One application you will use most often is a web browser. It used to be that there was no choice in the matter; as with all things, time has provided several choices. So what are the options and how do you decide? I would ask, well what do you want to do? I’ve included browsers from Windows also in this review.
Browser Features to Consider:
Tab-browsing: the method by which you can see multiple windows tabbed into one, much like an address book has letter tabs. (How did we ever get by before the amazing tab?)
Add-ons available? Add ons are little programs you can download to compliment your browser. Each add on performs a set task. Many Firefox users say they can’t live without the FlashBlock Extension, which gives the user the ability to block out flash applications that play ads, videos and such.
My own personal ‘must have’ feature on a browser is mouse gestures. This feature enables the user to move the mouse in a set manner in order to perform tasks. It is an amazing time and movement saver that I can’t do without. My most often used gestures are back (to go to the previous page) and up-left/up-right (to go back and forth from tab to tab). The point is, you will develop your own ‘must-haves’ after a while, so you will want to make sure your potential new browser has them.
Another feature to consider is a mail client. I like to read my mail from my browser. This can be done with extensions or a built in e-mail client. I prefer this to a separate email client so that I don’t forget to check my mail (because I would otherwise)
The inevitable issue of aesthetics. My browsers don’t have to be pretty but I prefer dark themes. As long as I can get that, I am happy. I just like to change the looks of things often.
Something else I have to consider is memory usage. I have a lightweight browser and one that is a memory hog. I use each for the purposes I like them for. However, if you prefer just one browser for everything under the sun, it is going to use more memory.
Media: Are you a social networking junkie? MySpace and Photobucket are dear friends of yours? There are browsers for that too, so don’t worry. There is a browser for all occasions!
Firefox is the second most popularly used web browser and growing all the time. Many Windows Users prefer it over Internet Explorer..and rightly so. I first heard of Firefox by word of mouth, in 2002, when I was still a Windows/Internet Explorer user. I fell in love with the tabbed browsing at first use, of course and at the time, I enjoyed playing around with extensions, such as Foxy Tunes, a little add-on that allows you to control your media player right from the browser (definitely browser candy).
Of course, it has been 6 years since then and many things have changed. At one point, I had to stop using Firefox because it got a ‘swelled head’ for a while (it was a very big program there for a year or two) and some of the features came and went. For the most part, Firefox has relied on being safer and more secure than Internet Explorer and Tabbed Browsing. Of course, just about every browser can say they are more secure than IE and most use tabs as well. Firefox is still the choice of so many due to its versatility with add-ons. There are literally hundreds of choices for tweaks you can choose to customize your Firefox to do just about everything short of washing dishes.
Additionally, there are also hundreds of themes to customize the look of Firefox. The most recent version uses a lot less memory than the previous, which makes it a good choice as well. Bear in mind, however, that the more extensions you download, the more memory Firefox will use and the security level of Firefox has been less than stellar in recent years. All in all, Firefox is the second most used browser for a reason. It is good.
Opera Browser..what can I say? It used to be the most innovative, useful browser I’ve ever used on the internet, period. After Opera 12, the decision was made (to the utter dismay of the entire Opera community) to shut down the Opera community pages (all of them) and base Opera on Chromium. The hacker’s paradise browser died a sad, undeserved death. Now, it’s trying to regain user trust by slowly (SLOWLY) bring back things in order to just make Opera usable. Like bookmarks. Yes, really. And there are still pages Opera will not function on, despite the new Chromium base and the utter death of the entire community. Opera is sadly no longer my go-to browser, like it was for several years. A shame. There were plenty of ‘Chrome clones’ out there and Opera isn’t even one of the good ones now.
Epiphany is the unofficial web browser of Gnome. Originally a descendant of Galeon, part of the Gecko engine family that Firefox hails from, Epiphany has begun to use WebKit engine and integrated it with Gnome. Epiphany has a few features that make it different from the rest of the pack (with the possible exception of Galeon of course).
For instance, the way Epiphany handles bookmarks is different from most browsers. It categorizes bookmarks so that one bookmark can appear in more than one category. It is rather like “tags” for bookmarks. Epiphany also uses tabbed browsing and mouse gestures, although these use the middle scroll wheel rather than the right click button. It is designed to be integrated with Gnome, therefore it doesn’t have themes, per se; it relies on the theme Gnome is currently using. It still has a nice look and there is a small list of Epiphany official extensions that come in a pack and you can merely check the ones you want to use. There is also a page listing of third party extensions that you can choose from (wisely). All in all, Epiphany is easy to use, super-fast, yet still able to provide a very nice browsing experience. Epiphany is one of my favorite browsers, hands down.
I just recently got my hands on Flock 2.0 which is a beta. I decided to try this browser out because of the various social networking services that it attempts to integrate all into one place. First of all, Flock is from the Mozilla family so at the basic level, Flock works like Firefox.
Then the similarities go out the ‘window’ due to all the various features that Flock has. Flock is for the person who has 3 blogs on various blogging services, such as Facebook, Blogger and WordPress. Flock is for the person who has albums of photos on Photobucket and Flickr. Flock is for the person who has to read the news, from several sources at the same time. All of the social networking elements are brought together in this one browser, which I have to say, I am having fun with it. In addition I have learned about services like Del.icio.us, which is a website that stores your bookmarks for you and helps you find other great sites by seeing bookmarks belonging to others, who you can talk to about common interests.
