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Today’s headlines are dominated by tales of the browser wars. In the race to produce the fastest, most feature-rich application, the conversation often cites the top contenders: Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari and more recent entry, Google Chrome.
But should the discussion really end there? In the Linux world, there are a myriad of alternatives that warrant further examination. As each of the most popular products had to start someplace, it is wholly possible that one of these new contenders will emerge as the next generation browser of choice.
This article will introduce you to Linux’s top 3 alternative browsers:
Epiphany is a GNOME based browser for Linux. To be fair, this would be a hard sell as a primary desktop browser for most users. In fact, there isn’t even a setting to let you designate it as your default browser. But for those instance where you need to fire up a lighting-fast browser for quick surfing, Epiphany will do the trick.
While this browser can’t compete with Firefox in terms of add-ons, its does have a set of useful extensions that might be adequate for the average Internet user. It comes with the popular web development tool Greasemonkey and Ad Blocker.
Though I still use Firefox as my primary browser, lately it seems to run at a snail’s pace. So, one of the first things I noticed about Epiphany is how quickly it launches. And subsequent page loads on my system are equally as fast. I was quickly able to import my bookmarks from Firefox and was happy to see the inclusion of the mouse gestures feature.
On the downside, firebug, an extension I use for web development isn’t available.
Epiphany is available for download at their website and is also in the Linux repositories. To install from the command line, type: sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser.
Midori (Mee-Doh-Ree) is the Japanese word for green – which might explain the green icon. It uses the WebKit rendering engine – used by Chrome and Safari. This means fast page loads, but at the cost of just a few website incompatibilities.
Like Ephipany, Midori is somewhat limited in the amount of extensions it has available. But if speed is more important to you than addons, read on. This is a browser that provides a faster, more lightweight surfing experience. And it will take up less resources, something important to those on running older hardware.
Midori’s extensions include colored tabs, shortcuts, rss feed panel, form history, mouse gestures, cookie management, and more.
On my laptop, running Ubuntun Karmic Koala, with 4gb RAM, Midori still occasionally crashed on me, but others have reported flawless performance. This is a browser that I’ll continue to watch.
For Ubuntu/Debian based distributions, install via synaptic package manager or from the terminal: sudo apt-get install midori
Opera is probably the application on this list most poised to become your full time browser. I’ve tested previous versions and have always been impressed with its performance. The latest update, 10.10, was designed with speed and new features in mind. In addition, the new interface got a make-over, complete with shading.
Opera was the originator of the Speed Dial feature and continues to be an innovator. Resizable tabs show you a thumbnail image of your browser window and the turbo feature provides for faster browsing on slower networks like wi-fi. Opera Unite is a new feature, that turns the browser into server with the ability to share photos (10 GB of them), stream music, serve a chat or even an entire web site, right from the browser.
There are also a plethora of widgets. And skins allow you to change the interface look and feel. A bonus for me was how using the import function, I was able to import all my bookmarks from Firefox.
While speedy, it didn’t feel quite as fast as either Midori or Ephiphany, but also don’t claim my results are scientific. Opera also differs from the others in that it has a built-in email client. The full version of Firebug isn’t available, but a less feature-rich Firebug Lite is an option.
For Ubuntu/Debian based distributions, you can install via synaptic package manager.
Which Alternative is Right for You?
Besides stability, the biggest issue for these alternatives will likely be the number of plugins. But for many, that will be a non-issue.
My curiosity drives me to test new software, often to my detriment. But this process is an essential component to the ongoing development of new software. Give it a try, download, test and share your experiences and feedback with the developer community. This is your shot to help craft and contribute to the next generation of web browsers.