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15 web browsers for Linux

Linux distros usually come with Firefox pre-installed and this means that it is the most commonly used web browser, but does this mean it is the best? Are the any alternatives to Firefox and are they any good? There are actually more web browsers for Linux than you might think and they offer a wide range of features. Some of them are clearly aimed at people who spend a lot of time on social networking websites, but others are fast at executing JavaScript and online applications and complex sites really fly. A few browsers are text only and do away with graphics altogether. Perhaps they're for minimalist Linux distros. Whatever your requirements you'll find a web browser with just the right range of features and the price is right too because they are all free.

To test the performance of the web browsers, two JavaScript speed tests were performed: Dromaeo V8 and Dromaeo SunSpider. You can try them yourself and see how fast the browsers are on your own PC. (Tip: try your regular browser and then try Chrome.) To test the web page rendering engine to check whether it can cope with the latest web design standards, three Acid Tests were used 1, 2 and 3. Try them in your own browser.


Chrome

Google ChromeChrome is, for those people that don't keep up with the latest web developments, Google's web browser. It's been on Windows for quite some time, but it's not been available for Linux quite as long. It's still a beta, but it's fine and version 5.0 was tested here. There are .deb files for Debian/Ubuntu and .rpm for Fedora/openSUSE and installation is a breeze. It ran through the three Acid Tests with no problems at all. Like Firefox, Chrome features extensions and these add extra features and functions to the browser. There are advert blockers, mail checkers, dictionaries, RSS tools, calendar checkers and much more. It's a good browser and it has some useful developer tools. It doesn't have as many features as some browsers, but it's under constant development and it's getting better with each release. With briliant JavaScript performance, this is the best browser available for Linux.

Price: Free.


Firefox

FirefoxFirefox is bundled with many Linux distros and so most people will have tried it. However, the bundled version probably isn't the latest one and it always seems to be a step behind. There's a Linux download at the Mozilla website, but replacing the old version might be beyond a novice. Firefox 3.5.7 ran Acid Tests 1 and 2 OK, but only completed 93/100 in Acid Test 3. The main attraction of Firefox is the large number of plug-ins and add-ons that are avaiblable. These add useful extra functions and features, like advert blocking, split browser window, speed dial, download managers and more. There are thousands of plug-ins. Not all work with every version of the browser and not all are free. However, there's still lots of them to choose from. Firefox has some good features, but it lags in the performance department. That's a shame.

Price: Free.


Flock

FlockFlock is a customised version of Firefox that is designed for social networking. For example, it's great with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, GMail, Yahoo! Mail and many more services. There is a toolbar containing buttons on the left and these open a panel on the left to display the social media websites you belong to. You can see your Twitter feed, check your email, open a media bar to display photos on Flickr, show RSS feeds, and much more. It has a clipboard that enables you to save text, links and images so you can use them elsewhere, there's a photo uploader to upload images to an account on a photo sharing site, and there's much more. The screen can be crowded with all these extra features, but if you've got the space and you're into social networking then it's really useful. The downside is that because it's based on Firefox, it's always a generation behind because it takes time to customise. Acid Tests 1 and 2 were OK, but it only managed 72/100 on Acid Test 3. Performance is poor, but the features are excellent.

Price: Free.


Opera

OperaThe first thing that you notice about Opera is the number of versions there are on the download page and this is excellent. All the top distros are catered for and it correctly detected Ubuntu and offered a .deb package. A couple of clicks of the mouse and Opera was installed, so why can't all software be like this? Opera doesn't have extensions like Google or plug-ins and add-ons like Firefox, but it does have it's own unique widgets. They are a bit like KDE Plasma widgets, only better. There are hundreds of Opera widgets and there are categories for mail, science, RSS, games, webcams, social websites, and so on. Widgets appear on the desktop without any window title or borders, and they are really useful. There are lots of great features in Opera, like thumbnails when you mouse-over a tab, a note-taking panel on the left, a turbo mode to speed up slow internet connections, bookmark syncronisation across computers, speed dial screen showing thumbnails of your favourite sites, and lots more. It completed Acid Tests 1, 2 and 3 with no problems. JavaScipt performance is poor, but it's got an accurate page rendering engine.

