Grazing: Better browsing under iOS

If you use an iPad or an iPhone and you're at all technical you'll probably have a love-hate relationship with the default Safari browser. The problem is that Safari does the job but it just seems so, well, simplistic and lacks a certain desirable "nerdiness." You can do all sorts of cool stuff with other browsers on other operating systems, but Safari on iOS? Yawn. But I have an answer!

I actually first covered this question back in July in my now defunct Network World Web Application Alert newsletter wherein I waxed lyrical about the free Grazing browser published by Thinkbitz Software Studio.

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With Grazing's recent upgrade to Version 2.1 and the release of a related OS X app called Grazing Push, I thought it well worthwhile taking another look.

As I wrote way back when I was somewhat younger, the Grazing browser "adds an immediacy and fluidity to browsing that creates a whole new experience" ... and that wasn't hyperbole.

While the overall look of Grazing is familiar (tabbed browsing windows, favorites bar, navigation bar, etc.), the browser is full of really sophisticated features that make it, by far, the best browser I've seen on iOS yet.

One of the most clever things about the design of Grazing is that it recognizes the ergonomics of using a pad computer, specifically, where might your thumbs be? The answer: on either side of the device. So Grazing takes advantage of this with on-screen "pads" rendered as pale gray outlines on either side of the screen that you use by sliding your thumbs onto the pad outlines. You can configure which of two types of pads to use and how large they are.

The "Slidepad" provides a menu of browsing controls so you can go forward and backward in your browsing history, invoke search, close and open tabs, etc. You simply move your thumb to the edge of the screen. It makes for a very different way of interacting with a browser.

The other type of pad is the "Thumbpad," which provides a translucent rectangular zone down the side of the screen that allows you to scroll, open a new tab in either the foreground or background, and switch tabs.

Grazing also supports a number of gesture-based controls, such as double tapping on the Thumbpad to switch tabs.

But wait! That's not all! Grazing slices, dices ... er, sorry ... I got carried away ... it also has a "push" feature. Grazing Push, a bookmarklet (that's a small JavaScript script saved as a browser bookmark), allows you to push links from your desktop browser to any or all of your iOS devices running Grazing.

The newest addition to Grazing is Grazing Push for Mac, a free experimental tool that works in the opposite direction and sends links from Grazing on your iDevice to your default browser running under OS X Lion.

I've been using the Grazing browser for about six months, and as I wrote above, it's one of the best browsers I've ever used (I'd say it's on a par with Chrome and Firefox). The functionality is outstanding, it is fast, it's robust (amazingly, it has never crashed on me!) and it's free! Grazing gets a rating of 5 out of 5! W00t!

Gibbs writes in Ventura, Calif. Your thoughts to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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