Shiira 1.2! Arigatou gozaimasu!

by Chris Adamson

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It was Giles Turnbull, whose blog 83browsers reminded me of Shiira, a WebKit-based Mac OS X browser being developed by a group of developers in Japan (the country that gave us manga, J-Pop, and Ruby... thank you, thank you, and thank you). And on the same day that Microsoft officially bailed on Mac IE, Shiira released version 1.2 of their browser.

I've played with it during the 1.2 betas, and surprisingly, it has displaced Safari as my default browser. Here are some of the things that make me love this browser:

Open in background window/tab

If you enable tabbed browsing, but un-check "select tabs as they are created", you get this great background-by-default behavior on ctrl-clicks:


I've found this really useful when a page has multiple links I want to come back to, but not at the expense of my current attention. I use it when spot-checking news stories for I spawn tabs for all the story's links and make sure they all load, letting them load simultaneously while I check the rest of the story. Speaking of loading...

Progress indicators for loading tabs

Neat trick: the spinning indeterminate progress indicator in each tab also has a percentage progress indicator, drawn as an arc segment of a circle, as seen below:


Styled source view

The view source window shows the HTML with syntax coloring, which makes it easier to copy source and not mangle it by missing part of a tag.


I've had to shrink this to fit it in the O'R blog space, but if you squint, you might notice that the top of the window has a spin-down that shows the HTTP request (a choice widget lets you see the server response too). The "HTML" choice can be changed to "DOM", which lets you browse the document object model as a tree-table. Nice, nice, nice.

The wildly flexible "sidebar"

A slide-out sidebar/tray has vertical tabs with several useful functions. First, you can manage your bookmarks:


Notice how it says "Safari Bookmarks". That's not a one-time-only import. You can bring in your Safari or Firefox bookmarks and if you add new bookmarks in those other browsers, Shiira will get the updates and display them. Helpful if you want to use multiple browsers (I mostly use Firefox for compatibility when sites won't take Safari/Shiira).


History. Pretty much the same as everyone else's. Yay.


A really nice thing Shiira does with downloads: not only can you specify a downloads folder, you can also tell Shiira to keep downloads organized by download date. This is a tremendously practical way to keep old downloads from hanging around in the finder. The resulting folder structure is shown below:


I should note that all the sidebar functionality is exposed elsewhere within the browser -- there's a menu for bookmarks, and a window for downloads -- so you don't have to use the sidebar if you don't have the screen space for it.


These days, everyone has to have a Safari-like search widget at the upper right. But notice how Shiira doesn't lock you into one search engine:


Like Firefox, Shiira comes with a collection of search engine options, which you pick by clicking on the globe icon. It's also a pretty simple matter to add new search engines:



Making WebKit available to all was a good move on Apple's part, since it has fostered innovation and competition in Mac web browsers. I'm sure the OmniWeb fans will answer with their list of cool features.

But right now, I'm very happy with Shiira. And to the Shiira developers, if they happen to see this:

わたし は シイラ が すき です。

ありがとう ございます。

Have you tried Shiira? What do you think?


2005-12-20 11:41:19
Default browser since 1.1...
Yep, as strange as it seems, I've switched to Shiira since their 1.1 release... Never missed Safari (except for auto-filling, that was buggy, didn't get into problems yet with the new version), using Firefox for non-compatible sites (banks, in first place!).
And, the main points for the switch were exactly what you told: can't imagine to go back to when my downloads were scattered around, and the HTML view is a bless!
2005-12-20 14:39:09
Try this in Safari
Open in background window/tab
If you enable tabbed browsing... I've found this really useful when a page has multiple links I want to come back to, but not at the expense of my current attention

I just Command-click on links when I'm in Safari. This opens the links in tabs but the current window remains active.

Styled source view
The view source window shows the HTML with syntax coloring, which makes it easier to copy source and not mangle it by missing part of a tag.

Try "SafariSource" for this.

It works very well for this purpose and is quite benign, causing no problems for me in Safari.


Jim M.
Macintosh Help and Consulting
Milwaukee, WI

2005-12-21 12:26:18
Does Shiira call home?
How come Little Snitch captures an attempt to connect to an unknown external IP address when Shiira follows a link, even to localhost? Is Shiira spyware? There is an interesting discussion on the Shiira forum.
2005-12-21 13:20:29
Does Shiira call home?
Let me rephrase that: Shiira attempts to connect to every time I load a URL pointing to my local webserver by name. It doesn't for any external addresses. I suspect this is a feature/bug that has to do with name lookups or something? It IS somewhat annoying given no other browser I know does this...
2005-12-21 16:49:47
Does Shiira call home?
I'm pretty sure is an IANA-reserved multicast address.
2005-12-21 17:08:36
saved windows/tabs?
Does anyone know if Shiira has support for saved windows/tabs, similar to the Saft plugin for Safari?

I didn't upgrade Saft for Safari 2.0 since it's "bloated" with features I'll never use and because it and PithHelmet (my must-have plugin) don't always play nicely together. I'd pay for a good dedicated window/tab session manager plugin for Safari.

2005-12-22 23:58:59
Love it...
can't find a use for 'shiira mini' but I love that too. I've found I am frequently having to preprend 'http://' before a new url will open and I get the occassional japanese character showing up in the midst of english text. hopefully 1.2 will fix that, grabbing it now...

as for the country that gave us manga, J-Pop, and Ruby, I'd say "thank you, no thank you, and thank you" ;)