In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is the gray, eight-legged steed that Odin rides to Hel. In the world of technology, it’s an amazing web browser that you just have to try.
Though you may have never heard of it, Sleipnir has been around in various forms for years (it’s also on just about every operating system around). The latest version, Sleipnir 3 offers a truly unique and streamlined browsing experience optimized for OS X Lion. Join us as we dive in and check it out.
When you open up Sleipnir for the first time, you’ll notice right away that it has a very content-centric approach. The UI elements have been kept to a bare minimum to let you focus purely on the web content you care about.
I’m always hesitant with new browsers for one specific reason: I love Webkit (this comes mostly from a developer’s perspective). Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Mac version of Sleipnir 3 is indeed built on Webkit. This means that all of the developer tools and CSS3 support should work just like they do in Safari and Chrome and anything that looks good in either of those browsers will look great in Sleipnir as well.
As with many other Lion apps, the UI for Sleipnir is confined to the top portion of the window with the web content bleeding right to the edge. The top bar looks quite different from other browsers you’ve seen though. Here’s a closer look:
As you can see, everything is very nicely confined. Even the location bar, which is typically the main feature on browsers, has been minimized and pushed off to the side. To bring it into focus, simply click on it or hit ⌘L.
The Good Part: Tabs and Gestures
If Sleipnir were simply Safari in a slightly modified frame, I wouldn’t be that impressed with it. However, it has some really cool tricks up its sleeve. The two most impressive areas are the tabs system and gesture integration, which are actually tightly intertwined so we’ll go over them both at once.
Instead of focusing on the URL or location bar, Sleipnir makes a risky but ultimately very solid choice of focusing on tabs. As a result, the tab system that they’ve developed is hands down the best that I’ve tried on any browser.
In the middle of the bar at the top, you’ll see little cropped thumbnails of your tabs. This is a really great idea as its easier to identify the tab you’re hunting for than pure text and doesn’t eat up as much room as the full thumbnails in Omniweb and others. Also, the title is still there on hover if you need it.
Just like with other browsers, you can open a new tab either by clicking the little plus or hitting ⌘T. You can also click and drag to reorder the tabs.
Switching tabs is a breeze, in addition to clicking on the specific tab that you want you can simply swipe left or right on your trackpad or Magic Mouse to go to the next tab. I find this to be much better than Safari’s behavior of using these same gestures to go backwards and forwards in your history.
Now for the best part: TiledTab. This is the feature that really makes Sleipnir a joy to use. To access this feature, you can click the button shown above, pinch your trackpad, or hit ⌘⌥T.
The TiledTab interface will show you all of the tabs that are currently open in a nice thumbnail grid. Beyond that, you have at your disposal six tab groups, shown at the bottom of the window.
You can name each of these groups and designate them to your own purposes. Clicking on one of the pictures along the bottom will swipe the screen to that tab group. Within a tab group you can easily create new tabs (⌘N), bring up existing tabs in browser mode (double click) or click and drag a tab to a different group.
This beautifully simple and useful tab organization system virtually eliminates the need for multiple windows. In fact, you can’t even open another unique window in Sleipnir (it takes some getting used to but it works). Back in the browser view, you can switch between tab groups by hitting ⌘⌥[ or ⌘⌥].
Worth a Download?
Sleipnir makes for a truly enjoyable browsing experience. The interface may seem a little strange at first, but I quickly adapted to it and definitely appreciate its thoughtful design.
As I mentioned above, the tabs are where this browser really scores high points in my book. Combined with intuitive gestures this is a killer feature that you’ll miss in other browsers after you’ve used Sleipnir for a day.
One potential downside is that you can only have six tab groups. I honestly never found myself needing more but I’m sure some users won’t appreciate the limitation. One thing that did slightly bug me was the inability to rearrange my tab groups. I’d also like to be able to Option-drag tabs to copy them to a different group and Shift-Click to select and move multiple tabs.
These are fairly low level complaints, overall I really enjoyed the experience. Sleipnir is super fast and surprisingly doesn’t slow down a bit when you’re juggling all those tabs. I will definitely be using this browser more in the feature.
What Do You Think?
Sleipnir is a great browser and you should definitely give it a shot. You can find other versions on iOS, Windows, Windows Phone and Android. You can even sync your bookmarks between the various versions with Fenrir Pass.
Head over to the Sleipnir website and grab the free download today. Give it a test run and let us know what you think with a comment below.