Camino 1.0!

I never thought this would really happen, but today Camino is finally 1.0. I hope you’ll allow me a moment to celebrate this, and explain why if you’re a Mac user, you should have a copy of Camino in your applications folder.

Camino released on Valentines Day 2006

What is Camino?

If you’re not familiar with Camino, first a little background. Camino is an open source browser that embeds the Gecko rendering engine in a native Cocoa interface, instead of the XUL that Firefox uses. This means it doesn’t support Firefox’s extensions, but, it does integrate more with OS X than Firefox (for example opening URLs in Camino via the Services menu or from Apple Address Book). More background information on all that here. Unlike Firefox, Camino, looks, feels and behaves like a true Mac browser, in fact, it was the first OS X only. It has a clean, well designed mac interface with superb crisp icons and some features that Safari lacks.

A few months ago, I wrote about how I was impressed with the recent Camino nightly builds, and how far it’d come since I’d stopped using it a year and a half ago. At the time, I didn’t think it would replace Safari or Omniweb in my affections, because of a lack of features. It still hasn’t replaced either, but it has become an equal default browser alongside Safari or Omniweb (I flit between those 2 a lot until Omnigroup get 5.5 out with WebKit).

Why Camino?

First of all, its speedy. Not just in rendering pages, but the whole UI feels snappy and responsive. This in itself makes it such a joy to use. Also, unlike some other browsers, Camino doesn’t seem to get bogged down by a large history cache. So while it doesn’t autocomplete bookmarks, it does do it for items in the history. I have a cache going back to July (almost 8000 items), and its stored all those urls without any performance issues.

While Camino doesn’t support XUL extensions, there is a range of extensions and apps available for extending Camino. First I highly recommend that (if you haven’t already) install CamiScript and CamiTools. These provide plenty of extra spice, from Ad Blocking, Bookmark Syncing and theming, to site styles and advanced preferences. See this thread for more.

Also, Mozilla bookmarklets play nicely in Camino too, so that goes a long way to filling the gap left by the Web Developers extension.

There are also those little things that help the Camino experience:

  • You can specify per-site CSS rules using usercontent.css.
  • When you drag an image, or HTML page to the dock icon, it opens in a new tab, rather than a new window.
  • Images can be set to fit the window (like in Firefox).
  • You can sort bookmarks.
  • You can delete the label in the bookmark bar, leaving you with just the favicon.
  • The location bar drop down contains the page title (Safari only shows the URL)
  • You can set a groups of bookmarks to show up in the dock menu.
  • Open bookmarks in new tabs (leaving your current tabs intact)
  • Find as you Type as default.
  • Finally, Camino has a excellent community centered around the Mozillazine Forums, which is no small thing.

Coming soon in Camino’s future

(To pre-empt some of the inevitable “I would use Camino if only it..” comments)

  • Native spell checking in textfields. I imagine this is a big deal for many, it is for me too, but it is coming.
  • RSS detection, to pass URLs on to your news reader.

As well as the move to using Cairo Vector graphics, which will mean an end to using Quickdraw and a move to the Core graphics rendering.

What I’d love to see in the future:

  • Session saving / workspaces. This can be done at the moment, with the ‘bookmark all tabs’ function, but to be able to restore tabs on startup (especially with Crash Protection) would be superb. Also, CamiScript has a command to save tabs at close, and one to restore them.
  • Omniweb style tabs, like this. This is my preferred way of browsing, and I can get it in Safari and Firefox with extensions. However, I know in my heart of hearts that this isn’t going to happen, even if someone comes up the patch. Something makes me think that that this would be against the idea of Camino.

In short I love Camino. While it doesn’t have the extensibility of Firefox, or the features of Omniweb, it is a fast, lightweight browser thats made precisely for that job. Rather than open Firefox to get a gecko view of a site, its Camino for me everytime. Its not the browser I use all the time, but its certainly a browser I use most of the time.

The Camino developers should be proud of themselves for releasing such a nimble, honed, browser. I’m certainly proud of them, for sticking to their guns, demanding that there be a native OS X gecko-based browser.

Go get Camino

The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

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