Price: Free.


Epiphany

EpiphanyEpiphany is a Gnome project and it should be downloaded using your distro's package manager. Ubuntu Synaptic Package Manager showed the latest version and so installation was a piece of cake. The browser uses the WebKit engine, which is well known for its page rendering capabilities, so it isn't surprising that it flew through the Acid Tests 1, 2, and 3 with no problems at all. Although it's a great engine, Epiphany is let down by being wrapped in a dull package. There aren't any extras, such as Chrome and Firefox plug-ins and extensions, Flock's social media extras, or Opera's widgets. It therefore seems boring and lacking features in comparison. all it has going for it is speed and accuracy. This is a shame, because it could be more attractively packaged. JavaScript performance is poor and Google is fat superior.

Price: Free.


Konqueror

KonquerorKonqueror is part of the KDE desktop and you wouldn't run it under Gnome. This limits its appeal, but if you are currently using KDE then it's worth checking out. The version you'll have depends on the version of KDE you are running, so get a distro with the latest desktop. Konqueror ran Acid Test 1 and 2 OK, but it struggled with 3, pausing in the middle, displaying some wrong text before stopping at 89/100. It's therefore the worst at rendering pages of the web browsers on test. However, it does have some nice features, so providing it works on the websites you normally visit, you might like it. For example, it integrates with other KDE services and tools, so it can speak the text on a web page, it uses Kget download manager, it has an advert blocker, you can easily enable or disable Java, JavaScript, cookies and other items, you can annotate the page, translate it from one language to another, such as French to English, and so on. In addition to failing Acid Test 3, it didn't run one of the JavaScript tests either. It's a sort of opposite to Epiphany, so it's page rendering is poor, but the extras are great. JavaScript performance is poor.

Price: Free.


SeaMonkey

SeaMonkeySeaMonkey looks like an old version of Netscape Navigator because of the interface that is used. The web page rendering engine is Gecko, which is used by Firefox, so it's a bit like having a customised version of Firefox. It performed just like Firefox and it passed Acid Tests 1 and 2, but stopped at 93/100 on Acid Test 3. So it's good, but not quite perfect. It has some interesting features (from Netscape) and the toobars and menus are collapsable. This increases the screen area, which might be useful on small screens like laptops and netbooks. It's main unique selling point is the Sidebar. This is a panel that opens on the left and it has tabs for search, bookmarks, history, and address book. More tabs can be installed from an online gallery, such as a DistroWatch tab that shows the latest news from that site. There's a cookie manager, image manager, pop-up manager, add-on manager, and password manager. SeaMonkey is a suite of applications that includes a browser, email, address book, web page editor and IRC chat. There's no automatic installation, but getting it working is quite easy. JavaScript performance is poor.

Price: Free.


JavaScript performance

Google's Chrome is so fast at executing JavaScript that it makes other browsers seem almost static. It's not just slightly faster, it's a whole order of magnitude faster. Of course, JavaScript performance isn't everything and there are other factors that are important, but it's good in most other departments too.

V8 - bigger bars are better
Chrome    0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
Firefox   00
Epiphany  00
SeaMonkey 00
Flock     0
Opera     0
Konqueror 0

SunSpider - bigger bars are better
Chrome    00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
Firefox   0000000000
Flock     0000
Opera     000
Epiphany  000
Konquer0r 0
SeaMonkey 0

Others worth considering

  • ELinks: Party like it was 1999 with this text-only web browser!
  • Lynx: If you thought ELinks was basic, wait till you try this!
  • Dillo: Not as full featured as Firefox, but graphical and OK.
  • Arora: Based on WebKit, which powers several browsers.
  • Swiftfox: A custom version of Firefox with AMD and Intel builds.
  • NetSurf: Small as a mouse, fast as a cheetah says the website.
  • Midori: Another browser based on WebKit, so it should be good.
  • GNUzilla and IceCat: GNUzilla is based on Mozilla suite and IceCat is based on Firefox.

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