Diigo sent me an advance preview of iChromy (iTunes Store link) and though there are features I find sorely missing, I am totally impressed by the speed and minimalist user interface of iChromy—so much so that it’s on my iPad Homepage dock alongside Safari. Sadly, Apple still doesn’t allow users to define the default browser for iOS as they do in OS X. Why should you replace Safari with iChromy? Well, let’s compare some of the important features, keeping in mind that this is only the first version of iChromy.
First off, the tab feature of Safari iPad simply is not that user friendly. Any app that saves me a tap or two in the process automatically gets a plus-star in my review. With Safari you have to tap the Tab button to get a view of your open pages, and then tap again to bring one of them to the front.
With iChromy, all open tabs sit at the top of the browser, like in the OS X version of Safari—or really like the desktop version of Chrome, which iChromy most resembles.
It would be nice if you could customize the colors of the tabs in iChromy as you can in Chrome, but that’s just a minor issue for now.
Safari iPad includes the traditional Bookmarks Bar and folders for organizing bookmarks. iChromy doesn’t include folders for bookmarks yet, but you can add bookmarks by simply tapping the Star button in the URL field.
You will have to do an extra tap to edit the name of the bookmark if you want it to be shorter, but the process sure is faster than the three-tap process required for Safari iPad.
iChromy also includes a feature for downloading and saving pages for later reading, even offline. If you’re looking for this feature in Safari iPad, forget about it. The default browser requires you to be Wi-Fi connected in order to read pages.
Perhaps the best feature in iChromy that is partially missing from Safari is the ability to share or export URLs in other programs and services. With Safari, you can add bookmarks, post them on your iPad Home Screen, email them, or print them out. These features are great, but iChromy offers more.
In addition to the above features in Safari, in iChromy you can send and share bookmarks on your Facebook, Twitter, Diigo, Evernote, Google Reader, Instapaper, Read It Later, and Tumblr accounts. And if you need to, you can send an open page to Safari from iChromy.
When you tab and hold on a link in Safari, you get the options to open the link, Open in New Page, or Copy. In iChromy, you get two additional options: Open in Background Tab and Add to Reading List. Both options are very practical when you find yourself opening several links on a page.
If you don’t see downloaded pages, scroll the opened tabs to the left to see the others hidden tabs beyond the screen.
In addition, when you tap and hold your finger on a word in iChromy, you get the option to Copy or Search that selection. In Safari, you can only copy the word.
So far, I find iChromy a great alternative to Safari iPad. The speed of both browsers feels about the same, but the navigation features of iChromy are a little more advanced. There are several features that could be added to iChromy—including hand gestures for navigation, tapping at the top of a web page to fast scroll to the top, and most definitely a bookmarks bar. However, I would only want these extra features if they didn’t slow down iChromy. What it offers for now will probably help make it as an alternative browser on my iPad, though I use the paid app, Atomic Web, for more advanced web browsing.
Future releases of iChromy will include (they will be welcomed) annotation features for highlighting and marking pages, which of course are the unique core services of Diigo.com.
Give iChromy a try and let us know what you think.