I feel bad writing this. No, let me rephrase: I love when facts prove me wrong. I especially love when third party developers of iPad applications prove me wrong. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece called “Your Alternative iPad Browser Sucks” in which I basically stated that every alternative browser I had tried on the iPad couldn’t keep up with the elegance and powerful engine of Safari. I still stand by that statement: 3rd party developers are not Apple and I’m pretty sure Safari has got some exclusive features buried deep down in the code engine (such as memory management) which 3rd party devs have not access to.
What’s great now is that I found an alternative that doesn’t suck. Actually, it’s a beautiful, powerful and feature-rich app for iPad called Grazing that has been sitting on my homescreen for a week now. Grazing is now my favorite alternative browser for iPad.
How did this happen? My problem with alternative browsers was that they combined a truckload of features with ugly user interfaces and a crappy engine. Without listing names here, let’s just say that I tried many of those apps charting in the App Store and, really, I still don’t know how could people even like them. I approached Grazing with caution, and now I’m impressed. First, the app doesn’t crash - at least not like the others. Instead of a crash you get a “low memory warning” telling you that you might consider closing a few tabs or restarting the app. The great thing is - the warning doesn’t come up as often as you’d expect from an iPad browser; the application has got a powerful engine under the hood and it shows. It’s fluid, fast at opening web pages, videos don’t hang and , overall, opening tabs is a pleasure. It almost feels like desktop browsing brought to the iPad with particular attention to details. Grazing puts all the other alternative browsers for iPad to shame. Real shame.
You can use the app both in portrait and landscape mode. When in portrait tabs go into a popover accessible from the toolbar, and you can click on an icon inside this popover to get a Safari-like thumbnail view for open pages. You can open new tabs from inside the same popover. If you hold the iPad in landscape mode, though, tabs go into a sidebar on the left, similar to the persistent sidebar you get in Settings.app. You can switch between tabs with a single tap, and depending on the available memory Grazing will refresh the page or present it to you as you left it. This is pretty smart memory management, if you ask me. Sure, you can’t open 10+ tabs but really - who wants that on the iPad? Four is fine to me. But it’s not just the raw number of tabs that make Grazing a great browser. It’s the details and the overall experience.
For instance, the address bar “pulses” when opening a new link. Ok, it’s detail. But I look at this stuff when reviewing and using an app. I love details. You can put a bookmarks bar below the main toolbar, and bookmarks have both name and favicon. You can also create folders form the bookmark management popover. What I really appreciate about Grazing (besides the refined and polished UI) is the menu you get when you tap on a link inside a webpage: you can open it, open in a new tab, open in the background (think of CMD + click on OS X), copy, bookmark and forward to Safari.
The Thumbpad is another great feature the developers successfully implemented in Grazing. When you perform a three-finger tap on any webpage you get a translucent overlay at the right side of the iPad’s screen, which you can sue to perform a variery of actions such as open link in the background, switch tabs and page up/down. It’s all gesture-based. This, together with some very powerful search and find in page features, makes Grazing a beautiful and fast browser for casual and power users.
Available at $1.99 in the App Store, Grazing has reinvented my browsing on the iPad. Tabs, gorgeous design, searches and gestures: this is a must-have. Go ahead and buy it.