Browsing Nirvana – Achieved?

So as anyone who has worked with me since around 1995 or so knows that I am a notoriously heavy browser of the web. Since tabbed browsing came out, I have been using a complex two-level hierarchical system to manage my web pages. I’ll have a window that has a general sort of topic – like maybe a web page I’m developing – plus several tabs for some php functions that I’m using or MySQL documentation or whatever. And several other windows set up similarly – sometimes ‘singletons’ for various links I’ve clicked off that people have AIM’ed or Twittered to me. The end result is I can never find anything, and when my browser crashes, I’m screwed. This is why I’ve been so excited about Google Chrome coming to Mac, and about Stainless browser for Mac. Which I still play with, and is getting better every week.

However, I think I’ve just made a change that might have switched up how I use them all. I’ve added a third layer of hierarchy using Fluid. Fluid lets you make little Site-Specific Browsers (SSB’s) for websites you keep open all the time. They show up on the dock as separate applications with their own sets of windows. Basically indistinguishable from a regular Mac OS X application. So here’s how it’s made a difference for me. There are certain sites that I keep open all the time, and certain sites that I’m just browsing and not finished with (hence the window staying open). The ones that I keep open all the time I’ve made little SSB’s for, and closed their windows within my main Safari application (Safari is today’s browser of choice, I switch back and forth from Stainless lately). Now, when I’m trying to find something that’s in one of my always-open applications, it shows up in the dock. I can command-tab to it. Once I’m in it, I can command-squiggle (tilde) to the correct window. Anything that isn’t in one of my always-open applications is in my regular Safari, which only has 5 windows of its own to flip through.

It may sound insane, and probably is, but now that I have this new third layer of hierarchy I feel like a great weight has been lifted. Whereas before I would have to go through ruthless window-culling rampages – “Seriously, I’m not going to do anything about this thing I’ve been sent, I’ve left this window open for 3 hours, let’s accept I’m going to do nothing here and close it” – now I don’t need to, because I can get to everything I need. Furthermore, as a bonus (though I haven’t seen it in action yet) I should have some level of crash-isolation – it should hopefully only knock down one of my SSB’s, and not everything. We’ll have to wait and see how that turns out to be.

I’ve tried Fluid before, once, and it didn’t stick. This time, I still have one main problem – cookies won’t pass between SSB’s and/or Safari. For most people this may be okay but it’s annoying for me. Not a huge deal, just annoying. The other thing I did was spend a full 30 minutes or so making sure I had identifiable icons for my SSB’s – this has helped IMMENSELY. Why they haven’t set up a protocol for this that just requests the icons from the websites is totally beyond me, but, whatever, I just did it and it looks…mediocre. Which is good enough for me! I even made a little icon for my own web application that I run all the time.

I shall report back with how it goes, but it really does feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders right now.

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