- November 21st, 2007
- 150 Comments
There are more browsers than you are aware of. Apart from Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer there is a number of promising alternatives which can improve your flexibility, increase your productivity and enrich your browsing experience.
In fact, there are over 100 existing (although not widely used) browser applications. Most of them make use of the rendering engines Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Mozilla Firefox), WebCore (Safari) and Presto (Opera 7 and above). However, some of them offer large fields for experiments and exploration — e.g. 3D Engines, but also really useful browsers with advanced functionalities such as desktop-tools integration.
Recently we’ve selected over 20 Win/Mac/Linux-browsers, installed most of them, tested them, compared them and now present the results below. Let’s take a closer look at some rather unknown, forgotten, advanced or experimental browsers. What else do we have on the horizon? What should we use? And what might we be willing to use? Apparently, between Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer there is enough room for creative and unusual approaches.
Please note that
- we’ve tried to showcase only those browsers that use Gecko or WebCore layout engine, but we present some interesting Trident-based applications as well;
- it wasn’t our intention to display all available browsers2 such as Swiftweasel3 and Midori4. We’ve selected the ones we’ve found most useful and promising.
Although we’ve recently seen a tremendous breakthrough of interactive web-applications, some tools such as file management or web browser are still left over to desktop-software. In order to actually use these applications, you need to install them on every PC you’re working on. Right?
Not really. In fact, there are hundreds of portable applications7 you can use to carry your favorite programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings and email. You can use them on any Windows computer. All without leaving any personal data behind. Being open-source, portable applications provide a truly open platform that works with any hardware (USB flash drive, iPod, portable hard drive, etc).
A portable version of Mozilla Firefox has the full functionality of Firefox bundled in a tiny encapsulated package.
The main advantage of portable versions is the simple fact that they are usually much faster, can be used without installation and require less memory. So, for instance, the portable version of Firefox uses 35% less memory9. And you can test web-sites on some external machines immediately, without installing all the necessary browsers first.
Ordinary Firefox 126.96.36.199:
Portable Firefox 188.8.131.52 (same number of extensions and opened tabs):
You can use the portable version of your favourite browser without installing it on the machines:
- Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition12
Portable Edition is the Firefox bundled with a PortableApps.com Launcher as a portable app, so you can take your bookmarks, extensions and saved passwords with you.
- Opera Portable Personal13
You can manage multiple profiles at once. The profile file will contain all the settings you made while running. So, your settings, history, passwords etc. are packed into a single file, then they are overwritten and deleted on the host machine (so you leave no trace). When you run Opera Portable on another machine, your settings will be applied again.
- Internet Explorer 7 Standalone14
You can find a truly portable version of IE 7 in Google as well.
Flock is a social web browser based upon Firefox, with its own user interface and a number of unique “social” features. Instead of locally stored bookmarks Flockr uses public bookmarks, letting users add bookmarks to del.ico.us “on the fly”. The browser integrates Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Technorati and further services such as an RSS feed-reader.
Flock points users’ attention to available RSS-Feeds.
What makes Flock unique is its ability to improve the productivity of bloggers. E.g. you can publish your blog posts directly from your browser-window — a WYSIWYG-editor is preinstalled by default. You can also use a Web-Clipboard, Photo Uploader, a Mediabar for Flickr-Fotos etc. Flock was released in October 2005, the first stable version was available two years later. Flock uses Yahoo as a default search engine.
Safari (Mac / Win)
Safari21 belongs to Mac OS X just as Internet Explorer belongs to Windows. In both cases user interface is designed consistently with the common design used in the operating system. Since the mid 2007 Safari, with its elegant aqua design and and classic Mac user interface, is also available for Windows.
That’s no big news for Apple users, but quite interesting for Windows users who can now experience a quite new kind of text rendering. Safari is 2x faster than Internet Explorer. First beta-versions of Safari had a number of critical bugs, but the latest version is quite sophisticated and more or less stable. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Safari looks quite alien on Windows. Safari has solid and standards-compliant support for CSS, including a partial support of CSS3.
Shiira24 is a web browser based on Web Kit and written in Cocoa. The browser offers private browsing options so that history and cookies are not recorded when activated. The browser is of comparable stability and speed to Safari, making it among the fastest and most functional browsers for users of Mac OS X. One of the main advantages: elegant, breathtaking design and user interface.
The goal of the Shiira Project is to create a browser that is better and more useful than Safari. All source code used in this software is licensed under BSD and is publicly available.
Camino28‘s main aim is to integrate as well as possible with the Mac OS. It uses the Aqua user interface and integrates a number of Mac OS X services. E.g. you can use Keychain for password management and Bonjour for scanning available bookmarks across your local network.
