Innovation in browsers

by Giles Turnbull

Since a lot of us spend a lot of our time using web browsers, it's only natural that we like to keep a close eye on movements and developments in the field. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who keeps an eye out for new releases of browsers that have become old friends, or, less often, new browsers I've not had a chance to get to know yet.

One such browser popped up from nowhere yesterday, so I downloaded and had a play; my curiosity simply had to be satisfied. What could this newcomer, called Sunrise, offer that the established players hadn't already thought of?

Well, quite a lot as it happens. Certainly a lot more than I'd expected.

Sunrise is by no means going to take over as my default browser, and the UI is very different to most Cocoa apps.

But Sunrise deserves your time simply because it offers a handful of new ideas, things I have never seen in any other browser.

Sunrise, with transparent source code window
Sunrise is based on Webkit, so renders pages just as Safari would

I love the idea of a toolbar button that instantly resizes the working window to 640x480 or 800x600; and an HTML source window that's semi-transparent by default, so you can still see the rendered view in the background. (Sure, there are ways of getting the same result in other browsers, using extensions or third-party apps or scripts; it's just nice to see the creator of Sunrise putting in the effort to make these features part of the default set-up.)

More unusually (because I can't see how they'd help me with day-to-day browsing, but perhaps they'd be of use to others) are the keyboard shortcuts for moving a window around your display. Hit Command+Option+1 and the window hops up to top-left. Command+Option+4 and it goes to bottom-right.

Like I say, no practical use to me as they stand, but what a great concept. Wouldn't it be nice for every app you use to have a series of user-controlled window positions, each of them invoked with a similar key combo? I tend to keep my browser window in the center of my screen, but having a swift way to shift it to the left, so I can refer to a text file underneath it, then shift it back again would be great.

There are other clever innovations in Sunrise, so if you have an interest in browsers and browser features, it's worth downloading and playing with.

Its main offering, as I see it, is stimulation. Sunrise demonstrates that there's so much more that browsers could offer us in terms of being simpler, quicker or easier to use. Those of us who spend a lot of time using them should encourage these new ideas and hope that they spread further among the browser development community.

What's on your browser features wish list?


2005-04-02 13:53:37
Moving windows from the keyboard
Window positioning keybindings are very nice, but they shouldn't be per-app, they should be global. A long time ago I had a set of key bindings for my Apollo Workstation, all tied to the numeric keypad.


7 put the window in the upper left quadrant, 8 spanned the top of the screen, 9 in the upper right quadrant. 4 spanned the left side, 5 was full screen, 6 spanned the right side, and so on. This made it very easy to layout windows from your different applications without overlapping them unless you wanted to. I keep meaning to see if a combo of QuicKeys and Applescript could do the same thing on the Mac.