One of the best things about Onshape is that it runs inside a web browser on Mac, Windows, Linux, or Chromebook. The hard work falls on the web browser companies that develop and test their browsers to comply with web standards and to run efficiently on all the different combinations of PC hardware, graphics cards, and operating systems. That’s a ton of work that Onshape doesn’t have to do, so we can focus on building full-cloud 3D CAD.

I remember back in the day when there was really only one serious web browser – Netscape Navigator. But when Microsoft shipped Internet Explorer with Windows 95 for free, all that changed. IE became the dominant browser, starting the very first browser war and eventually ending in lawsuits and the subsequent demise of Netscape. How times have changed. Now there are dozens of browsers, depending upon which operating system you use – and the browser wars continue!

Support

Onshape officially supports (in no particular order) Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. These are the ones we test. Internet Explorer never really got the development it needed to keep pace with the new kids on the block and even Microsoft’s latest offering for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, is not without its issues. Onshape has several enhancement requests logged with Microsoft in order to get Onshape running on Edge as well as it does on the other browsers.

If you’re trying to use Onshape on something else, you should probably rethink your browser choice and use one of the approved ones. Having said that, there are a number of other browsers out there that run Onshape just fine, but it’s best to stick with the ones that we know work well. You can check basic browser compatibility at cad.onshape.com/check

Performance

You can try searching other blog articles to find which is the fastest browser, but remarkably so many of the reviews are contradictory. Some say Firefox is the fastest, some say Opera, but the acid test is what works for you, on your computer. The technologies that Onshape depends on are HTML5, CSS, Javascript, and WebGL. For my tests, I focused on Javascript and WebGL to see how fast the browser can interpret and execute commands and how fast the browser’s graphics engine can render complex scenes. There are plenty of online tests you can try, but the relative outcome will be the same, so I chose two at random. I could have timed certain operations in Onshape, but that wouldn’t be very scientific.

Chart showing WebGL and Javascript benchmark test results, normalized to show relative speed comparison.

Mobile

And finally, why do we have mobile apps and not use the native browser on your mobile device? The main reasons are performance (mobile browsers, at this point, lack the power to run WebGL, so native applications are the only way to tap into the power of the GPU) and multi-touch gestures. Browsers handle gesture inputs differently and hijack them before they reach Onshape, by which time it’s too late. Suddenly, a pinch-to-zoom gesture is not zooming your model, but zooming the entire web page. Onshape does not work with multi-touch gestures on Microsoft Surface, Google Pixel and other multi-touch devices for the very same reason.

Conclusion

There's not much in it, but on my Macbook, Safari runs fastest. However, I still prefer to use Chrome because it works well with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Mail, all of which we use internally at Onshape (Installed desktop software? What’s that?). And that's what it boils down to – personal preference.

At the end of the day, it’s your choice and Onshape gives you plenty.