Mostly Unknown Web Browsers

Every knows about Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, maybe even Opera (heh, sorry). On this day I want to talk about and introduce you to some web browsers you have probably never heard of before. I am not saying all of these browsers are great, but they at least deserve a cursory look.

Note: I’ve chosen not to write about Conkeror, my personal favorite, because you can find previous articles about it in my blog’s archives.

Lunascape

At first glance Lunascape may not look impressive. However, it has a major feature which should catch the attention of all web developers: Lunascape let’s you use three different rendering engines. You can seamlessly switch between the engines…

  1. Gecko (Firefox)
  2. Trident (Internet Explorer)
  3. WebKit (Chrome and Safari)

Every web developer runs into problems where everything looks fine on one browser, but then breaks when testing the same software in a different browser. Switching between browsers for testing can be tedious. Lunascape’s greatest strength is how it smooths over this process.

Bitty

Bitty is a browser within your browser. Just kind of pause for a moment to think about that. As the site says, “it’s like picture-in-picture for the Web.” It comes with a number of pre-configured sources from which you can load information, e.g. BBC News, YouTube, Amazon, et al.

To top it all off you can embed Bitty into your own site by simply copy-and-pasting some HTML. So if you ever need a web browser built into your site—well, there ya go.

Lynx

Some tech-savvy people may already be familiar with Lynx, because for many years it has been the text-based browser. But why use a browser with no GUI?

For one, it eliminates the many distractions that come in the form of images and video. And the Lynx’s performance is nice since it avoids such media. Lynx is useful for reading documentation (for example) for this same reason. It skips any fancy styling and lets you get right to the content. I personally find it great for reading forums due to its text-only, bare-bones presentation.

Another reason you may want to use Lynx is that it supports a lot of protocols which modern browsers have dropped. I doubt most of you find yourself needing to open URIs using protocols like gopher://, wais://, nntp://, or finger://. But if you ever do, Lynx has you covered.

Finally, some software requires you to configure a ‘default browser’, and if you want something that starts quickly you can’t beat Lynx.

ELinks is another text-based browser but one which allows you to use the mouse. It is also superior to Lynx in some areas, such as how it renders frames and tables. You can customize its behavior using either Lua or Guile. (Wow—Guile?) ELinks is also the only text-based browser I’ve seen that supports tabbed browsing. If you’re interested in trying out such a browser but don’t want to go too ‘extreme’ with something like Lynx then you may find ELinks to your liking.

Maxthon

Maxthon is a sleek and slick browser constructed around the cloud. It runs on all major operating systems, including iOS and Android. The interface is clean and intuitive. But it’s coolest feature is how it stores information about your browsing habits via the cloud. For example, if I were to use Maxthon on a friend’s Windows computer then I could still access my history from using Maxthon here in my Linux box. It can even persist open tabs across different platforms.

If you’re always on the go and using different computers, Maxthon could be a Godsend.

uzbl

Uzbl follows the Unix Philosophy for software, avoid using vowels whenever possible do one thing, do it well, and make it work well with other programs, ideally by communicating via plain text.

There is a more friendly version of uzbl, humorously called ‘uzbl-browser’, which you can use for a more comfortable experience. But uzbl’s selling point is how you can script it. Uzbl does little in the way of being helpful or intuitive, but in the hands of a programmer it can be a powerful tool, e.g. automating the extraction of information from certain sites or piping in data from another program into Uzbl to store it in another site. The possibilities are infinite.

Once again, I would not recommend it for users who want a convenient browser. But if you’re a programmer who wants to customize every little thing about your browser then you may want Uzbl.

Flock

I could not download this, as you’ll see from its site. But from what I’ve read it claims to be built around utilizing social media. To what end? I don’t know. But it sounds interesting and I’m looking forward to see it.

Honorable Mentions

In the future I may write more details about these.

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