Hands-on with Raven, an app-centric Web browser for OS X

ravenThe choice between Chrome, Firefox and Safari just got a little tougher. A new OS-X-exclusive browser dubbed Raven takes the world of apps and brings them to the Web without sacrificing the style and simplicity the Apple operating system is known for.

User interface

raven home

Given that Raven was designed specifically for the Mac operating system, it should come as no surprise that its user interface bears a striking resemblance to all things Mac. You have your dock (albeit it to the left hand side) in a black panel, and this houses your applications. The overall design is minimalistic and stylish.

To navigate raven, you can choose to use the browser’s apps, or take the traditional route via the Web in its basic form. The omnibox is a sparse strip across the top of the page, which strangely houses Raven’s navigation tools. On the right hand side, you can find the tools to refresh, add a tab, star, bookmark, or return to the home page. All pretty standard fare.

You also have the option to turn your entire screen over to Raven, and given this browser’s focus on apps and appearance, we can see how it wants to be the destination for much of your activity. Give it a strengthened app store with more production-oriented tools, and lightweight work could definitely be accomplished within Raven.

Apps

raven apps

Being in beta means that there isn’t a terribly large inventory of apps to play with, but Raven does a admirable job bringing users some key choices. The default applications of choice like Facebook, Twitter, CNN, the New York Times, Delicious, YouTube, and Flickr are all there, as are noteworthy additions like Vimeo, Hulu Plus, and Quora.

Raven takes on a desktop-like attitude, particularly with the social applications and those that require or cater to user interaction. Ubuntu and Apple users will appreciate the seamless experience of moving between installed software and the Web. The left-hand side panel holds all of your chosen apps, as well as navigation icons. Selecting an app then brings up your options for in-site actions. 

For example, opening Twitter via the Raven app pulls up your command options for the site on that left-hand panel, placing them below the Twitter icon. Users can refer almost entirely to the left-hand panel once they’re inside an application.

raven screenshotApps like CNN pull up video or breaking news options (CNN specifically has its iReport feature installed). So while your instinct might be to use CNN’s default navigations, there are benefits for more consumption-based Websites as well.

Use

Generally, working with Raven is a pleasure. It’s stupid-simple to orient yourself with all of the navigation commands, and installing and using apps is quick and easy. Switching between apps and the native Web was seamless, an upgrade from Chrome’s Web Store experience in our opinion. There was less of a “marketplace” feel to installing apps, and they were deposited into the sidebar automatically instead of via a dedicated page. It’s a small difference, indistinct to some, but Web apps themselves are some sort of compromise between bookmarks and desktop software, and this felt like a more natural choice.

The app organization could bear an upgrade, however. We’d love it if Raven would offer infinite scrolling for the left-hand sidebar so you can automatically paw through your apps instead of selecting the gear icon at the bottom to determine if they get to sit in one of the 12 coveted spots. Either that, or shrinking icon size based on how many you install, so you can view them all at once. As it stands, you can manually indicate your apps status by pressing the gear in the bottom left-hand corner.

app organization

Verdict  

Our only major complaint is that we wish Raven weren’t a Mac-specific browser. It’s not as fast as browser dominators like Chrome and Firefox, but we like how it toes the line between app-dependent and Web-enabled. Raven has its early kinks to work out, but given the thinning line between the Web and the desktop, this is a visually interesting and intuitive solution to closing that gap a little more. 

Mobile

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Computing

Windows Update not working after October 2018 patch? Here’s how to fix it

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Computing

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.
Movies & TV

HBO Go vs. HBO Now: Which streaming service is right for you?

If you're looking to get access to HBO, you might be comparing HBO Go and HBO Now. We break down the differences between the twin streaming services and see how they compare to one another.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Mobile

New Apple Watch begins saving lives one week after getting EKG feature

The Apple Watch Series 4 was updated almost a week ago with a new feature that allows users to take electrocardiogram tests -- and already it seems like the new feature is saving lives.
Mobile

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.
Mobile

Santa Claus is coming to town. Get ready with these Christmas apps

Like it or not, Christmas comes but once a year. Thankfully, we've got a list of the best Christmas apps to help get you into the holiday spirit, just in case you want to call Santa or become a Christmas elf.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Deals

Amazon slashes price of 2018 iPad to under $250 in time for Christmas

Whether you love Apple or prefer Android, this 2018 iPad 32GB tablet deal is rather tempting. If you're still on the hunt for gifts, then this deep discount from Amazon makes now an excellent time to pick one up.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.