- Light, minimal design
- Unique independant tab features
- Lacks migration wizard
- No fully fleshed bookmark manager
Stainless came into the world as a technology demo meant to show off features touted by Google Chrome, but has blossomed into a fully-functional, handsome, minimalist browser. For the past week I’ve been test driving Stainless as my default web browser (though, you don’t yet have the option to make this browser your default). I’ve come back slightly surprised, and found that I liked it more than I thought I would.
Stainless is the brainchild of the small software company Mesa Dynamics, initially meant more as a proof than a product. Mesa wrote the browser simply to demonstrate a multiple-process web browser similar to Google Chrome, but the app has since flourished due to fan demand into a full fledged web browser.
Stainless utilizes the same WebKit layout rendering engine used by Apple’s Safari browser and Google’s Chrome browser, but has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Stainless has a unique feature called parallel sessions, which allows users to log into the same website multiple times with different accounts in each tab. Each tab open is designed to be its own process, so that if it stops responding, it doesn’t crash the entire browser. I noticed a number of subtle features in the course of using Stainless that really stuck out. One being that when you search for text on a page (Cmd+F), it searches on each page you click to afterwards automatically, something neither Safari or Firefox do. It was incredibly useful when looking for references of the same topic on multiple sites.
Stainless has a useful minimalist interface
I see the app’s main feature as it’s simplicity. Stainless gives all the screen real estate to the web page, rather than cluttering it with it’s own icons and menus. The simple 3-button control bar, address/search combo bar, and thin bookmark column felt comfortable. I was surprised how much I liked the icon-only bookmark column WebKit gives the browser that zippy feel that we’ve all come to expect in Safari, though Stainless is possibly even speedier. I found in an informal speed test between the new Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, and Stainless, that it definitely edged out on top in rendering and application responsiveness.
I do have a few quipes with Stainless though. It’s obviously still a beta, but I had trouble moving the app around in Spaces, and then switching tabs in the new space. The app wanted to jump back to the originating space, so I presume that this is related to the multiple-process architecture. Also, the switch to the browser was tricky without a bookmark or settings import wizard, something I’ve come to expect from a browser if it expects me to switch.
All in all Stainless is a fantastic piece of software. It’s obviously been planned out well. It’s handsome, integrates fabulous features like parallel sessions, and Google Gears, while maintaining performance. It’s sparse, but after a few days I realized that it had everything you NEED in a browser, nothing more, and nothing less. In the Mac world right now I’d call Safari the flashy browser, Firefox the extendible browser, Stainless the speedy browser, and Chrome the vaporware browser. If you’re waiting for Chrome, Stainless provides an excellent preview of what to expect.