Lesser Known Web Browsers You Should Check Out
This entry is part 13 of 16 in the series Software
We all know about browsers such as IE, Firefox, and Chrome, but there are many more, and some are well worth a look
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The internet browser is an essential application. Everyone with a PC needs one if they plan to go online, and a minuscule amount of PC users go without one. Therefore, the humble browser is probably one of, if not the most used PC program of all, aside from the OS itself. It started to become the dominant app it is today when Microsoft began bundling in its own browser, Internet Explorer with Windows, and since then the PC using public have never looked back. IE’s inclusion with Windows caused a bit of controversy, with accusations of monopolies and even some other browser companies going under, such as Netscape, but this all led us to the current influx in browsers, although you’d be forgiven for missing this explosion of programs. It’s safe to say that most PC users are familiar with the big three browsers, possibly to the point that they’re unaware of any alternatives. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are well-established and popular browsers, found on the majority of PCs around the world, but there are other browsers that remain largely unknown, with some that actually offer unique and very useful features. These browsers are many and varied, with some truly unique options, while others have features even the big names don’t have. They’re interesting and very useful, so you really should be familiar with them, just in case you ever want to try out something new or if a feature you really need but currently lack with your existing browser is within easy grasp, but you simply don’t know it yet. Let’s have a look at some of these alternatives, beginning with a couple of options that while not as popular, are still a little more familiar to some.
OperaJust slipping out of the running in terms of being one of the big browsers, Opera is still one of the best all-round browsers, and it’s also one that’s helped shape some features of other programs, including the big three. Opera is known for being a reliable and very stable browser, as well as being very flexible in terms of platform. It can be downloaded for almost all formats, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Windows Phone and iOS. It’s also one of the first browsers to make use of the
Internet Explorer Google Chrome
Opera now standard launch page feature, which lists some of your favourite or most visited sites in a list of thumbnails for easy access. Opera supports one of the newer features in browsing, the ability to synchronise favourites between devices, and it’s also pretty fast, b with a special turbo mode designed to speed up browsing on slower machines. As it’s always popular, you can also customise the app with a range of add-ons and extensions.
SafariUnsurprisingly, Apple’s browser isn’t quite as popular on PC, a fact that Microsoft probably isn’t all that broken up about. Still, despite coming from the competition, Safari is a solid, workable browser that benefits from Apple’s award-winning design. The whole browser has been created to focus on your browsing, hiding the GUI from sight. The border of the browser window is a mere single pixel wide, and other elements, such as the menu bar and scroll bars are hidden when not in use. There’s also a wider window view you can utilise. Safari is quite fast, and the streamlined user interface makes it a good, no-nonsense option for those who don’t really care about all sorts of additional features and simply want to browse the internet. It still has some useful extras, though, such as a powerful search feature for history and bookmarks, as well as built-in pop-up blocking, autofill, RSS news feeds and an easy-to-use private browsing tool.
SeaMonkeyIf you’re after a browser that does much more than simply trawl the internet and you need a tool that can handle more tasks, SeaMonkey may be for you. This browser is based on the Mozilla browser source code and is seen as a direct descendent of the pre-Firefox app. It has been designed to be a total desktop solution for day-to-day users and to be the only program you’ll need to open in a standard PC session. To this end, alongside the browser it also includes integrated email, chat, RSS, HTML editing and more. Of all the tools included, the HTML editor is one of the best and is a surprisingly competent tool for web developers, including newcomers to the field. It’s easy to use and has a very visual interface. The actual browsing capabilities of SeaMonkey are good too, although nothing amazing. Taken as a whole package, however, it’s a very impressive program.
LynxThis is certainly one of the most unique web browsers you’ll find online. Lynx isn’t a typical browser, and it eschews any and all visual elements in favour of a full, text-based approach. There’s no fancy GUI, image rendering or animations, just plain text and old, DOS- style inputs. You may wonder why you’d want such a lo-fi browser when you can have much more attractive browsers, ones that can show images, play videos and more. The simple answer is speed and legacy use. Lynx will run on very old machines, ones that may not normally be able to even browse the internet, and it’s also fast, as it doesn’t need to load extraneous elements such as images. This makes it a perfect browser for users who simply wish to read news and who don’t care about the visual aspect. Web developers have also found it to be an invaluable tool, especially for learning design and analysing the structure of web pages. Lynx renders sites more in the way a computer views them, so developers can use this to aid in site design or to learn how basic sites hang together. The lack of any extra content also makes it a very useful tool for troubleshooting new pages, as images and other content don’t get in the way, making it easy to see errors and mistakes.
