Must-have apps: TenFourFox

Filed under: Software

If you have an old Macintosh with a PowerPC CPU and you want to browse the modern world wide web, you have only one reasonable choice: 10.4Fx, better known as TenFourFox.

TenFourFox: A fork of Mozilla Firefox ESR 38 for the Power Macintosh and Mac OS X Tiger PowerPC

It’s an acclaimed and heroic port of Firefox written by Power Mac users and maintained by Power Mac users, “still out there keeping your Power Mac relevant in an Intel world”.
As I write this text the current version of TenFourFox incorporates “the latest bug fixes and security improvements plus all the powerful technology underlying Mozilla Firefox 38 ESR“.

But let’s take a step back. After their much rumored switch to Intel, Apple released the last version of the Safari web browser for Tiger in 2010 and for Leopard in 2011. Mozilla abandoned PowerPC Macs in 2011 with version 3.6.28 of Firefox, denying them the new features of version 4.0. And Google has never built Chrome (or Chromium) for PowerMacs: it’s been Intel-only from day one.

But on November 8 2010 independent developer Cameron Kaiser gave new hope to Apple users using Tiger, arguably the pinnacle of system software for PowerPC Macintoshes. Since version 4.0b7, Mr. Kaiser, with help from other developers and users has been taking Mozilla’s source code, making it work with Tiger (and Leopard), and refining it piece by piece so that the browser not only works but soars on even the lowliest G3.

TenFourFox accelerated for PowerMac

TenFourFox, named thusly for its 10.4 allegiance, features AltiVec JPEG, HTML and WebM decoding acceleration for G4 and G5 Macintoshes, and has developed its own just-in-time PowerPC script compiler of JavaScript. Add to that that the browser is available in four version, each one specially optimized and compiled for the PowerPC processors used by Apple: G3, two different versions of G4 and G5.

The result is nothing short of extraordinary: while Apple and all main third party developers have long ago moved to Intel, with TenFourFox a Power Mac, provided with a bit of patience, can access the Web using the latest HTML5 and JavaScript technologies, and can also also use most Firefox add-ons/extensions (though not plugins such as Flash and Java, for obvious security reasons).
That’s quite a feat and a boon for users of old Macs that stubbornly keep on chugging along and are still useful, thanks to open/free software developed and gifted by stubborn Power Macintosh enthusiasts.

If you’re a developer, you can check the source code to TenFourFox on the Github project site and there’s also a blog where Mr. Kaiser has been religiously chronicling the development of the browser and sharing useful info (and code).

Wednesday 11 November 2015, 2:00 pm
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  1. Thank you very very much TenFourFox. Your work is very special and the dedication is epic and I love your blog by the way! Amazing articles.

    Comment by Alex Santos — November 13, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

  2. TenFourFox is great. This message is being typed on a G4 Sawtooth PPC using TenFourFox which I have been using for years.

    I want to send out a good word for TenFourBird which is a G3/G4/G5 PPC e mail client based upon Mozilla Thunderbird & upon TenFourfox. It is out of Japan (I think it is run by someone in Hokuriku University) Like TenFourFox, TenFourBird is available in several languages. These two applications keep a PPC Mac G3, G4 or G5 running with nearly up to date compatible versions to Firefox and Thunderbird,

    Comment by Richard — November 14, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

  3. Great work, Mr Kaiser! I enjoy the browser, your continued effort to keep PPCs usable and last but not least your blog. Keep going!

    Comment by Lars Baumstark — November 15, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

  4. I’m going to be getting a PowerMac G4 with Mirrored Drive Door sometime later this month, and I’m probably going to use TenFourFox. I’m just wondering why the 10.4fx team doesn’t port over something like LightSpark from Linux for Flash or IcedTea for Java and then write custom plug-ins specifically for TenFourFox. The LightSpark team says that it’s good enough so that you can use YouTube (the Flash parts) on a daily basis. I might try to compile them anyway just to see if I can. Great article.

    Comment by Steve Smyth — February 2, 2016 @ 4:59 am

  5. Been acquainted with Mr. Kaiser since the old days of misc.transport.road. Sincere thanks to him for maintaining & updating TFF, especially for those of us that still use G4s and G5s as everyday computers (still using a few irreplaceable Classic apps on a regular basis).

    Comment by Richard C. Moeur — May 14, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

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