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Drop #140 (2022-11-21): Arc You Ready For A New Browser?
Arc browser first impressions.
Apologies to readers for no Friday/Weekend Edition drop.
#Exhausted would be a great way to describe what Friday was, so much so that I ended up grabbing 8h30m of sleep (96% Whoop recovery!) over that night.
Back on it today, with some first impressions of the world's newest browser.
The Arc Browser
It feels like it's been forever since The Browser Company started teasing us about their new browser, Arc. I did the dance many of you almost certainly did and typed in my throwaway email address to try to get access to the beta when it came out. I noticed some tech rags starting to cover Arc in-depth this past week, so I checked my email (50/50 chance I'm reading email on any given day), and — sure enough — I had my download link as well.
I won't be able to give a multi-thousand word review today, especially since I did not get time to capture Netflow over a couple hours to see how skeezy Arc may be, so consider this an Arc introduction vs full review. (I am also, sadly, out of invite codes but drop me a message if you want one as I'm trying to get more invites).
Lipstick on a Chromium Pig
I'm still bummed that utility beat aesthetics in our modern, world. As a kid I saw all the early sci-fi shows with the porthole-esque monitors and feel cheated that we have glowing rectangles vs glowing circles to stare at, now. I take you down that memory lane since Arc — fundamentally — is just another Chromium rectangle. If you chose to not adopt some new paradigms it is offering, you have a location bar, "tabs", managed downloads, extension, and all the extra/hidden Chromium settings. Being Chromium based, you can use all the web extensions you like (please keep them to a minimum) and will get the best internet site compatibility, since Google has done a phenomenal job training websites to cater to Blink.
Arc's rectangular portal interface is the cleanest one I've come across, and I've used them all on every modern OS.
As you can see in the header image, the location bar is on the top left sidebar which has three other sections:
Favorites: which are buttons for your most frequently used URLs. These are on every "Space" (more on spaces in a bit)
Pinned Tabs: these are permatabs. They hang around until you remove them; more on tab timeouts in…
Today Tabs: Any loaded site not in Favs or Pins will automagically get tossed aside by Arc.
…waits for you tab hoarders to recover from fainting…
While Arc removes your unpinned Today tabs, they don't go far. Arc keeps track of these in the Arc-hive, which is a fancy way of saying "History". You can fully customize how frequently Arc arc-hives tabs; and, "Tabs" also == Folders of Tabs.
The Sidebar has Spaces. Each Space has the frozen Favs at top and holds that Space's Pins and Todays. The header image shows what the research tab for this post looked like right at the beginning. You can hide/show the Sidebar with a click or a keyboard shortcut — NOTE that all of Arc's keyboard shortcuts are malleable, which is great since many collided with ones I use, though Arc has a clever way of dealing with said collisions that you just have to use to appreciate.
You can keyboard or drag through the Spaces. The left-most "Space" is the Library, which has all your downloads and Notes and Easel drawings (yep, you have some fancy note-taking options in Arc as well). Said Easels are kind of wicked cool, as they allow you to Live Capture part of a webpage, add it to an Easel, then interact with the webpage live right in the Easel. It's a feature you didn't know you needed til you had it. Easels are also share-able between Arc users.
New links opened from apps, etc. open up in "Mini Arc" to avoid polluting your curated spaces.
You can also hide the entire sidebar for distraction-free research.
The main browser pane is splittable, so you can keep multiple websites up. Other Chromium browsers support this, and you can hack any two windows to be side-to-side in macOS or Windows pretty easily, but Arc doesn't make it look hacky, and it also doesn't make that OS Desktop Space impenetrable.
The browser itself and all the Spaces are also theme-able.
You are (likely?) not the product.
Until I get this browser in a recorded Netflow session (especially one that sits overnight) I won't even come close to 👍🏽 Arc's privacy claims in this section's header image. That page goes on-and-on-and-on about their commitment to privacy, so I am immediately a skeptic until proven otherwise.
Stay tuned for more on this in future drops.
Arc Boosts and Commands.
I mentioned "user scripts" in recent drops, and Arc comes with this feature built-in in something called "Boosts". This section header shows a bit how it works, but you aren't limited to injecting silly content into a page. You can scrape pages, change styles, or more, just like any user script.
Your Boosts show up under Extensions for quick access.
Arc also has the increasingly ubiquitous Command palette. The Location "bar" is so tiny and out of the way that it'd be silly to make you engage with it to lookup items or go to URLs. Arc's Command palette is keyboard shortcut-accessible and acts like a typical location/search bar, but also gives you access to Arc features, simple maths, and more (I've not gotten into said "more…" yet, so stay tuned).
This invite link is likely fully used, but give it a go if you want to try Arc (macOS only for now). If you think you can trust me, I can also give you a link to download a DMG of Arc, which will work just as well. ☮