When I sit here in front of my desktop and look at my Debian Menu for “Internet”, I see a myriad of icons. But not just a myriad of icons for all kinds of applications, but also a myriad of icons for web browsers. As Linux users, we really are rewarded with having so much choice when it comes to web browsers.
In this round-up, I will give you a brief look at the current web browser line-up for Linux users. This is not a review of web browsers, but rather a quick look to let you know what is out there available in the world of Linux for todays web user.
You’ll find all the usual ones, ie. Firefox, but you’ll also perhaps find one that you may not have known existed. And you might even decide to give your own system a new browser for you to try. Because as you’ll see in todays quick round-up, not all browsers are equal. And they all provide something neat to offer a Linux web user.
Lets start with everyone’s favorite browser, Mozilla Firefox. Firefox is provided in most Linux distributions as the bog standard web browser. Some users like it, some users hate it. But whatever your opinion of Firefox, it’s there and is not going away in a hurry.
Firefox uses the Gecko engine for page rendering. The Gecko engine has been heavily criticized in the past for being quite sluggish when it comes to performance. But of recent releases, Mozilla developers have really done their homework and got Firefox and Gecko working very well. And rendering speeds are now quite reasonable, in comparison to competing browsers.
One of the main pros Firefox is the fact that it supports extensions. And many extensions readily available there is. Some of them bad, some of them good and some of them great! Whether you’re a fan of extensions or not, there’s no disputing that it is one of the main components of Firefox which has made it popular and so successful.
Pros: Great extension support, regular updates
Cons: Sometimes slow rendering. Can be a memory and resource hog
Another popular web browser for Linux users is Chromium. Chromium is an upstream version of the Google Chrome browser. Technically and visually, they’re really not that different. Think of Chromium as a more recent and updated version of Google Chrome and without the “Google” branding, which is removed in Chromium.
Chromium is touted as the next ‘most popular’ browser after Firefox. And several Linux distributions are considering making Chromium the default browser out-of-the-box. Ubuntu, being one of them.
When Chromium first emerged from development, it was quite skeletal on features and page rendering was limited somewhat. Thankfully, under the hood work has progressed and Chromium has become a more than capable browser. But developers of both Chromium and Google Chrome have decided to keep the user-interface simple and non-invasive to stay out of the way of the user. Chromium also has support for extensions, which is a boon for this sleek and fast browser.
Pros: Fast page rendering. Fast development cycle
Cons: Very basic interface. Still has trouble rendering some websites correctly
Midori browser is the latest in my own collection of browsers. Until recently, I didn’t even know it existed.
Midori is a lightweight web browser which uses the webkit rendering engine. Rendering speeds are fast and the browser contains all the usual features but still remains a small package overall. There’s also some built-in extensions for a few added goodies to play around with, including a very handy ad-blocker with full support for Easylist subscriptions plus more.
There are a couple of Linux distributions and desktop environments using Midori as the default browser. But overall usage of Midori browser remains much lower than that of Firefox and Chromium. But still, if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s well worth a look.
Pros: Lightweight package, light on resources
Cons: User interface sometimes feels a little clunky
Epiphany Web Browser
Little do Linux users realize, but Epiphany web browser is actually the official web browser of the GNOME desktop environment. But for one reason or another, most Linux Distributions remove it prior to packaging the final version if their operating system. Therefore, it has resulted in Epiphany feeling a little left out in the cold. Nevertheless, developers press on with its development and the result is a reasonable offering indeed.
Despite its low usage numbers, Epiphany is more than capable of competing with the competition of the more popular options. It provides all the usual expected features of a modern day web browser such as Tabs and Bookmarks. And I personally like the built in Cookie and Password Manager which is very simple to use and is a nice addition to an otherwise rock-solid web browser.
Epiphany also uses webkit for page rendering. And it makes good work of rendering pages too. Pages appear on screen almost instant on a fast ADSL2+ connection.
Pros: Super fast page rendering
Cons: No extension support. Limited customization options
Many KDE users will be familiar with Konqueror as it’s the default browser for the KDE desktop environment.
Konqueror remains quite popular among its loyal fans. Konqueror has changed and evolved over time and fortunately kept up with the competition. Konqueror uses webkit for rendering which works quite well.
Konqueror is quite different from other browsers and has a couple of unique features that will only be appreciated by the experienced and loyal users of the browser itself. For example; the built-in graphical file manager which works very well, if graphical file managers are your thing.
Pros: Ease of use and built in graphical file manager
Cons: Feels very integrated to the KDE desktop environment
Elinks is very different from your regular browser. It is a console based web browser and runs in a terminal.
Although it sounds odd (or just different), Elinks has a group of cult fans who really do use it and swear by it. I have used it and although it does work just fine for most sites, its actual use in real world web usage is very limited. For example, download and install Elinks and then visit facebook.com and you’ll see what I mean. Basically, Facebook block any unsupported browsers. And Elinks is one of them. Instead, you’re just presented with a geeky page claiming that they’re “not as geeky as you”. Or something along those lines. A little lame really.
Then we get to asking the question of what Elinks is good for. Well, heavy text based sites or web pages it handles very well. Not graphic based websites. In truth, Elinks was designed for server based systems where no GUI is available or installed. So Webmasters and Administrators still have online access on a server system. Probably just for web and server statistics viewing.
Nevertheless, I find Elinks a very interesting project and if you haven’t seen or used it before, give it a try. Even if it is just for curiosity. Elinks has a long history behind it. If you perform a quick Google search you can read all about it.
Pros: Runs on server operating systems and does not require a GUI
Cons: Very limited usage
I hope you enjoyed this quick look into the web browser offerings for Linux. And I hope you open your mind a little more and try something different. You never know, you might find there is a better browser than what you are currently using.
Let me know what browser you use. Send me an email.