Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard marked an endpoint in the evolution of traditional OS X. After this, Apple introduced OS X 10.7 Lion, which moved the Mac in the same direction as iOS – a whole new direction for desktop Macs. Also, for those using software written in the PowerPC era, Snow Leopard gives us the last chance to run those apps.
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OS X Version Share on Intel Macs, Late 2009 through May 2015
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- About Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update. The 10.6.8 update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes that: Enhance the Mac App Store to get your Mac ready to upgrade to Mac OS X Lion.
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OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard remains a Top 3 platform among Mac users even 4 versions later!
While OS X 10.6 is now several versions behind, it is hanging in there as one of the most used versions of OS X, as data from our site logs shows in the graph above. We recognize that our audience is more likely to stick with an older OS, whether due to older hardware, software compatibility, or just seeing no need to change.
Whether our numbers are representative of worldwide OS X use or not, the trends here are fascinating. New versions are adopted quickly on release and grow more slowly, reaching their peak as the next version of OS X arrives – although none has achieved the nearly 85% share that Snow Leopard once had, based on our site traffic. They also drop quickly when a new version is released, followed by a slower decline that can go on for years.
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Not long after 10.8 Mountain Lion was released, 10.7 Lion dropped below Snow Leopard’s slowly declining level. Likewise, Mountain Lion share dropped precipitously shortly after 10.9 Mavericks arrived, the first free version of OS X, soon falling below Snow Leopard. And with the arrival of 10.10 Yosemite, Mavericks began its inevitable decline – and in coming months it could also fall behind Snow Leopard. It will definitely do so once OS X 10.11 El Capitan becomes a release product.
Snow Leopard has legs. You could well count it as the pinnacle of the classic version of OS X (OS X before it started getting iPhone-like features such as “natural” scrolling), and as such there are a lot of good browser options for it.
I have Snow Leopard on my 2007 Mac mini, upgraded with 3 GB of system memory and a fast 320 GB hard drive. I also have a lot of different browsers installed: Camino, Chrome, Firefox, OmniWeb, Opera, Roccat, Safari, and Stainless among them. Let’s look at them by the date of their latest release.
Camino: Dated but Useful
Of these browsers – and the list is not exhaustive – Camino 2.1.2 has been left to languish since 2012 yet remains a fast browser that I still find myself using for specific projects. You can run Camino very nicely on OS X 10.4 Tiger and a G3 Mac – and anything since.
Camino won’t become your everyday browser, but it’s agile and works very nicely for legacy websites. It has never been updated for HTML5 and scores very poorly on the HTML5 Test.
The biggest drawback to Camino is that it tends to hang with too many open tabs or when you try to quit the app. Camino is based on an old version of Gecko (Gecko 19/Firefox 19 released in February 2013) that was current when Camino 2.1 was released. The code has been tweaked to function as a true Mac app, but over 3 years have elapsed since the last update, so don’t expect it to compete in features with more modern browsers.
OmniWeb: The First Has Become Last
OmniWeb was originally developed for NeXT computers and their NeXTstep environment. When Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, NeXTstep became the foundation for Mac OS X, and OmniWeb was the first browser ported to Apple’s next generation operating system.
The last release version of OmniWeb is 5.11.2, which arrived in July 2012 and added support for some OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion security features. Of the browsers that claim to still be in development for the Mac, it has the oldest “most recent” version.
OmniWeb runs on PowerPC and Intel Macs running OS X 10.4.8 Tiger or later, and the development version is adding OS X 10.10 Yosemite support. Even though Omni Group continues to work on its browser, it looks like a browser from a decade back.
Safari: Left Behind
Safari 5.1.10 is the last version compatible with OS X 10.6. That update was released in 2013, making it only a year newer than Camino. Safari is currently at version 8.0.6, which requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite, so it’s a few versions behind. Apple has a long tradition of leaving users of older versions of OS X with old software, so it’s not just a matter of Safari.
I have given up on Safari for production work, although I continued to use it regularly until earlier this year. It is a perfectly competent browser, but it bogs down with multiple windows open, and this is especially true when using WordPress, the content management system we use for Low End Mac.
Stainless: It Shines!
Surprisingly, over recent months I have made Stainless 0.8 my most used browser. It’s quick to launch, memory efficient, and handles WordPress (Low End Mac’s content management system) very nicely. It has displaced Safari, which is what I used for WordPress until I gave Stainless a try.
Stainless was a project launched by Danny Espinoza in 2008 with some impressive goals. He notes:
“Stainless started out as a technology demo to showcase my own multi-processing architecture in response to Google Chrome (Stainless 0.1 was released three weeks after Google released Chrome for Windows). Sensing an opportunity and inspired by a growing fanbase, I decided to craft Stainless into a full-fledged browser and work on features that I hadn’t seen before in other browsers.
