Sleipnir 4: A Deconstructed Web Browser

About a year ago we published a review on a up-and-coming web browser called Sleipnir, giving it a great score and calling it a browser you just have to try. Recently a new version of the browser for the Mac has come out, and when we saw that the developer was calling it “the most advanced web browser yet”, we knew we had to take a look at it once more.

In our previous review, we praised Sleipnir for its sleek, clean cut design and its innovative tab navigation. How does the new one fare in these categories, and what’s new in it? Let’s check it out.

Sleipnir 4

Sleipnir

Sleipnir

Sleipnir is a Webkit-based browser with a super sleek and minimal design, as well as some pretty awesome features that you likely haven’t seen on any other browser. Version 3 is the one that we reviewed a while back, but today we’ll be taking a look at Sleipnir 4, which just came out a few days ago.

The most noticeable change in the new Sleipnir is the design. While the old version stood out for its simplicity, this new one has even less elements and everything is more organized and tightened up. What exactly am I talking about? Let’s take it by parts.

Thumbnail Tab Navigation

Thumbnail Tab Navigation

Thumbnail Tab Navigation

The improved thumbnail tab navigation, which is a trademark of the browser, is easier on the eye and ideal for working with a large number of tabs. Instead of shrinking your tabs as you open more of them, Sleipnir makes a cover-flow-like scrollable list of your thumbnails while displaying the original size of each of them, making it easier to identify your tabs even when you’re dealing with a lot of them. The title of each tab is hidden, but it will be shown under the thumbnail as you hover over your open tabs. This is one way Sleipnir keeps its design clean while not regressing on its functionality.

Portal Field

Portal Field

Portal Field

Portal Field is the name that the navigation bar receives in Sleipnir. It doubles as a search bar and it is kept discretely on the top right side of the browser, only slightly coming into attention by expanding to the center when activated.

The best part about it is its lightning-fast predictor which is also pretty smart and organizes your predicted results in a very neat way. For example, instead of showing you a billion results from your history of the same site, it will only show you one line with the title of the site, which you can then expand to view the pages that you’ve visited in it. Portal Field also has the ability of sending search queries directly to customizable sites, like Amazon or Wikipedia.

Address bar

Address bar

The current tab’s address is separated from the Portal Field, as it is located right above it in order to save space. Only a few characters of the address will be displayed, but if you click on it, you can get a full view of the address and copy it or modify it.

TiledTab

TiledTab

TiledTab

TiledTab is similar to Safari’s Tab View, but on steroids. Not only does it give you a view of every tab you have open, but it also gives you 6 “spaces” where you can keep a number of different tabs. This way, you can have a space for procrastinating and social networks, another for serious work, and so forth. I found this really useful, as staying on one space with only a few tabs open makes it harder to lose attention while working by switching over to a time-wasting site. These spaces marked a line between the sites I should be and shouldn’t be spending time on.

Spaces

Spaces

This also makes it easier to work with a big number of tabs. I tend to leave everything open for use later, so I started using one my spaces as a “temporary” folder of links that I’d like to get to later, just to get them out of my way when I’m doing something important.

Minor Details

Recommendations

Recommendations

Sleipnir also has a few minor things that I found really nice. For example, everytime you select text, a little menu (similar to PopClip) will pop up next to your cursor with a few buttons to search, define, or copy your selection.

The app also has its own syncing service called Fenrir Pass, with which you can sync your Sleipnir settings across multiple devices, and access certain web services. It also implements its own homepage which will include a few links that might be of interest to you based on what you normally browse.

Gestures

Sleipnir Gestures

Sleipnir Gestures

One of my favorite things on my Mac is the many gestures that I have set up. I use a very handy app called jiTouch, that implements multi-touch gestures system-wide, and I have one for pretty much everything. Quitting apps, closing windows, switching between tabs, you name it.

Sleipnir, as well, has its own gestures for navigating, but they are much different than jiTouch’s. While jiTouch’s gestures are all based on finger taps and swipes (combining two or three fingers to create a large list of possible combinations), Sleipnir’s are all based on swipe gestures that you can do with two fingers, making you pretty much draw certain shapes to trigger actions.

Two-finger swipes to the right or left will switch your current tab (unlike the back-forward actions that they trigger on Safari and Chrome), and you also have some more complex gestures for closing tabs, re-opening them, and reloading them. They’re also more interactive, as they are accompanied by animations that announce when a gesture is triggered. These are easier to remember, but less convenient to use than Jitouch’s, and if you have them both activated, things can get pretty confusing.

A Few Bugs

When I first started using Sleipnir, it kept crashing on me while I was trying to import my contents from Chrome. I tried it a few times and everytime I did the import, it crashed. Same with Safari’s content, so I had to do a clean install of the app. When I finally got it to run, it turned out all of those imports actually did work (therefore I had around 5 of them), it was just the importing window that was crashing on me.

I also experienced a few crashes while using the app to browse around. These all appeared to happen while in the tab tile view, and weren’t too frequent, but they do speak a lot about the stability of this release. Just as well, working with pages that hold sessions (like WordPress) turned out weird and confusing, as Sleipnir kept reloading the pages as I was working, and not always saving my work. This was, as you might imagine, very frustrating.

Conclusion

Using Sleipnir feels exciting, like using a new cool gizmo or something. Sleipnir’s devs have deconstructed the concept of a web browser and kept only the visual bare minimum to keep a focused and pleasant browsing experience. It’s certainly a very pretty app, and it has some great features that I hadn’t seen anywhere else, like its unique thumbnail tab navigation.

Unfortunately, I can not say that I would keep using it. The absence of extensions is still a big problem, and that’s where much more established competitors like Safari and Chrome beat this app. Maybe I’ll keep using Sleipnir for certain specific tasks, but I can’t imagine it right now becoming my main browser. It feels very close, but it’s not yet quite there.

But what about you? Have you tried Sleipnir? If you haven’t, I’d suggest you at least give it a peak just to see what’s out there. Maybe it’ll grab your attention.


Summary

Sleipnir deconstructs the concept of a web browser to keep only the visual bare minimum to keep a focused and pleasant browsing experience.

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