K-MeleonThis browser is another zippy option that’s fast and reliable. It’s also a very customisable option and uses the Geko rendering engine. The open-source app boasts a few advanced options, such as a built-in pop-up blocker, context menu, a pop-up search bar, specialised keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures. The whole interface uses the standard Windows toolkit, so although the program doesn’t look all that different from a standard Explorer window, it’s light on system resources, as no extra items are needed to load up the GUI. K-Meleon can also be installed onto a USB stick, thanks to a portable version, making it a great browser for mobile users.
VivaldiNamed after the Italian composer, this browser is one of the newest around and is heavily focused on users of Opera who found their old browser becoming something different. It’s the idea of former Opera CEO Jon Stephenson, and it’s an in-development browser that’s taking a lot of input and feedback from users, who are helping to shape the application. Safari Seamonkey Lynx
Maxthon Cloud Browser Netsurf Flock K-Meleon Vivaldi Pale Moon This is a key feature, as many other browsers are stuck in their ways and old favourites have alienated existing users to the point where they jump ship and look for an alternative. Having the chance to have your voice heard is a real benefit and could end up contributing to a browser that functions perfectly The browser uses the Blink engine, also used by Opera and Google Chrome, so it has the potential to be big, and it currently includes a speed dial, tab stacks, quick commands and website notes.
Pale MoonIf you’ve tired of Firefox’s increased bloat or you simply want a fast, efficient browser, you should probably consider Pale Moon. This browser is essentially a specialised, custom version of Firefox that’s had all the extras trimmed out in favour of pure speed and efficiency. Designed for Windows, there are many staple browser features missing, as they’ve been purposely removed, and what’s left is a streamlined browser that’s very fast and that uses far less system resources than standard Firefox or other browsers you may use. It’s been created to make the most of modern systems, and it supports HTML5, CSS and SVG graphics. In tests it consistently runs faster than competing browsers, and it taxes systems far less, so it’s also good for laptops, which can use all the power they can get when on the move.
Maxthon Cloud BrowserGiven the ever increasing popularity of cloud services, Maxthon is one of the most promising alternative browsers around and is a perfect option for people who use the internet often on a range of devices. Maxthon is a browser designed from the ground up to make use of the cloud, and it’s geared towards sharing and synchronising data between devices, regardless of type. The browser can share data, bookmarks and even downloads between devices, such as PCs, laptops, mobile phones and so on, and it uses a cloud service to store your files. This use of the cloud means that the actual performance of the browser is enhanced too, as it uses the cloud to speed up web browsing. Working with files is easy, as files stored on the cloud can be accessed by other devices synchronised to the same account, so music can be shared across your devices, or you can save videos on your phone to then watch seamlessly on your PC later on. These files can also be shared with others, making for a very useful browser overall.
NetSurfThe main thrust of NetSurf’s appeal comes from its low resource usage. It’s one of the smallest browsers in terms of power and resource use, and it’s also one of the fastest we’ve seen in terms of browsing speed. Although this is a streamlined browser that’s geared for high speed, it’s not featureless. It has a range of tools and options, including URL auto-complete, a global and local history, cookie manager, view scaling and thumbnails. It also supports a rather strange selection of operating systems alongside Windows, such as Linux, BeOS, Atari, AmigaOS and RISC OS. Interesting.
FlockWe wanted to include this browser thanks to its unique social networking features. Sadly, though, it’s been discontinued, with no official download links, support or development. That said, you can still grab the browser from many online software websites, and if you use the likes of Facebook constantly, you may want to check it out, regardless of its development status. Flock is built on Firefox 3 and features a special ‘People Sidebar’ that’s used to keep tabs on your Facebook and Twitter presence. The bar notifies you of any updates, so you can always stay on top of your online socialising, even when you’re doing other things on the web. You can even use a special update page that can be customised to keep you up to date on sites like YouTube, and the browser also supports Firefox add-ons, giving you even more customisability That lack of any new updates is a shame, but in a world where browsers update seemingly every ten minutes, some may find this refreshing, as long as no security holes or problems arise from this lack of support.
Lunascape ORIONThis is a very interesting browser for web developers or those wishing to get started in this area. Experienced developers will be well
aware of the problems that arise when you try your site on different browsers. As browsers use different rendering engines, a site that looks perfect in one browser may look broken on another. Often this is caused by small differences in the way different rendering engines handle code, and it can be hard to detect and fix. Lunascape can help greatly with this, as its stand out feature is the ability to instantly switch to a different rendering engine. It supports Trident (IE), Gecko (Firefox) and Webkit (Safari), meaning you can test your code out on three browser engines quickly You can even run them in cascade mode, viewing the site previews side-by-side. Sadly, it doesn’t yet support Blink, so later versions of Chrome and other browsers using this engine have to be tested separately Despite this, it’s a superb feature for web developers and makes it much easier to view content and search for any glitches. The browser itself is also very capable and has many of the features we’ve come to expect, and it functions very well when compared to the other big names in the browser world.