Psst: Want a Fast, Up-to-Date Browser for Your Old PowerPC Mac?

Still running a PowerPC Mac and hurting for some serious browser speed, up-to-date security and web standards compatibility? Being open-source applications, Mozilla’s web browsers and Thunderbird email client are open to being breathed on by third-party developers, several of whom specialize in optimization of particular versions of the Mac OS — such as Chris Latko’s Mac Intel-optimized variants of Firefox.

Terrific Results

However, for us PowerPC holdouts, a reader recently tipped me to some PowerPC-optimized Mozilla web browsers plus Thunderbird by R.P. Mozely, noting that he’s been getting terrific results and highly recommends these tweaked apps.

That sounded promising, as I’m still using two G4-upgraded Pismo PowerBooks for production work, and haven’t found the latest Mozilla gecko-based browsers to be particularly happy campers on the old laptops running OS 10.4 .11. So I keep reverting to old Netscape Navigator 9, which works nicely, but is getting long in the tooth, beginning to encounter some limitations content-compatibility wise. Of course it hasn’t had any security updates for nearly two years, since development was terminated.

Squeezing Every Bit of Speed Potential Out

Now this R.P. Mozely cat doesn’t just provide a one-size-fits-all PowerPC generic optimization, but discrete dedicated versions for G3 PowerPC 750, G4 PowerPC 7400, G4 PowerPC 7450, and G5 PowerPC 970, presumably all the better to squeeze every bit of potential speed out of each respective processor. My hot-rodder Pismos have 550 MHz G4 7400 CPUs, so last weekend I proceeded to download the G4 7400 optimized builds of Firefox 3.5.6, Camino 2.0.1, and the SeaMonkey 2.0.1 Internet suite application.

Worth the Effort?

So was it worth the effort? I think so. These browsers are definitely faster than the stock builds, performing remarkably well on the old Pismo, even when it really needed a restart to clear the memory heap, dipping into virtual memory swapfiles on the hard drive routinely.

I had been especially hopeful that the PPC-optimized Camino would work well, and it does. My seat-of-the-pants assessment is that it’s the fastest browser I’ve used on the Pismo — livelier even than Opera 10, which is no slouch speed-wise itself.

Sluggishness Banished

I’ve found recent versions of Firefox, Camino and SeaMonkey a bit sluggish on the old G4 machines, which is a big part of why I keep using Navigator 9. But that complaint is pretty much eliminated with these PowerPC optimized builds of the current Gecko browsers, at least in their G4 7400 iterations. However, for what it’s worth, I think the Camino variant is the pick of the litter.

If you’re still hanging in with a PowerPC Mac, I think you’ll thank yourself for taking the trouble to download one or more of these PowerPC-optimized browser versions.

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