Hello Allison & fellow Castaways! It’s Tom from Ontario.
I have to admit that this review will break the prime directive of not starting with a problem to be solved. However, I found, after installing the product, that it did actually solve a problem I had not expected it to. More on that later.
The product is a new web browser called Arc which has been produced by a company called, not surprisingly, The Browser Company.
I have been a faithful Firefox user for many years, and use Safari for some websites just because it’s there. My favourite feature in Firefox is the extension Tree Style Tabs. This puts all my tabs down the left side of the screen rather than taking up valuable horizontal space.
I can’t remember where I first heard about Arc but I signed up to be part of the roll-out and after a few weeks I received an email stating that my turn had come and I could download the beta. I only installed it to see something new and shiny – fully expecting to turn back to my traditional browsers after a short test drive on my MacBook Pro.
However, within two days I had abandoned Firefox and Safari and installed Arc on my iMac as well. Arc is based on Chromium and this is the first time I have used a Chrome browser. This week’s update to the beta brought it to version .91 so I expect it is getting close to being ready to launch.
Arc is a total reinvention of the browser. It is very fast. Most of the time in Arc you are working with a single screen with no chrome to it at all – no menubar, no taskbar, no bookmark bar, no search bar – the view pane takes up the entire window.
There is also a sidebar on the left which one can hide or keep open depending on one’s preferences. The width of the sidebar is adjustable. Typing CMD-T opens a pop-up search bar which not only allows access to searches and URLs but also to menu commands for Arc.
When you go to a webpage, Arc will set a tab for it in the sidebar. When you are done with that page you can close the tab, or type CMD-T to go to a new URL or do a new search.
If you would like to maintain one of your open tabs as a permanent tab (think of it as a bookmark) then drag the tab into the upper section of the sidebar. At that point, it becomes Pinned.
I am sure we all leave tabs open in case we might want to go back to them in the immediate future, but then we never go back to close them. In Arc, any tabs which are not pinned will be closed and archived automatically after a period of not being used. This period is user-defined from one of four options ranging from 12 hours to 30 days. This nice feature keeps our tabs both useful and uncluttered.
As you start to build up pinned tabs, the sidebar can get crowded for which there are two solutions – one is Folders, which can group your Pinned Tabs within the sidebar, and the other is additional sidebars (which they call spaces).
Each of these spaces can hold folders and pinned tabs. In my setup, I have a space for my news feeds, a space for regular reference sites such as weather and financial, and a space for photography sites.
It is very easy to set up spaces and move tabs between folders and spaces. It is also easy to swipe through the spaces to get to the folder and tab you want. You can set the background colour for each space from an infinite number of colours so it is easy to quickly scroll through and spot the one you want.
When you click on a URL in an email or other application, Arc will open up the new page in a window it calls Little Arc. You can just close the window after viewing the content or add that page as a tab to an existing space or folder.
Arc supports syncing your spaces, folders, and tabs via iCloud. It has support for incognito windows, dark mode, and split screens, and there seems to be an endless supply of extensions from the Chrome store.
Arc strives to be your single link to the Internet. Its library lists all the stuff saved through Arc such as media and downloads. One feature I have not used but looks very cool is their Easel. It is a whiteboard to which you can paste in screenshots, or text, annotate things, and share with other Arc users.
There are myriad options that can be selected in the Settings panels, but I tend to just delve into those enough so that the browser meets my needs. I will likely come across new options and features as I use the product. But in the interest of time, I won’t list other options and features I haven’t tried yet.
The one problem which Arc seems to have solved for me is 1Password use. I have always considered 1Password a necessary evil that fought me every step of the way. This is especially true in Safari. I installed the 1Password extension in Arc and it works just like it should. Amazing! I think that is probably the reason I so quickly abandoned the other products, but I also think that I would have switched to Arc at some point regardless.
For now, the development team is just working on the Mac version. If they can figure out a business model they will likely venture into IOS and Windows, but only time will tell. Arc will run on all MacOS versions after Big Sur. (The current version .91 will run on Big Sur, but future updates will not).
I am still getting used to not having bookmarks, but the Spaces, Folders, and tabs are actually faster and more intuitive, I love the minimalistic approach to the user interface.
If you decide to switch, Arc has an option to import your bookmarks from another browser. I would recommend giving it a try. The company’s website is thebrowser.company. But to sign up for the waiting list go to arc.net.