You can migrate your Firefox data and extend Camino in similar ways, using differences in keyboard shortcuts described on the site. Camino uses the Gecko rendering engine, what is not typical for Mac OS applications. Camino also offers the feed detection, spell-checking, session saving and more. “Single window mode” tames sites that insist on opening new windows by forcing their new windows to open in tabs, keeping window clutter to a minimum. Open Source.
Not that this browser30 is actually green, but it’s a fresh, light and quite promising application with many useful tools you won’t find in your favourite web browsers. For instance, you can add the shortcuts of frequently used software applications in an external toolbar. Afterwards you can also set the option “Auto Start with GreenBrowser” or “Auto Close with GreenBrowser” to handle multiple applications at a time.
Besides, the browser also shows the state of the page; you can observe whether a file is downloaded, read or not, locked, protected, saved or bookmarked.
Among available options you’ll also find an ad filter, mouse gestures recognition, auto fill form, auto scroll, auto refresh, auto save, auto hide, quick key, skins and other features. Multiple languages are available. Unfortunately, the browser uses Trident as a rendering engine. 1.3 Mb.
Slim Browser (Windows)
Slim Browser33 is a tabbed multiple-site web browser that uses the Microsoft Trident rendering engine. That means that you can rescale tabs and group them within your browser as standalone windows. Slim Browser incorporates many useful features such as skinned window frame, hidden sites, built-in commands and scripting, RSS feed reader, blacklist / whitelist filtering and URL Alias.
Tabs can be saved in groups, which can then be opened at any time from the groups menu. You can also open only sites from that group, or have SlimBrowser open a group on startup. If the browser crashes, the opened tabs will be restored automatically.
Auto login enables you to to create an instant shortcut to a website you would normally need to type a username and password for – Slim Browser does it automatically.
K-Meleon35 is an extremely fast, customizable, lightweight web browser for Windows which is based on the Gecko layout engine. K-Meleon is free, open source software released under the GNU General Public License.
K-Meleon, as the title suggests, offers some middle thing between Firefox and Internet Explorer. From the technical point of view K-Meleon uses the Mozilla Gecko layout engine which stands for a modern, standard-conform site rendering. Optically K-Meleon resembles Internet Explorer. With the only difference that it has less features and functions. Thus the browser consumes less memory and loads pages faster.
K-Meleon after the installation (Win XP)
There is no reason to change from Firefox to K-Meleon, as there are minimal differences between both of them. So, for instance, you can use macros to accomplish typical daily routine tasks automatically; you can also use mouse gestures to let the software know what action it has to perform. Since you have identical site rendering in both Firefox and K-Meleon, the main advantage of the latter one lies in its very low memory usage: this browser is a nice alternative for older and not so powerful PCs.
xB Browser (Windows)
xB Browser38 (xB stands for XeroBank) is the free portable anonymous web browser. The benefit of xB is that it allows you to securely and anonymously surf the Web, bypass firewalls and website censorship. For enhanced privacy, xB Browser clears history of browsing and deletes cookies when you close the browser.
xB browser in action.
Maxthon42 (earlier MyIE2) is a powerful tabbed browser built for all users. Besides basic browsing functionality, Maxthon Browser provides a rich set of features to improve your surfing experience. Compared to other browsers, Maxthon offers a very user-friendly interface, with a number of skins and plugins. Maxthon is a browser Internet Explorer 6 could have become if Microsoft developers tried to invest more in an optimal user experience. Whatever task you have to accomplish with Maxthon, you always feel absolutely comfortable as the interface is extremely well through-out and intuitive.
Maxthon has the basic functionalities offered by Mozilla family and Opera. It also offers the Anti-Freeze functionality which reacts once the browser seems to have frozen. You can also add shortcuts of your programs in Maxthon, and start them with a single click. You can even set programs to start and shutdown with Maxthon Browser. Screen capture is integrated and URL key-shortcuts can be set up with few clicks.
Maxthon after the installation (Win XP)
Maxthon is basically an advanced skin for already existing Internet Explorer: you have a better browser experience, but it’s not necessarily more secure. Maxthon automatically imports all IE-Bookmarks in the engine.
Swift is a WebKit-based browser for Windows, which is supposed to render sites similarly to Safari. Except you can use it in Windows as a native web-browser. Although Safari offers a far more advanced alternative, Swift is currently in an early alpha version and may be improved in the future. What you’ll end up with in the end might be a classic Windows Vista application with integrated WebKit rendering engine.
Swift after the installation, the browser is in an early alpha stage.
