In addition, the vertical menu navigation is much easier when the number of tabs starts to be in the tens, which is something that happens to me all the time. (The screenshot shows how the expanded and decreased tabs appear in OmniWeb 6, which has eliminated the deprecated drawer widget in favor of the sidebar.)
OmniWeb was the first web browser available for Mac OS X. Before Internet Explorer was bundled with Mac OS X Developer Preview 4, Bold testers OmniWeb can be used for their browsing needs. The app was originally created for NeXTSTEP, OS X version, with a trial version Available in 1995. Shortly after OS X developer previews became available, OmniWeb developer, OmniGroupBrowser ported.
The app was as pure a Mac OS X experience as you can get. It was written in Cocoa, the then-new programming language that represented a complete break from the classic Mac OS. The interface elements were in lick aqua Theme, images and text rendered using Quartz, the author of the new operating system. Pictures were bright and text was clear and smooth. Oh, and it wasn’t made by Microsoft but an independent store with a long history of releasing solid NeXTSTEP and Mac OS software. For a Mac addict like me, this was another strong selling point.
For a few years after the public release of Mac OS X, OmniWeb and Internet Explorer were the only options for browsing the web. Then Microsoft dropped IE for Mac, and Apple decided to get into the game, and released Safari in January 2003.
Based on the open source KHTML rendering engine, Safari was fast and flexible, but severely lacked the power features I was expecting. It had tabs, but I found it clunky. It was also missing workspaces, toolbar search customization, synchronous bookmarks, and content filtering (with regex!), among other things. I’ve gotten used to them over the years, and found it impossible to change them.
Fortunately, with OmniWeb 4.5, OmniGroup decided to switch to WebCore, which Safari was based on. This gave OmniWeb a new lease on life, making it somewhat relevant through the periods and into the early 2000s.
in 2009OmniGroup decided that it could not continue to allocate resources to OmniWeb, which started as a paid app and then moved to free. Chrome was working great, and most Mac users were stuck using their PC, Safari. OmniGroup has started working on another major release, 6.0, and during that Still updated today As a passion project, it’s not a practical everyday browser for most people. Mostly OmniWeb is dead.
When I realized the writing was on the wall, I tried a bunch of different browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, but I’m kind of private about my user experience (if you can’t figure it out), and didn’t hit my expectations. At one point, I switched over to Safari, and relied on a series of hacks to try and bring some of my favorite features with me. It worked fine, but it wasn’t the same.
Even today. I feel like my browsing experience is again starting to resemble those early days of Mac OS X. Over the past year, groups of tabs have started to help me tame the overflowing Safari window, and vertical tabs should help even more, centralize tab management tab in one place. At version 16, Safari still isn’t perfect – I’d still like the thumbnail previews available for every page, and it would be nice to turn off the redundant horizontal tab bar now – but it’s much closer to ideal than at any point in the past several years.