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Sleipnir, for those not versed in Norse mythology, was the eight-legged horse of the god Odin. It’s also the name of an iOS (s aapl) browser that has a reputation for doing things a little differently. Sleipnir developer Fenrir is now bringing it to the Mac with the release of a new beta. Since it’s highly unusual for a browser to be released for iOS before OS X, we thought we’d take a look at the things Sleipnir does differently from other browsers on the Mac.
Sleipnir really differentiates itself with its interface. Contrary to Chrome, (s goog) Sleipnir de-emphasizes the URL bar, making it a small button in the titlebar. Clicking it slides the URL bar out to fill the titlebar, which is pretty slick. Since most people find websites via search rather than entering the URL, de-emphasizing the URL bar makes sense. It also allows Sleipnir’s interface to take up significantly less space, as the tab bar can be placed where the URL bar is found in other browsers.
Speaking of the tab bar, it’s easily the most striking aspect of Sleipnir’s interface. As with its iOS counterpart, tabs are displayed with miniature previews instead of traditional text labels in Sleipnir. The current tab is highlighted by a hovering triangle, and inactive tabs are grayed-out. The advantage of this layout is that it doesn’t take up much space, and tabs are easier to pick out, since our brains can recognize images faster than text. The disadvantage, of course, is that it can be harder to tell some websites apart without a label, say if you have several Google searches going, as pictured below.
TiledTab is a tab-grouping feature similar to Firefox’s aptly named Tab Groups, but prettier and more user-friendly. Accessed via a button in the tab bar, it shows your current tabs as previews against the familiar linen background, with groups appearing as color-coded sections at the bottom. You can swipe between groups with a two-finger gesture. The TiledTab button also changes color to reflect which group you’re in, so you don’t feel lost. You don’t have as many options for managing tabs as you do in Firefox’s Tab Groups (you can’t close them, and you’re limited to six groups), but TiledTab makes managing tabs in this way seem like less of a chore.
Sleipnir also takes a different approach to bookmarks. The Bookmarks window has an “Inbox,” which is where unsorted bookmarks go. To add a bookmark to the bookmarks bar, you simply “ribbon” it. Labels allow you to group bookmarks together by tagging them, and act as folders in the bookmarks bar. You can color-code labels as well. And then there are the actual folders, which perform the same basic function as labels, except they aren’t accessible from the bookmarks bar.
Sleipnir can sync your bookmarks with a service called Fenrir Pass. Setting up an account is easy: Go to Sleipnir’s settings and click the button to create a new account in the Sync tab. Syncing across Mac and iOS works relatively well, but it’s a little confusing, as ribboned bookmarks in Sleipnir for Mac don’t automatically appear in the iOS version’s bookmarks bar.
I’m really excited for the full release of Sleipnir for Mac, and I can’t wait to see the final version. But what do you think of Sleipnir? Do you have room for another Mac browser?