Lightweight browser run-down


I recently reinstalled Linux onto my EEE 900 laptop. Using Ubuntu base installation as a starting point, I am building up a lightweight, super fast system from a minimal ubuntu install. So i’ve installed X, and fluxbox, file manager, rtorrent, iptables, nedit… so i basically have a very nice, very fast working system.

Next it was time to install a browser, again, i want to keep it light, but also capable.

So here is a run down of a few lightweight browsers, and my opinions of them.

Dillo
Dillo is extremely fast and lightweight browser, and in certain situtations, a pleasure to use. Minimal tool bars mean nearly all screen space is devoted webpages, and not the interface – a huge plus on an eeepc.

However, Dillo does not cope well when it comes up against bulky, complex sites. Limitted CSS support and no JavaScript support mean this browser is unusable on a number of sites that I use daily. If I was to make this my first choice browser, I would still need an alternative for accessing certain sites.

A good way to describe dillo, is that it covers a middle ground between fully featured browsers and text only browsers such as w3m. having said that, even w3m has JavaScript support!

A great browser for the simple things, but not enough on its own.

SeaMonkey
which is a WYSIWYG editor as well as a browser, which bares more than a little resemblance to netscape navigator (no accident). I had used this on a Puppy Linux live CD and had been very impressed with the speed – it uses mozillas rendering engine, so it supports sites almost as well as firefox. However, it just felt a bit clunky, and the interface took up a lot of screen real estate on the small eee screen. On top of that, there are a lot of dependencies for this software, and installation required a significant amount of disk space.

Conkeror
Conkeror is a lightweight browser based mozilla’s gecko rendering engine. the interface has been stripped away completely, and all that remains is a text input area at the bottom of the window. Conkeror relies on keyboard shortcuts similar to those in emacs or console based browsers in order to be used.

For example tapping ‘g’ allows a URL to be typed. Tapping ‘f’ results in all hyperlinks on a page being highlighted and numbered, the relevant number can then be entered to visit that link. ‘B’ and ‘F’ keys are used for back and forward, and so on.

All in all Conkeror is very fast and easy to learn. It does away with needless interface items and bloat – which is particularly helpful on a small screen, low spec system.

Links2

Links2 is a command line browser. I covered it before in an earlier post. The coolest feature of this ‘text only’ browser, is that it actually allows images to be rendered  and mouse support in the terminal/tty/ssh session, which makes it my first choice when I don’t have X running. However, a lack of JavaScript support limits it in many ways.

Like Dillo, a nice lightweight alternative, but cant be relied upon for all browsing due to its lack of support for advanced features.

w3m

Another CLI browser, Like Links2, can display graphics in the command line. On top of that, also supports JavaScript. Very fast, but not as pretty as Links2, and mouse support isnt implemented as well as Links2 either, nontheless, a good CLI browser.

So there you go, a quick rundown of some lightweight browsers available on linux. Right now, the crown goes to conkeror, it provides an intruative, uncluttered browsing experiance, and will likely baffle the average windows user who looks over your shoulder.

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