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Hands on with Sunrise, the WebKit browser for devs

2 July 2010 3,442 views 2 Comments



Would you like Safari more if it were stripped of most of those mostly useless and unused bells n’ whistles? Do you develop for the web? Then you should have a look at Sunrise, an open-source WebKit implementation that reduces Apple’s opus down to a simple melody.

It wasn’t long ago that there were few browsers to choose from on the Mac and, sadly, Microsoft Internet Explorer was the pick of the litter. Now, there’s plenty of choice with Safari, Opera, Chrome and Firefox competing to satisfy the mainstream and, another dozen or so niche browsers, such as BumperCar (schools/kids) and Flock (social networking), angling for more specialized markets.

But, did you know there’s one specifically designed for developers? Sunrise fills that space. Additionally, and this is an even more focussed nice, Sunrise might be the perfect web client for (Hacintosh) netbook users as it’s superbly compact and uses very little RAM.

For example, whereas Safari’s currently using more than 430MB on my amply endowed with RAM iMac, Sunrise satisfies itself with about 30MB with three tabs open, and uses just 3MB of hard disk space.

More and less

Interestingly, Safari and Sunrise are both built using WebKit. Thereupon, the first time I fired up Sunrise it already knew most of my logins and passwords from Safari, which was a very pleasant surprise.

Created by Atsushi Jike, Sunrise is all about contrasts. For example, the only facility for importing book marks is dragging and dropping them from another browser into the bookmarks sidebar as there is no import function.

To the plus, Bookmarks can be viewed as a color coded list, color coded icons or tiles. Also, bookmarks only display in a scrollable sidebar, so you can browse and view bookmarks at the same time.

Another plus is the ability to make the tool bar, tab bar and bookmarks go away with a keyboard shortcut (⌘ + Shift + B) or single mouse click. Further, whereas other browsers only allow you to enlarge or shrink webpages using ⌘ and the plus/minus keys, Sunrise also offers a shortcut (⌘ + Shift + Equal [=]) that takes you back to a page’s native size.

And, then, there’s the toolbar, which puts many useful functions right up front where they’re useful. For example, there’s a button for grabbing a screencap with the option for full-size, percentage and even by X/Y coordinate grabs.

Additionally, the toolbar gives you one-click access to language encoding and user agents. Other developer friendly features include a multi-pane approach to displaying source code and the ability to open source in another application.

What’s not there

Safari is bloated. Sunrise is anything but, though you lose functionality in the bargain.

• Cannot send a webpage as an HTML email
• There is no separate search bar
• Limited bookmark functionality
• Limited plugin support (i.e. can’t use a Flash blocker)
• Only eight localizations
• Few off-the-shelf, third-party add-ons, like Safari Stand

Again, the advantages of Sunrise are its small size, modest RAM usage and, of course, specialized features. If you’ve gotta an older MacBook, or Hackintosh netbook, with limited processing and RAM, Sunrise is an excellent choice.

Tried Sunrise and have an opinion to share? Found an even better browser? Sound off in the comments below…

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