Sleipnir46 is a Japanese tabbed web browser almost nobody (except Japanese users) actually have ever heard about. However, the browser is quite old; it also has an English version and requires Windows. The main idea behind Sleipnir is the integration of both Firefox and Internet Explorer by using both rendering engines (Gecko and Trident) in one application. The user can select between both engines via icons in the status bar. This is useful for web-developers, because you can detect critical rendering issues immediately using multiple tabs.
There are few plugins and skins; however some functionalities such as zoom or tab-preview (thumbnails) work only with one of the rendering engines (IE). The tabs can be placed against each other and can be ordered as a cascade. If you’ve got used to your old browser, you’ll miss some functionality in Sleipnir. You can also use a portable version for USB.
Sleipnir after the installation (Windows XP)
The Browse3D53 web browser is supposed to offer users a visual advantage making finding and using web information more productive. With Browse3D using multiple browsers is made easier because each web page is represented by an image of that page and not just a generic tab. There is a limited free Version. Browse3D uses the IE Rendering Engine.
3B55 is another 3D browser. Although it looks interesting, it’s also very commercial. To use the browser you need to register on the site. After registration you can navigate through 3D-rooms, which can be designed and customized by other users of the browser. This is quite exciting and unusual, however also quite complicated and slow. You can use a chat as well.
Bitty57 is a browser within a browser. Although it definitely won’t compete with Firefox or Safari, it might be quite useful in some situation. The browser can be integrated into web-pages and can display external web-sites or RSS-feeds. A tiny small navigation is available as well as the Google search. Unfortunately, Bitty has some ads as well.
Netscape / SeaMonkey
Yes, Netscape60, a descendant of Netscape Navigator, is actually still alive. However, since Netscape has lost its market share over the last decade, now it can be seen as a radical alternative to everything else browser market has to offer. What is interesting is that Netscape today is actually Firefox with a new skin. Navigator 9 is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Navigator is also included into SeaMonkey62, a free, open source, and cross-platform Internet suite that is the continuation of the former Mozilla Application Suite. SeaMonkey has inherited the all-in-one concept of the original Netscape Communicator and continues that product line based on the cross-platform architecture provided by the Mozilla project. It also has a Mail & Newsgroups client program, and an HTML editor, or Composer program. The SeaMonkey is available for Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
- 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/11/21/web-browsers-you-have-never-heard-of/
- 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Free_web_browsers
- 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiftweasel
- 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midori_%28browser%29
- 5 http://swiftweasel.sourceforge.net/
- 6 http://swiftweasel.tuxfamily.org/
- 7 http://portableapps.com/apps
- 8 http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
- 9 http://www.thinktechno.com/2007/10/07/comprehensive-guide-on-how-to-reduce-the-memory-usage-in-firefox/
- 10 http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
- 11 http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
- 12 http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
- 13 http://www.kejut.com/operaportable
- 14 http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2006/04/test-internet-explorer-7-without.html
- 15 http://www.flock.com/
- 16 http://www.flock.com/
- 17 http://www.flock.com/
- 18 http://www.flock.com/
- 19 http://flock.com/supported-services
- 20 http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/safari.html
- 21 http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/safari.html
- 22 http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/safari.html
- 23 http://shiira.jp/en
- 24 http://shiira.jp/en
- 25 http://shiira.jp/en
- 26 http://shiira.jp/en
- 27 http://caminobrowser.org/
- 28 http://caminobrowser.org/
- 29 http://caminobrowser.org/
- 30 http://www.morequick.com/IndexEn.htm
- 31 http://www.morequick.com/IndexEn.htm
- 32 http://www.morequick.com/IndexEn.htm
- 33 http://www.flashpeak.com/sbrowser/
- 34 http://www.flashpeak.com/sbrowser/
- 35 http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net/?switchlang=en
- 36 http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net/?switchlang=en
- 37 http://www.xerobank.com/
- 38 http://www.xerobank.com/
- 39 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/images/browser/xbbrowser-full.jpg
- 40 http://www.xerobank.com/
- 41 http://www.xerobank.com/
- 42 http://www.maxthon.com/
- 43 http://www.maxthon.com/
- 44 http://www.swift.ws/
- 45 http://www.swift.ws/
- 46 http://www.fenrir.co.jp/en/sleipnir/
- 47 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleipnir
- 48 http://www.fenrir.co.jp/en/sleipnir/
- 49 http://www.spacetime.com/
- 50 http://www.spacetime.com
- 51 http://ubrowser.com/
- 52 http://ubrowser.com/
- 53 http://www.browse3d.com/
- 54 http://www.browse3d.com/
- 55 http://3b.net/browser/newhome.html
- 56 http://3b.net/browser/newhome.html
- 57 http://www.bitty.com/
- 58 http://www.bitty.com/
- 59 http://browser.netscape.com/
- 60 http://browser.netscape.com/
- 61 http://mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/
- 62 http://mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/