Shifty Behavior

Logging in to a Mac OS X user account while holding the Shift key prevents Login Items from launching. Similarly, launching OmniWeb with Shift depressed creates a new empty workspace rather than restoring your last browsing session (if so configured). I find this very helpful when I want to switch to a workspace other than the one that was last open or just start up OW quickly.

Broadening the Behavior

The Shift+activate behavioral precedent can be used to form guidelines for two general types of applications.

For applications that depend on a network to provide core functionality, Shift should launch them in offline mode. For example, feed readers would not try to sync and/or refresh feeds, mail and IM clients would not try to connect their accounts.

For document-based applications, if your application can either create a new main window (browser, document, etc.) or restore the last open window set, Shift on launch should toggle the behavior.

OmniWeb itself represents the overlap of these two types. Deciding what to do in such cases is up to the creators of the software. Also, this behavior is not useful in all software, so it isn’t necessary to form rules covering every possible application.

Communicating the Behavior

OmniWeb uses a monolog (it’s not a dialog if there is only one choice!) to inform users that Shift was depressed and therefore a new empty workspace was opened.

OmniWeb uses a window to notify the user that Shift was held when launching

Ideally, the affect of the Shift key would be communicated before launch. For launching from the Dock, a modified text label perhaps. The Dock menu command should also change when Shift was held, i.e., OmniWeb’s Open becomes Open with New Empty Workspace.

Highlighting Text in OmniWeb PDFs

For as long as I can remember, OmniWeb has been able to directly save pages as PDF files. Just hold down Option and select “Save As PDF…” from the File menu.

I recently stumbled on a minor feature that makes this a bit more useful:

If you select text before saving a page as a PDF, the highlight will be included in the PDF. You can use this to call attention to a section of text in the context of the entire page. With online purchase receipts, you can highlight the serial number before saving the page, making it easier to visually locate it if need be.

The only problem is that the highlight color is the user’s highlight color. This could cause a bit of confusion when the user opens the PDF, selects a different block of text, and then copies it. Which block was copied? Perhaps the application could use a color not among those in the System Preferences -> Appearance -> Highlight Color menu.

To my knowledge, this does not work in any application using Print -> Save as PDF.

What’s In A Name?

With regard to link element title attributes, three useless letters, usually.

The more sites that provide multiple syndication feeds, the more important it is that blogs provide useful names and aggregators be smart about using them.

Firefox

  1. Firefox's built-in syndication menu
  2. Firefox's feed addition dialog
    Firefox tries to be smart, automatically suggesting the page’s title as the Live Bookmark name. As you can see in the Step 1 image, I selected the “sidenotes” feed, not the main post feed as the suggested name implies. This could be mildly confusing to users: did I choose the right feed? Is this an application bug? Assuming the page’s title does work in the vast majority of cases, but causes problems on sites that provide feeds for posts [Atom and/or RSS], comments, photos, links, etcetera.

OmniWeb 5

  1. OmniWeb 5's built-in syndication menu
  2. OmniWeb 5's feed addition dialog
    OmniWeb uses a feed’s title attribute as the suggested feed name, but I usually have to type in a name because it is just “RSS”, the title automatically generated by most weblogging software.

As of version 7.54u1, Opera can aggregate feeds, but the auto-discovery process is pretty lousy; it requires the display of the site navigation bar (View menu -> Toolbars -> Navigation bar) which does not allow you to choose among multiple feeds. If there are multiple feeds, clicking the Newsfeed button displays the source of the first feed and adds it to the built-in aggregator, but there is no way to access the other linked feeds other than the ever joyous process of copying and pasting them from the page source. Opera does not support the “feed:” scheme. More feedback headed for Opera…

For existing sites, adding feed title attribute text is a simple, one-time change that clarifies things a bit for browser subscribers and might also be helpful to future Safari 2.0 users. Not having access to Safari 2.0 builds, I have no idea how it determines a feed’s name.

Looking forward, I’m going to contact weblogging software developers in hopes of getting automatic link title generation into their future releases and browser developers to encourage them to improve their naming logic and auto-discovery processes.

