Thoughts on Orion Browser
May 9, 2022
4 minute read
Table of Contents
I’ve been playing with the new Orion browser by Kagi and wanted to jot down some thoughts. Overall I’m impressed with Orion, and would love to use it as my default browser on Mac and iPhone. It’s still in development though and isn’t quite there yet for me.
Things I like
It looks like Safari with extra features. I like that a lot, I really don’t like it when applications don’t match the system they’re on. In the screenshot below, I’ve customized the appearance from stock to show tabs in the sidebar.
Kagi migrated all my open tabs, bookmarks, cookies, and other bits from Safari without a hitch, including Tab Groups. However, Tab Groups appear as separate windows in Orion, which is fine, but Orion provides no method of adding or removing these imported Tab Groups currently.
Orion supports sync via iCloud between the macOS and iOS apps, and I wish more apps supported this approach. It is so nice to install an app and its iOS equivalent, and have sync just work out of the box with no set up and no logging in.
Gold-standard tab grouping
This differs from the Safari Tab Groups feature.
With “tabs on the side” enabled, you can drag tabs over each other to create groups:
Before Opera gave up on their Presto engine and rebuilt the browser on top of Blink, they had the best tab grouping feature I’ve ever seen in any browser since. It worked by dragging and holding a tab over another tab, and then the two would be grouped, and the group could be expanded or collapsed as an accordion in the tab bar.
Vivaldi, the spiritual successor to Opera 12, also has this style of tab grouping.
I’m thrilled to see this in Orion, and hope it comes to the horizontal tab bar too.
Use both Chrome and Firefox extensions
This is huge, as most other alternative browsers only let you use one or the other, depending on which engine they’re based on. Orion uses WebKit under the hood, yet supports both kinds of extensions. This support is a work in progress though, and I did encounter some issues getting the 1Password extension to work reliably.
Easy window management
When you open a window in Orion, it shows up in the dropdown menu on the left side of the window, and you can easily switch between and manage the windows from this menu.
My Tab Groups that were imported from Safari also show up in here.
Feels faster than Safari
Not sure what they did under the hood, but Orion definitely feels faster than Safari when loading pages, and that’s not just because of uBlock Origin.
Orion’s Tools menu has some handy features, including screenshot tools, editing text on the page, getting past senseless clipboard restrictions, and opening the current page in Internet Archive.
Low Power Mode works very well, and I didn’t notice any drawbacks from using it.
Efficient power usage
Even if you don’t turn on Low Power Mode, Orion’s WebKit base keeps it efficient, especially compared to other browsers using Blink and Gecko.
You can be a power user while using Orion without using a lot of power.
Bookmarks management window
I’m not a fan of the sidebar in Safari for managing bookmarks, and the page for “Edit Bookmarks” just takes up too much space. I like Orion’s window for bookmark management.
Things I don’t like
Things that are keeping me from making Orion my default browser.
Extensions support isn’t quite there yet
I had issues getting the 1Password extension to log in, and then once it was logged in, the dropdown modal would take several seconds to load, and doesn’t integrate with the Mac app for biometrics. I can’t use a browser that doesn’t play well with my password manager unfortunately, but I know the team is working on the extensions API.
Other extensions I had issues with: Raindrop, and no extension for NetNewsWire (NNW). The latter is not an issue with Orion, it’s definitely a NNW issue. I can’t find an extension that finds and opens RSS feeds in NNW for subscribing, and NNW’s share menu support is broken.
No Tab Groups support, yet supports Tab Groups?
In addition to individual tab grouping, I’d love for Orion to fully support Safari’s Tab Groups feature. It imported my existing Tab Groups, so that part works, I just need a way to remove and add new ones, and switch between them in the same window.
Also, if you have your Tab Group windows open, adding an extension from the Extensions pane opens the Chrome/Firefox addons page in a random open window, which was maddening.
Other stuff I don’t like
- Sidebar is glitchy sometimes
- Doesn’t remember page title until you click the tab after relaunching the browser
- New tab page doesn’t show bookmark folders
There’s a lot I like about Orion, but due to the issues I encountered, I can’t use it as my default browser just yet. I’ll be eagerly following development though, and will revisit its viability in the future.