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Shiira 2.0 Finally Launched!

Published April 23rd, 2007

Shiira Project

Shiira iconThe Shiira Project has at long last launched version 2.0 of their alternative-Safari browser. Ever since the first beta last summer, Mac tech writers in the know (me included) have been extolling its virtues, waiting anxiously for a version with all of its features intact. Although the 2.0 version released today still has a few small screws loose, I could easily write a whole new article describing some of its cool new features and the polish its put on the ones revealed in beta. Chief among the new features I love are

  • The full-screen mode, which comes with a mouse-activated menu at the top of the screen that lets you navigate to other websites, change font size, and other basics.
  • The final look and feel of the new HUD-style panels is awesome, although the “action gear” icon at the bottom of each is still out of comission.
  • The RSS reader tool, which could still use some polish but has some nice alternative features not found in Safari.
  • The final configuration and content of the Page Info window is tops in its class! You’ll find that the “links” pane now neatly and powerfully ties each item in its list to the actual page, so as you select a link, the page scrolls to that point. If the link has an image, the image is shown in the information pane below, along with the full HTML of the link–including any javascript. Awesome! I also highly approve of the way the image browser pane turned out. The DOM browser is pretty basic, and I would highly encourage the Shiira folks to figure out how to integrate WebKit’s page inspector into Shiira—it likewise is the best around (well, neck and neck with Firebug for Firefox).
  • The PageDock is even better than originally, and Shiira still has the very best “Tabs Expose” feature of any browser around.
  • The Shiira folks have wisely updated some of the underlying WebKit components, as a result of which Shiira now speaks “ContentEditable” like 95% of the other browsers in use. (See my recent article on this topic if you don’t know why that’s important to Mac users.)

I’m going to try running Shiira instead of WebKit for a day or two. At the moment, my chief gripes from very limited use (since last night) are that

  • Shiira doesn’t integrate with Inquisitor, the awesome Cocoa search plugin for Safari,
  • Shiira doesn’t have a built-in JavaScript debug tool or a DOM/CSS inspector like WebKit does,
  • Shiira hasn’t incorporated WebKit’s CSS3 support bits. As a result, it can’t do things like rounded corners, drop shadows, multicolumn text, and the rest. (See this CSS3 Preview site to check them out.) The main CSS3 feature I use daily is resizable textareas… indispensible if you’re trying to get text entry work done in a browser.
  • The browser’s feedback showing it’s loading the page is a bit weak… It relies on the PageDock icon “filling with water”, but if the icon is quite small, it’s hard to notice. I prefer Safari’s use of the address bar for this.

In any case, I’m glad to see Shiira returning back to life as a truly excellent, native Cocoa alternative WebKit-based browser for Mac OS X.

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