If not for Flock I never would have bothered checking this out, which is actually a service I can use, considering I have 3 web browsers full of bookmarks. Additionally, you can gather up all the contacts from sites you have scattered all over and bring them into one place. As the Flock grows, so too does the services list. MySpace is currently in the works. Also, as Flock is part of the Firefox family, many Firefox extensions work with Flock, so the customizing fun of Firefox can be yours in Flock. I am currently testing the beta, so there are a few bugs that I expect will be worked out before the final release but I can say I am impressed with what I have so far..half the fun has been coordinating things and signing up with new serivces.
All in all, fun to use and helpful for those of us with friends, photos and our thoughts scattered to the ‘four corners’. This is a browser to watch!
Flock is now in version 2.5.2 and doing well..news and updates are not frequent but well thought out, with new services added and old, defunct ones removed. Flock is my second most used browser now, since most of my blogs, fb, myspace and photobucket are all at a click’s distance.
Update part 2
I was getting tired of having a whole lot of features that I wasn’t using, just so I could have a sidebar where I could get my updates for facebook and Twitter. I ended up installing Yoono on Firefox, as well as a couple new blog services, like Amplify and Posterous, which, together with Ping.fm now autopost to all my blogs and is so much easier and faster than the blog editor in Flock, which doesn’t support very many blogs natively. Not to mention Flock was quite slow in terms of browsing. The features it has are fabulous, no doubt, but I just didn’t need them all. So I have since uninstalled.
Flock’s personnel were snapped up by an online game company, thus ending the run of Flock..Use it as you will but there will be no more updates..this browser has died 🙁
Most Linux distros come with Firefox these days. However, one drawback is that Firefox is a heavy browser. It requires a good deal of memory usage to function. So I decided to try Galeon. It is built with the Gecko engine common to the Mozilla family.
At first glance, it appears to be a “stripped down” Firefox. In several ways it is. The look and feel of Galeon is much the same as Firefox; however, the options are limited. One cannot, for instance, change the layout or theme. Also missing are the extensions many ‘foxers’ can’t live without. This can be both a pro and a con. On one hand that is great for the memory-impaired machine; on the other, it limits what can be done with it as far as everyday functionality.
The smart bookmarks are nice, relying on a ‘tag’ type set up for bookmarks rather than folder hierarchies, a feature Epiphany inherits. All in all, I wish I could say Galeon is a keeper. It could have been, but for the numerous (and random) crashes and deleting an unwanted bookmark had the effect of freezing my entire computer (something I haven’t seen since my Windows days).
Note: Galeon has been discontinued, however, it can still be found in the repositories of many Linux distributions and can still be used.
Dillo Web Browser
Dillo is a web browser that is frequently seen in the company of Linux distros meant for the memory-challenged computer or the legacy computer (seriously old).
Dillo is meant to be small and fast. It does not disappoint. There is one toolbar; it contains the navigation buttons, home, reload, file and tab menus with a handful of options and the url bar. That’s it.
However, if resources are an issue or if you need a browser for specific tasks (for instance, using Dillo to navigate a famously slow or lagging website), then Dillo will get the job done. It may not be pretty but it is seriously fast!
All in all, I think this browser is highly useful and recommend it as a secondary browser, or a primary one on legacy systems.
I can’t believe I forgot to review Google Chrome. I have seen statistics showing it to be the 3rd most popular web browser available, which is pretty impressive for its very young life. I myself just acquired it recently as it was available for Windows first. They saved the best for last and now it’s out for us Linux folks in the form of Chromium! I have to work in the morning so I will post this review tomorrow. More to come so stay tuned!
Okay, after using Google Chromium which is the open source version while Chrome is for Windoze, I have to say it’s a nice browser. It doesn’t blow me away, but at the same time, it’s quietly useful in an understated way. Some websites loaded wow-fast but others lagged so hard they timed out. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of predicting which ones will lag so it’s just something to deal with and it’s not constant. The nice things about Chromium include a speed-dial type page where you can ‘pin’ the pages you like. Chromium has many options for theming and extensions. I use it mostly for secure sites, rather than browsing but I could see it becoming a contender.
Arora is a relatively new, open source, cross-platform browser based on QtWebKit. Okay all that means is that you can use it on various operating systems and it’s free to share, use and hack. Arora is very simple and very lightweight, which means it’s wow-fast. It starts up really fast and just rolls along from there. It is basic, so if you are expecting themes and extensions like Firefox (and now Opera and Chrome/ium) has then you will be disappointed. If you are writing a 30 page theme paper that requires at least 25 sources, Arora just might end up one of your best friends. Tabbed browsing is supported nicely and Adblocking works better than in Firefox. The ‘deal breaker’ for me however, is the lack of mouse gestures. This is one of those things that is pretty trivial and in no way reflects the capabilities of the browser, which I found to be wow-fast and no crashes but something I just have to have. However, this is a great browser for netbooks and other resource limited systems (older computers for example) I am most definitely going to keep an eye on Arora to see what develops in the future.