“A prime example is parallel sessions, which allow you to log into a site using different credentials in separate tabs at the same time. This new technology is woven throughout Stainless, from the private cookie storage system, to session-aware bookmarks that remember the session in which they were saved. I still believe this is a true browser innovation (and I’d love to see this implemented in Chrome).”
After five years working on Stainless, Espinoza no longer had the time necessary to invest in moving the project forward and ended development in 2013, so Stainless is eternally stuck at version 0.8. Despite its seeming age, it’s a sprightly browser.
Opera: Fairly Current
I’ve always liked Opera, but never enough to use it regularly. Until now, the most recent version I had on my Mac was 12.16, which is positively ancient. Opera is up to version 30 these days.
Since version 26, Opera has required OS X 10.7 Lion or later. Version 25 (2014) is difficult to find, but this link will get you Opera 25.0.1614.71, the last version compatible with Snow Leopard.
Roccat: A New Contender
Roccat is designed to be fast, and it’s also available on iOS. Built-in ad blockers help it load sites much more quickly than if all the ads were in place. Roccat claims to block 99% of ads.
Roccat has special features optimized for social media, so if you use Facebook, Twitter, etc., that alone makes it worth a look.
Roccat Reader provides you with the kind of distraction-free online reading you have probably seen in more modern versions of Safari. Roccat Cloud lets you back up your bookmarks, tabs, history and more to the cloud and access it from another device running Roccat.
Firefox: Good Enough
Firefox is the descendant of Netscape Navigator, the first well-known browser. For a while it was the second choice browser on Windows and Macs, but Chrome pushed it aside long ago. I honestly can’t remember the last time I used it.
Not to say that it isn’t a perfectly competent browser. I enjoyed using it again after so many years away from it – although I must admit to having used TenFourFox, a PowerPC port of Firefox, heavily on my G4 and G5 Power Macs in recent years.
Firefox has a reader mode, which is marvelous for reading content on a cluttered page or in too small a typeface. Also on the plus side, it can automatically update to the current version (38.0.5 at the moment) and supports full screen mode.
Chrome: Up-to-Date but a RAM Hog
Google’s Chrome browser is current at version 43.0.2357.81, and this version is compatible with all versions of OS X since 10.6 Snow Leopard. It’s fast, but it’s also a memory hog. One the plus side, you can run Chrome on Macs, Windows PCs, Linux, Chromebooks, iDevices, and Android gear.
It’s also the most used browser on the market, although Safari eclipses it on Macs. It always updates itself to the latest version, so no worry about being left behind until Google drops Snow Leopard support.
In the table below, browser size on disk is rounded up to the next full MB. HTML5 score is on a scale of 0-555. Full Screen indicates whether the browser supports full screen mode, which can be toggled using Cmd-Shift-F.
HTML5 Video notes whether H.264, Ogg Theora, and WebM are supported. “All” means all 3 are.
|Camino 2.1.3||39 MB||134||no||no|
|OmniWeb 5.11.2||76 MB||205||no||H.264|
|Safari 5.1.10||53 MB||250||no||H.264|
|Stainless 0.8||2 MB||250||no||H.264, WebM|
|Opera 25||127 MB||480||no||Theora, WebM|
|Roccat 4.9||14 MB||267||no||H.264, WebM|
|Firefox 38||175 MB||467||yes||all|
|Chrome 43||375 MB||506||yes||all|
There are a lot of factors you can use for choosing the best browser. In terms of speed, Stainless loads quickly. Camino, Stainless, and Roccat all subjectively feel pretty fast. Firefox and Chrome, not so much, and Chrome itself is over twice as large as Firefox.
Chrome takes top honors for HTML5 support, followed by Opera 25 and then Firefox. Roccat is a bit ahead of Safari and Stainless, but the big question is how well does each browser support the parts of HTML5 that are important to you, such a video codecs.
Honestly, it can’t hurt to download and try several of these browsers. Regardless of which ones others view as best, you may find a new favorite for some specific uses, much as I am hooked on Stainless for WordPress work.
Keywords: #snowleopard #bestbrowser
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As a user of older Macs, especially G3s, lightweight apps make your day-to-day usage a lot easier, and this extends to web browsers.
I recently tested as many browsers as I could find, but the test machine was my iMac Core Duo running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. After looking carefully at my results and some of the comments I received, I have retested some of the more lightweight browsers on my Pismo PowerBook G3.
It is a 400 MHz with 1 GB of RAM, a new 5400 rpm 40 GB hard drive with AirPort Card and running Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger with all the latest updates installed.
There are a lot of browsers for Tiger, but some of them I wouldn’t put in the lightweight category and therefore didn’t include in my testing. Some of them, like Flock, while they will work on a G3, require a G4 for decent performance.
