The review of Gecko-based browsers
last week generated a great deal of feedback; this is evidently an area of
great interest to many users. We have just a few things to add to that
review this time around.
Thanks primarily to reader comments, your editor was able to resolve almost
all of his complaints with the Firefox browser. Image animation can be
controlled via the user-hostile about:config screen, the
prefs.js file found in a randomly-named directory under
~/.phoenix, or via plugin extensions. Antialiased fonts are to be
had by downloading the correct version of the browser. And so on. The
situation has improved to the point where your editor is now using Firefox
as his preferred browser.
The real key to the success of Firefox may well prove to be its extension
architecture. History has shown many times that, if an application
provides an easy mechanism for users to graft in additional or different
functionality, those users will run with it. The lengthy list of extensions
available for Firefox shows that this browser has reached a critical mass
in this regard. Extensions are available to provide all kinds of
navigation tools, to help with weblogging, to assist in web page authoring,
and many other tasks including, inevitably, playing Tetris. It would be
nice not to have to go find an extension to replace the missing "up"
navigation button, but it's nice that you can. One can only hope
that the security implications of encouraging users to download and install
browser plugins have been thought through.
If last week's review were to be written today, the conclusion
might have been written a little differently. Firefox has a level of
performance, reliability, and features that well exceeds the other
Gecko-based browsers available. One might well wonder why Galeon and
Epiphany continue to exist; they appear to be trying to do the same thing
as Firefox but - at this moment in time, anyway - they do it less reliably
and with fewer features. (Do see, however, this posting on why Red Hat is shipping
Epiphany for a different view).
As we noted last week, there could well be a
place for multiple browser projects, but each should be looking for a
unique way to extend the state of the art.
Meanwhile, your editor also found the time to get Konqueror 3.2 working. Konqueror is
everything its proponents claim it is: a fast, powerful and robust tool for
navigating through information, be it on the local system or on the net.
Your editor has never had much use for file managers, and so does not place
much value on Konqueror's implementation. He can see, however, that
Konqueror does look like a very nice file manager. The web browser is
capable and fast, and highly configurable. Some features, such as the
ability to change the identification string to get past certain difficult
web site programmers, are unique.
What Konqueror still seems to be lacking, however is a password manager.
Security-conscious users may feel better off without this feature, but the
simple fact is that it has gotten hard to keep track of the long list of
usernames and passwords needed to access many useful sites on the web. A
password manager can be most useful when trying to remember which login
information was used to get into some obscure site with its own strange
rules. It is surprising, really, that Konqueror has not picked up this
That notwithstanding, if Konqueror were the only browser available for
Linux systems, we would be in good shape. Linux is second to no other
system now in the quality of its web browsing support. It will be more
than interesting to see where things go from here as the various projects
look for new ways to extend the state of the art.
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