If you’re looking for a fresh take on web browsing, Raven for the Mac seems to be the newest one the block, developed by Ravenco Software. What makes Raven distinctive is that it’s based on a web technique called site specific browsing, which essentially formats any website into an application. So instead of opening that website in a regular web browser, you open it and use it similarly to any other application.
Raven takes site specific browsing technology and puts it together in one place, where you can download many of your favorite websites. If what I’ve described so far seems a little vague, let’s check out its features.
You start off using Raven by adding web apps to the Raven browser. The Raven Web Shop contains 50 websites, many of which you’re probably already very familiar with, including Amazon, Tumblr, Pandora, Mint, Google Apps, Angry Birds, and of course Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Dropbox. It’s also great that Apple’s new iCloud has been added to the mix.
This web app approach seems practical since most computer users have a set of sites they visit on a regular basis, and thus Raven might be a useful and easier way to access them. By having your favorite sites in one place, you can browse and do social networking with less clutter from open webpages.
Icons for each of your downloaded web apps appear on the left side of the browser in what is called the “Smart Bar” for easy access. Downloaded sites open within Raven similar to how they open in any browser, but the speed of download – at least on my Mac – seems a little faster. Raven includes features found in most other browsers – a history of pages visited, tabbed pages, and bookmarking.
Raven also includes an additional feature called Favorite, which the developers distinguish from bookmarks as site pages you visit on a regular basis. Whereas bookmarks might be what you reference only when needed. This feature also allows you to send selected favorites or bookmarks to the popular bookmarking site and mobile app, Instapaper. Hopefully integration for other sites will be forthcoming.
Each website/web app can have its own set of open tabs, which makes browsing sites easier. However, your history of visited webpages all get thrown into a single window/panel. I would like to see a separate History page, if possible, for each site/web app.
Site Specific Features
In the case of some social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, many of the features you use are available in the sidebar of Raven, such as mentions, direct messages for Twitter, and news feeds, events, etc for Facebook.
When you open iClouds in Raven, your Mail, Address Book, Calendar, and iWorks Documents pages get listed in the Smart Bar as well, saving you the trouble of linking back to the homepage of iCloud to access those pages.
These web-specific features are revealed in the Smart Bar only when a selected web app is in the forefront, thus again reducing the clutter of too many items in the browser.
Raven in still in its beta stage, so the developers admit that some users may experiences app crashes while the bugs are being worked out. However, I haven’t experienced a problem in my use of Raven. Although Raven has not replaced my regular web browser, I prefer to use it sometimes on my MacBook Air because it helps lessen the browsing clutter I experience with Safari.
Ravenco also says that they are developing a Revenco Software Development Kit (rSDK) which will provide other developers with a way to integrate web apps for Raven download. In this regard, it would great to see MakeUseOf available in the web store. Ravenco is also exploring and working on other features for Raven, so it might be a good idea to subscribe to their newsletter to get future updates.
For other articles about web browsers, check these MUO articles:
- 7 Best “New” Web Browsers With A Chance Against Chrome & Firefox
- 2 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private
- 5 Useful Web Browsers For The iPad
Let us know what you think of Raven. It’s available for free download and requires the support of OS X Snow Leopard or above.