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BW Businessworld

Browse Beyond Safari

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The Missing Flash
Skyfire has one thing and one thing only going for it: the ability to play Flash videos, which the iPhone and iPad otherwise don't support. It isn't a great experience — just a necessary one if you're hell-bent on watching specific videos only available in Flash. When you come across a Flash video, SkyFire starts up a little player to convert the video to an acceptable format. This process could take a while because the video is essentially going to SkyFire's servers for conversion before coming back to you. Sometimes success is not guaranteed. SkyFire doesn't have tabbed browsing in the usual sense but you can open separate sites and come back to them by exiting one screen and getting into another. It has private browsing, support for multiple user accounts with hot swapping, and social sharing.

Browser with a track pad?
You wouldn't have expected to see a track pad or jog dial sitting in a browser. But Maven has three. It's these, and a few other features that set this iOS browser apart. The best dial is a red button floating towards the bottom of your screen. Touch it and it scrolls your page the way your finger pulls it. Every app should have this, frankly. Towards the middle, and tucked into the side as a little notch, is the Bookmarks dial. Slip it out and twirl it with a finger to go to a selected bookmark. Gimmicky, but cute and handy. A third dial is found further towards the top right. This is the brightness controller, for better reading comfort in different lighting conditions. An adjustable panel at the bottom houses the train of tabs. Not only that, you can view two web pages at the same time, with a split-screen option. Multi-taskers can examine a picture or a video in one part and scan written content in the other. It doesn't end there: Maven has a Reader button which lets you use Readability for any web page, reformatting text in long-form, changing text size  and background colour.

For writers and researchers
An interesting browser for those who need to gather information from many sources online is one that goes by the unpronounceable name of Knowtilius. This is a split-screen app where you can enter text in the top half and open multiple tabbed web pages in the second. In the clean text area, you can adjust text size, colour and font. You also have a keyboard with often-used punctuation marks ready at hand. When you open a new document, the previous will become a thumbnail in a drawer at the bottom of the page and you can just tap the document you want to go to it. Web pages also become thumbnails and can even go into collections such as frequently visited, bookmarks, RSS feeds and reading list. The clever part is how these categories can be made to slide up to take up more of the screen. You can open the pages you want in these slide-up sections and do so with multiple sliding tabs. Knowtilius has another unique feature: you can select text and have it read aloud. You can even choose different accents though these are all electronic — and vastly entertaining.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 28-05-2012)