By Guy Nathan
Amiga Web Browsers Then and Now:
It is without a doubt these days that Amiga Web Browsers have come a very long way from where they were only 2 to 3 years ago. For those unfamiliar to what was around then we had AMosaic and ALynx, and well nothing else.
AMosaic was based on a X-Mosaic port, a UNIX Web Browser, where as ALynx was an Amiga port of the UNIX Lynx client with a few extras specific to the Amiga version. These days we have IBrowse, Voyager/Voyager Next Generation, AWeb, a variety of other Web browsers rumoured for release, and soon a web browser called Web Cruiser. We also have a VRML port in progress, as well as several JAVA projects.
Out of all the existing web browsers, today IBrowse, AWeb and Voyager Next Generation are in a constant war competing against each other. The favourite web browsers are probably IBrowse and Voyager Next Generation, with AWeb trailing closely behind as 3rd most popular browser. AWeb unlike IBrowse and Voyager Next Generation though, at time of writing, has no REAL Frames support, it doesn't support as much HTML 3.2 as the others do, and all its support programs are external. What it does differently to all other existing Amiga Web Browsers is that it does NOT use MUI, which for the hardcore Anti-MUI freaks is reason enough to use this program over any other Amiga Web browser.
This article will concentrate on two of the three mentioned browsers above, IBrowse (V1.10, Commercial), and Voyager Next Generation (V2.29, Registered). Which Web Browser you choose after reading this will ultimately be up to you.
Voyager Next Generation started off its life as Voyager, the first freeware Amiga Web Browser which supported more HTML than ANY other Amiga Web browser released at its time. It had also extras like News:// support built in. At the time IBrowse was considered way too buggy to be used and AWeb simply didn't have as many features. This won Voyager alot of fans in the early days, including myself.
IBrowse, a web browser which has been commercial since V1, had a very rough start prior to its commercial released. Known by many as being plauged with bugs, and near to the point of unusability it was ridden off by many, and only caused more people to hate MUI (than already did). When IBrowse V1.0, commercial, was released it was a much more stable product which was ahead of all other Amiga Web Browsers released at that point, albiet it was rather buggy, but a free update/patch to solve the bugs came out very shortly after release. Since it's commercial release, the only way to try IBrowse out has been through demo copies of it.
Both of these Web Browsers use the MUI Object Oriented-like Graphical User Interface System. This allows both browsers to configure most aspects of the programs looks and also allows some other features specific to the MUI-system such as RMB/'FAB' Menus (Menus accessible by holding down the right mouse button over certain areas of a window), an easy to access Iconify option, and so on. The cons of the use of MUI though is the extra system resources which MUI uses, but in all fairness, without MUI some of these browsers features would be extremely hard to implement and no where near as likely to have been implemented. The implementation of 'FAB Menus' makes use of Voyager Next Generation and IBrowse easier for seasoned users of Netscape(tm).
Comparisons to Netscape:
Any Web Browsers ever designed will always ultimately at one time or another be compared to Netscape(tm), due to it being considered the Industry Standard (and also quite often setting new standards to work on top of existing standards).
So how do these browsers compare to Netscape? Well while they dont host support for Shockwave, and Real Audio, they can't really be put to blame there as Real Audio's authors quite blatantly and biasedly have refused to make an Amiga version, and as their program is copyright, no one can even design an Amiga version themselves. As for Shockwave, well no support for it currently exists, but the possibility of it happening is very likely, given time.
So what does each browser feature then?