On an unrelated note, Cougar Mountain pumpkin cookies are great. If you are in Seattle between now and March, get some. Warming them for 10-15 seconds in a microwave makes them even better.

OmniWeb 5b5, Part 1

  • Window layering is wonky – if I switch out of OmniWeb while the Bookmarks, Downloads, Error Log, Source Editor, or Network Activity windows are the frontmost and switch back, the first browser window comes to the front.
  • Address bar click/drag-through has been (intentionally?) disabled. It’s very nice to be able to grab an address from a browser window’s bar and drop it into another window without having to bring the browser window to the foreground or use the Command key.
  • Source Selection
    1. Highlight some page text.
    2. From the View menu, select the View in Source Editor command (also available in the contextual menu). It would be nice if the menu command name could dynamically change to View Selection Source (in both the View and contextual menus), but it’s not a huge deal.
    3. Watch as the window containing the page source automatically zooms to the beginning of the text you highlighted before you selected View Source.

    Mozilla’s implementation of a similar feature is pretty good, but it doesn’t display the selected text in the context of the entire page, showing only the containing block element. Showing the selected text with syntax coloring within the page source would be an improvement on Mozilla’s method. Being able to reveal links to images in the page source could also be handy.

  • Control/right-clicking on an open toolbar space should summon the same options as seen in the Finder and NetNewsWire.
  • The Bookmarks window should retain its state between openings. It currently returns to the “Personal Bookmarks” section every time.
  • There is a bug with Notes text field that requires that the field be selected (with a click) twice in order to allow input.
  • Another one to steal from Mozilla: clicking on the lock icon that appears for https connections could display the site’s certificate and connection encryption information.
  • Is anyone else running into the following error when trying to load pages after about a day or two of continuous OmniWeb use?
  • An OmniWeb 5 beta error message

OmniWeb 5b1, part 1

Initial UI observations and suggestions

  • Click-through to the tabs would be nice. The close button is small enough that it is rather hard to hit accidentally. If possible, the close button could ignore click-through while the thumbnail or name portion accepted it.
  • The Search field appears rough around the curves. OmniWeb 5 on top, Mail below:

    OmniWeb 5's Search field

    Mail's Search field

  • Clicking a link from an external application while OmniWeb is not open should create just one tab, rather than the Untitled + the linked page.
  • Consider placing a “New Tab” button (the + button found in Mail’s mailbox drawer) in the tab drawer tool section. It is redundant, but useful.
  • Dragging multiple .webloc files into the drawer only opens one of them.
  • An option to automatically group tabs, opening links from one tab in a new tab immediately beneath it. I like this feature in both Galeon and Epiphany, but can understand why some would prefer the more common implementation.
  • I’m seeing two History collections in my bookmarks view:

    OmniWeb displaying two History collections

  • There is no way to open multiple bookmarks contained in a sub-folder of a Favorites bar folder in new tabs. Not absolutely essential, but it allows for more bookmarks to be accessible through the Favorites toolbar without hampering the ability to use tabs.

pinions on OmniWeb 5, check out Erik Barzeski’s NSLog() entry on the topic.

OW5 preview thoughts

Observations based on Think Secret’s preview:

The thumbnail and list view name labels are not very useful for sites with a standard prefix; Think Secret’s thumbnail and list view screenshots illustrate the problem. Because so many sites use layout templates for content, the thumbnails are not distinctive enough to differentiate several pages from one site. It is in these cases that the titles become important. Safari rather smartly removes common prefixes when multiple tabs are open, making them much easier to identify. This proves very useful on the MacNN forums, I’ve noticed.

Like previous versions, the main toolbar uses color and shape effectively as means of differentiating icons. Safari and Firebird absolutely suck in this regard.

Per site text size manipulation will be great for those sites that use tiny fixed-size fonts.

Are the bookmark Collections spring-loaded? If not, why not?! Ideally, these would work similarly to the 10.3 Finder’s spring-loaded sidebar, with the hovered folder opening in the same window.

Do tabs open to bookmarked pages use the bookmark’s title? How about Page Marked pages?

All in all, OmniWeb 5 looks like it will be the browser for those who want powerful features without giving up a native OS X interface.