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Firefox is a browser with a pretty strong following, and for a good reason. It is powerful, supports open standards and is very flexible with a veritable host of plugins expanding its functionality. The only thing that it does not have, is an OS X look and feel. While this might seem a superficial point, it is a very valid one. Most OS X applications are Cocoa, and they look and behave in a certain manner that is consistent with the OS. Firefox neither looks nor works like the average OS X applications, and this can be annoying. While most are simply waiting for Mozilla to finally update the Mac version of Firefox with an appropriate look, there is an alternative solution… use Wyzo.

What it does
Wyzo is to Firefox what Shiira is to Safari. It uses the same underlying technology as the Mozilla browser, but builds upon it in a different way. The result is something that has all the power of Firefox, but looks and behaves quite different. Both handle the web pages the same, and many other features are cross-compatible, but the differences between the applications are huge.

Working with it
Wyzo is marketed as a media browser that “focuses on optimizing your online media experience.” The developers claim that “Wyzo gives you easy access to all your favorite media sites, downloading media content and inform your friends about your discoveries.” Besides rather lacking in the grammar department, the previous statement sounds rather fantastic and has little to no basis in reality. I’ve poked everywhere in this browser and in its help and forums, and have found nothing about easily accessing media sites beyond a few bookmarks, and as far as downloading content and informing your friends, there simply isn’t anything there. The developers might be trying to

market Wyzo as being different, but the truth of the matter is, this is just a browser like any other.

In terms of actual functionality, Wyzo can do everything that Firefox can, as they are both built on the same core. This even extends to things such as plugins which are fully compatible. In essence, you get a Firefox that looks and behaves slightly different. Unfortunately, despite looking significantly better than Firefox, this program is an absolute pain to work with.

All wrong
Wyzo has a lot going for it over Firefox if you go by looks alone. However, once you get past the first look, things start getting really, really ugly. Sure, it may have a nice soft white interface but when most things don’t work the way you expect them to, that doesn’t really matter.

The first thing that dumbfounded me was the inability to use modifier keys to determine how links will open. There is no modifier key to make links you click open in a new tab instead of the current one, but there is one for quickly downloading the linked file or opening the link in a window. To open links in new tabs, you either go the contextual menu route, or you drag them onto the tab bar… who thinks up this stuff.

Speaking of shortcuts, if you were expecting standard OS X shortcuts, think again, almost none of the normal web browser shortcuts apply, and nearly all of them make use of Control instead of Command. Equally annoying, the standard OS X Command plus H for hiding the application will instead bring up the history. Quite sad, since the program also features a few nice ideas such as using different modifier keys when hitting Enter to auto-complete an URL with .com or .net, or using Option plus Enter to open the URL you just typed in a new tab.

Other strange behaviors include the way tabs are handled when they are closed. There is a separate close window and close tab command, which is good. However, when you get to the point where you only have one tab, the program is not intelligent enough to actually close the window when you close that final tab. Instead, it does something much more humorous. It will close the tab, as any content you might have had loaded disappears, but then it will automatically open a new one.

Other faulty behaviors include weird blurring and distortion of the tab names when watching videos. This always happens, but it’s quickly rectified by interacting with the tabs.

At first glance, Wyzo seems like a very nice Firefox replacement, and it really has the potential to be one; unfortunately, it is simply killed by all the bad interaction issues. There is simply no way that someone used to OS X would use this over Firefox, it is just as bad as an X11 application. The developers really need to stop and read Apple’s user interface guidelines before the next update.

The Good

It looks good and has quite a few very nice ideas when it comes to shortcut possibilities.

The Bad

A pain to use, lacking some basic options, and doing the rest in an inconsistent manner with the other OS X browsers.

The Truth

If you were considering Wyzo as an alternative to Firefox, do yourself a favor and stick to Firefox. This program has potential, but the developers really need to stop and look at how the other OS X browsers work instead of just porting across the application from windows and leaving nearly all the browsing shortcuts the same as on the PC.


July 17, 2007 - Posted by | Howto,Tech

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