Reviewing Shiira 1.2

I’m still very impressed by this little OS X web browser.

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked out Shiira (if you’ll remember, I reviewed an earlier version last year). But the browser has come quite a ways since then, with version 1.2 having been released earlier this month (12÷20 to be exact, just in time for Christmas). I downloaded a copy earlier today and have been using it quite a bit, and I’m very impressed.

It’s just as snappy as Safari (my current fave browser), if not moreso, and since Shiira is also based on WebKit, pages look just as nice. It also has some features and little enhancements that Safari doesn’t have, such as “Tab Expose.” With a simple keypress, all of your tabs appear before your eyes — which can come in handy if you’re like me, and usually have 5 or 6 tabs going on all at once. And of course, you can also rearrange your tabs to make them a bit more manageable.

If you’re running Tiger, another “feature” is the “Page Transition Effect,” which makes use of Tiger’s Core Image technology to create a page-turning effect whenever you go back and forth between pages. It’s nothing major by any means, and could easily become annoying, but the idea is interesting, and it’s great to see Core Image being utilized.

One relatively minor feature that I really like is the “loading clock.” When you load a page in a tab, you get a little translucent clock icon that’s superimposed over the “Wheel of Fortune” loader. This is very handy if you have a bunch of tabs loading behind the current tab, as it gives you a rough idea of how far along the page loads are coming. Safari shows you load progress in the URL bar, but it doesn’t have anything to show you the progress of other tabs.

Whereas Safari’s searchbar is limited to Google, Shiira allows you to search via Google, IMDb, Wikipedia, and many others. And if you have another favorite search engine, such as A9 or Yahoo, you can modify the list to add it.

You can also customize Shiira’s appearance. You can select between “Aqua” or “Brushed Metal” looks, and you can download (or create) new themes for the browser (although I personally think the default theme looks nice enough).

There are places where Shiira could definitely be improved, however. RSS support, for example. Unlike Safari, article dates and times aren’t even displayed, and there’s no way to search or control article display lengths.

I must confess, I’m not quite sure as to the for use the “Page Holder.” In theory, it’s nice — you can create a “holder” for a page, which appears in Shiira’s sidebar, and then open up links from that “holder” in the primary browser window. However, I find that using tabs works just as well. It could be, however, that my home computer’s monitor is just too small for this be of much use: at 1024×768, most, if not all, of the sidebar is off the side of the screen.

And finally, I’ve noticed a few quirks with Flash. I was unable to use Organizr on Flickr — when I tried to add a new photoset, I ran into some intermittent problems. Granted, some of this might be due to the machine I’m currently running Shiira on (an iMac DV SE). I’ll have to try and install Shiira on my considerably more powerful G4 at work and see if I have the same sort of problems.

As I said before in my earlier review, the Mac user has more options than ever before when it comes to Web browsers. When it comes to alternate browsers, Firefox might get most of the press, but Shiira is certainly no slouch. In fact, this new version might become my de facto browser. And since Safari/WebKit has just gained some interesting capabilities — SVG support anyone? — Shiira is bound to get even better as time progresses.

Read more about Shiira.