Well IBrowse 1.10 has the following features:
* Full Frames Support * Support for Cookies (with an option to turn it off) * Image Dithering for some image types (GIF/JPEG/ILBM) * NetStat Window (Shows what files are currently being received and how much of the file received) * Drag N Drop for URLs * Support for META-Refresh * Clipboard for URLs * Supports 3 different palette modes (one same as Netscape) * Configurable output screen for external viewers * 'Accept-Language' support (Tells a web server which language you prefer) * Can load images using internal routines or external program * Can edit source in HTML Source window * GIF Animation support * Internal simple Email, Gopher, and Ftp support * Support for most Netscapism's and all of HTML 3.2 * Limited Arexx Support * Proper Plug-in Support * Ability to configure external programs in handling different file types * Telnet:// support available external program * Cache Browser (View all files in cache, and by file type, with basic file maintenance available) * Hotlist (stored in HTML format) which can be used for inclusion menu and sub-menu items * Able to have multiple lines of configurable buttons (for linking to web sites) * Proxy Support * Basic Printing Support * Able to change Transfer Animation and Navigation Bar images to whatever you like * Able to switch Frames on or off
Voyager Next Generations Screenshots:
Where as Voyager Next Generation 2.10 features the following features:
* Full Frames Support * Internal and External Image Loading (internal is slightly faster than IBrowse 1.10) * Supports alot of Netscapisms and HTML 3.2 * Proper Plug-in support (includes 'Web Search' plug-in) * Support for T/TCP (TCP for Transactions) (for faster establishment of HTTP links) * GIF Animation support * Internal simple EMail, FTP, Gopher, and News support * Print Support (not as full as Netscape's but better than IBrowse 1.10's) * Proxy Support * Support for 'Bubble' showing of 'Alt Text' attributes of images (when moving over the image with 'Alt Text' * Hostlist support (Alot like IBrowse's) * Limited Image Dithering abilities (JPEG/ILBM) * Cache Browser (Alot like IBrowse's also) * Drag N Drop for URLs * Ability to configure external programs in handling different file types * Limited Arexx Support
As you can quite clearly see from the features listed, both programs are very comprehensive in what they cover, and yet differ from one another at the same time. The reliability of one program over the other really depends on who you talk to, where some will say IBrowse crashes all the time, and others will say Voyager Next Generation crashes all the time for them, in the majority of these cases it is actually the fault of the user for something they are running or have yet to setup.
Comparing IBrowse and Voyager Next Generation:
Both Browsers are without a doubt in the present state buggy. Naturally any piece of software is bound to be prone to crashing, but Web Browsers have been noted (on most platforms) to be the most consistant applications to crash.
Voyager Next Generation offers the following features IBrowse doesn't: News:// support, Bubble support of 'ALT' Text, moderately advanced printing, support for T/TCP, some Netscapisms not support in IBrowse, and an existing plug-in to use with it's plug-in system.
On the other hand, IBrowse offers the following things which Voyager Next Generation currently doesn't: able to dither more image formats, cookie support, NetStat window, multiple palettes, HTML Source Editing abilities (providing a semi WYSIWYG style set-up), support for 'Accept-Language', partial META support, multiple levels of configurable buttons, and some Netscapisms Voyager NG doesn't support.
The stability of one browser over another depends on who you talk to. For a start most of those who have been complaining IBrowse 1.10 crash on them all the time are running a pirated version, so have no right to complain (as it could be a bad crack stuffing up the program). Others who complain it crash all the time are running something on their system which they shouldn't be, which is causing this problem, the same story applies to Voyager NG.
For those of us running the legitimate versions (like myself), it still is prone to crashing and both browsers are known for crashing for certain web pages. Voyager NG though has the advantage of it being updated far more often though. And while both Browsers have very good Frames support now, I have been able to make both Web Browsers mess up severly with some perfectly HTML Legal Frame web pages.
Another thing to note is the price difference between the two. IBrowse retails at around twice the price of Voyager Next Generations registration costs. This alone may have people choosing Voyager over IBrowse, but it hasn't stopped those who have used IBrowse 1.10 for a while, swear by it.
So which Browser is best for you? Well unfortunately I can't say you can test both IBrowse 1.10 and Voyager NG demos, as neither have public usable demos of their latest version. Voyager NG has the advantage of having a publically available (older) version (V2.10) of their browser available with Frames support, where as the latest demo of IBrowse (1.02) does not.
From my tests though I can say that I currently prefer IBrowse 1.10, despite its bugs, its lack of News: support, and other minor features it still comes out on top, and remains my number one tool for web page development.
On the same note I must say that I would also register Voyager Next Generation (if you can afford to do so), as it has updates far more often and your likely to see an update of it out before any new update of IBrowse.
Most reviews will leave you with a definate answer of one program over another, rather than do that I have used this article to present both the good and bad of both programs and allow you to make your own decision based on your own needs, what you want, what you can afford, and how patient you are! So happy browsing!!