Editor’s note: For those using older versions of OS X, we sometimes include system requirements for versions earlier than the one reviewed. Of the nine browser versions reviewed here, only four can run on Mac OS X 10.3.9 Panther – but that includes some of the best ones. Anyone still using Mac OS X 10.2 can’t run current versions of any of these browsers.
These are the browsers I choose:
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So let’s get started.
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Opera has come a long way in the past year, but it is still way behind its competitors. The app was slow to load, pages loaded slowly, and it was the only browser to not render my website home page properly, dropping the navigation pane to under the rest of the page.
It is also has one of the ugliest user interfaces I have seen in a long time; it looks very dated.
Opera 7 requires Mac OS X 10.1 or later; 8 requires 10.2 or later; 9 requires 10.3 or later.
Camino is a great browser. It is a Mac OS X exclusive browser from the Mozilla team. I have used Camino on a number of systems, and the later versions (currently in beta stages) have been fabulous.
Camino is a neat and tidy browser, and with most older Macs not supporting the higher resolutions of more modern Macs, screen space is more of an issue – and this slim and trim browser helps maximise the browser window.
A rock solid browser, which is incredibly fast even on my PowerBook with the usual features that are standard in browsers these days like tabs and password remembering.
Camino requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Okay, so Firefox isn’t exactly lightweight, but as it is the biggest Mac browser, I thought I would throw it in. I use it a lot, even on my Pismo.
As you would imagine, it is a lot slower to load than the others, and pages take a little while to load, but it renders them fine. The added bonus of having hundred of plugins for everything you could think of, makes this a highly customisable browser.
Firefox 2 requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later; version 3 requires 10.4 or later.
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iCab has been around for a long time. Its maker is one of the last software developers still making OS 9 software. This is the OS X version.
This was extremely fast – even on this aging G3 – and it rendered pages perfectly. Pages loaded very quickly, even those that I hadn’t been to before.
iCab 4 requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
I have never been a fan of Shiira, even on higher spec’d systems. It is very unstable, and while it has gotten better with each new revision, it still has a long way to go.
The app took a few more bounces on the Dock to load than most other browsers, but once open, pages loaded quite quickly and were rendered properly.
Shiira 1.2.2 requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later; 2.2 requires 10.4 or later.
Demeter 1.5 Beta 2
I was pointed to the Demeter browser by a fellow G3 enthusiast and was looking forward to trying it. It is supposed to be a “slimline Shiira”, and Shiira in turn is a revamped Safari. Is fast speed on old machines was touted as one of its best features.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get the browser to work. The app opened fine and was very quick, but halfway through rendering pages, it kept quitting.
Demeter 1.0.8 (stable) and 1.5 (beta) require Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Radon started off as a good browser, it was quite fast and rendered pages properly. However version 1.0 is the last version being developed for Tiger. Newer versions are Leopard-only, which considering you need a beast of a machine to run Leopard, you wouldn’t be too worried about a lightweight browser.
Radon 1.0 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Sunrise was another browser pointed out by fellow user of older Macs, and I was very impressed with it. I had never heard of it before this test, and I was very surprised by it. The app loaded blindingly quick (within 2 Dock bounces), and the pages loaded extremely fast.
There was one annoyance: When you type a web address in the address bar, it searches Google for it instead of taking you directly there.
Sunrise requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later.
Apple would have you believe this is the best browser for the Mac, and it has some very good points – but being the best isn’t one of them.
Safari 3.1 loads fast, and pages load fast, although not as fast as Camino and Sunrise. Pages are rendered fine, but the lack of support for WYSIWYG editing in eBay, and the random page drops makes it an unreliable browser. Hopefully Apple will resolve these niggles and put Safari where it should be.
Safari 1.3.2 requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later; 3.0 requires 10.4.9 or later.
I have thrown a bunch of browsers at you, with most of them similar in specs but missing a few vital points.
The best all rounder is Camino, as it is immensely fast, but for maximum compatibility and a whole bunch of plugins, Firefox is still good, although a little slow if you have an older G3. High-end 600 MHz with lots of RAM should cope with it fine. My wife had a G3 iBook 800 MHz with 640 MB of RAM, and Firefox 3 breezed on it, as fast as my Intel iMac running Leopard.
Don’t dismiss Sunrise, as it looks very promising, and I will be using a whole lot more. For very old G3s, look at Camino and Sunrise,; for faster G3s and low-end G4s, look at Camino and Firefox.
G3’s and low-end G4’s still have a long life left in them, but software developers and advances in web languages are forcing slower machines out of the picture. Fortunately there are still some developers writing with older machines in mind, and for this we are thankful.
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