I ❤️ iCab


Nathan Thompson

Originally Posted 2008.01.01

An Ode to iCab

Some of you may remember me rambling incoherently about how powerful iCab is as a web browser. If not at the old AppleSwitcher forums, then on Low End Mac or one of the other Mac forums. I positively adore iCab. Since I have been a user, iCab has remained very customizable and powerful and the only browser to maintain development for the classic Mac OS.

If not at the old AppleSwitcher forums, then on Low End Mac or one of the other Mac forums perhaps. I positively adore iCab. Since I have been a user, iCab has remained very customizable and powerful and the only browser to maintain development for the classic Mac OS.

My personal use of iCab has found the following to be true:

  1. Version 2 had limited rendering compatibility, but was pretty fast at loading pages.
  2. Version 3 was much more compatible with modern web standards, at least to the eye of this web development layman, yet was too often excruciatingly slow at rendering pages. Version 3 was also noteworthy in that it packed even more features into its already extensive featureset.
  3. Versions of iCab have been at first distributed as betas to registered users, before being released months later as a pubic product.

While I still loved iCab, I never bothered reinstalling it on my G3 iMac when I upgraded to Tiger this past September. After my iMac died just a couple months later, I still didn’t bother to install iCab on my latest Mac, my fantastic Late 2006 Core 2 Duo MacBook. Safari 2, and Safari 3 after the 10.4.11 update, were much better than the old version of Safari I had been steadfastly not using when I was stuck on Panther. Similarly, my web browser mainstay, Opera, was likewise too darn good to make me think I needed to bother with a third option. I suppose it would suffice to say that I had fallen behind on the newest iCab betas and the current public release was not as new as the older iCab betas I had formerly been using.

A Little history to Show Why I Registered

Poor forgotten iCab, could I not even be bothered to install it on my Macs? This coming from a registered member, as I had forked over money for a license! Sure, paying for a web browser probably seems silly in this day and age, but I wanted to support Alexander Clauss, the very dedicated indie Mac developer behind iCab. Also, back in, let me think, 2004 or so, I was in Austin, TX visiting my father and I wanted a non Windows system to work on while away from home. I bought a Beige G3 Power Mac for $20 and between that and an old PowerComputing Clone I made do. Desiring a decently modern web browser for the classic Mac OS, I noticed a beta version of iCab 3 had been released, but only registered users could play with the betas. I thought why the heck not pay for a license, as a long time iCab user, it seemed like a proper reward for the hard work poured into iCab.

Quick Hits: Why iCab 4.0 Is So Great And How It Compares To Version 3.0

I suppose my point in posting all this info is to say, please do not give up on iCab just yet. I long wished for iCab to rise again as a modern web browser with the front end of the old iCab grafted to a modern backend such as WebKit or Gecko. My wish has finally been granted and I am positively ecstatic.

The 4.0.0 beta seems to have retained most of the features found in the iCab 3.0 releases:

  • Filter Manager (very granular per site content filter).
  • Flexible and extensive application preferences including my favorites such as JavaScript filters and interface configuration.
  • Built-in RSS reader (particularly nice in the classic Mac OS, but still useful for OS X).
  • Pretty good web standards support.
  • Robust (for a browser) download manager.
  • Customizable modifiers for searching straight from the address bar. E.g. g appleswitcher would search google for appleswitcher and y appleswicher would perform the same search except with yahoo. Again this feature is customizable, so you could set m to perform a search on Low End Mac.
  • Find functionality includes a nice pulsating blue effect to indicate where on the page a match is found.

Biggest complaint I had with the iCab 3.0 releases was the lack of speed when rendering pages. Probably on account of using the legacy rendering engine. The 4.0.0 beta has addressed that concern and as far as I can tell there are only a few negatives when compared to version 3:

  • Cache browser is not currently implemented (handy for those times you need to snatch the actual video or audio file from streaming flash content).
  • Could not find the session saver (maybe not implemented yet, although the release notes make mention of it).
  • Carrying over of some of the older iCab saved files/settings is not possible. Best to read the release notes before trying to migrate your older iCab info. However, both iCab 3.0 and 4.0 can coexist on the same system so not a horrible loss for most users
  • No Classic Mac OS support as this release is in Cocoa. Even still, iCab 4.0.0 has Mac OS X support back to 10.3.9. Not too shabby.

Current Versions

  1. iCab 4
    • iCab costs $29 if you want to become a registered user. Unfortunately, the only way to play with the iCab betas, such as the recently released version 4.0.0 is to be a registered user. I will keep everyone up to date for when the public release is available.
  2. iCab 3
    • Version 3 is still available for download. Version 3.0.3 is the current public release and runs on PPC or Intel Macs. The PPC OS X version should run on any version of Mac OS X. Universal binary requires Mac OS 10.3.9 and G4, G5, or Intel Macs. Classic Mac OS PPC version will work with Mac OS 8.6-9.2.2. Please, note G3 Macs running OS X need to run the OS X PPC build as the universal binary build is not compatible. Version 4.0 requirements are mentioned in the preamble.
  3. iCab 2
    • Version 2 is still available for download from the icab website and comes in two flavors, 2.9.9a for PPC Macs running the classic Mac OS and iCab 2.9.9b for 68k Macs.

See my old Low End Mac reviews regarding iCab 2.9.8 and the iCab 3.0 beta to get a feel for basic iCab functionality.

{1} Note from 2019: Version 4.9 is the newest version of this branch. Newest version is 5.8.6. Compatible with Mac OS X 10.7-10.14. License only costs $10. Download most current version of any branch here.

{2} Note from 2019: iCab 3.0.5 is the newest version of this branch.


The modern web attention span version. iCab 4.0.0 beta has been released to registered iCab users. It is a universal binary and requires Mac OS 10.3.9, while some features require 10.4 or 10.5. Version 4.0 of iCab is a complete rewrite in Cocoa as compared to version 3.0 which was built with Carbon. Version 4.0 uses WebKit and the older versions use the proprietary iCab rendering engine.