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Web Browsers: The Best

Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps
By

The Web browser is essential, and to a growing number of users even more important than the operating system itself. As more tasks commonly associated with locally-installed applications are being accomplished using online services, the Web browser will only become more critical in the future. If Firefox seems like the de facto browser for Linux, that's because it is. However, Windows users will remember late last year when Internet Explorer security holes drove them en masse to Firefox, only to later discover similar exploits in Firefox. This incident drove home the need to have multiple browsers installed, if only for emergency backup use.

To put these browsers through a quick (and admittedly unscientific) test, I utilized some of the Internet's most popular Web sites. For starters, I performed a few random searches on Google to gauge page-load speed. Next, I simply navigated to the Yahoo homepage. Believe it or not, that site doesn't support very many browsers. I navigated to my house using the maps at Microsoft's new Bing.com (why not test in unfriendly territory?). And finally, I played the current feature video on Hulu, and the same on YouTube.

Mozilla Firefox (v. 3.0.11)

Mozilla's Firefox is the undisputed king of Web browsers on the Linux platform. No matter what any given distribution has installed by default, the vast majority of Linux users rely on Firefox as their primary window into the World Wide Web. It's popularity is due in large part to the unparalleled number of custom add-ons and plug-ins available. If a feature exists on any browser, there's probably an add-on to enable it in Firefox.

This browser is more stable and secure than Internet Explorer, while still performing similarly on Web site compatibility. With all this going for it, it's no wonder that Firefox holds almost one quarter of the entire Web browser market share. That means about twenty percent of current Windows users prefer it. If you don't already use this browser, regardless of your OS, you should.

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Opera (v. 9.64)

For many years, Opera has been the third wheel at the browser party. Today, it's more like the fifth. Opera has had a long history of innovation, often including cutting-edge features before the competition. By including a thumbnailed bookmarks page, thumbnailed tab previews, and split-screen browsing (not as optional add-ons, but integrated into the default installation), the latest version of Opera is still ahead of it's time.

One of the simple features that I especially like is the ability to have a separate entry in the search bar for each tab. For example, if you search for "fried chicken recipes" in one tab, and open a second tab to search for "cornbread recipes," the search bar in the second tab will not have "fried chicken recipes," but will be blank for a new search. If nothing else, Opera is a solid backup or secondary browser and is available for just about every operating system you can think of. BeOS stalwarts rejoice!



SeaMonkey (v. 1.1.15)

The first thing that you're sure to notice about SeaMonkey Navigator is the Netscape Navigator theme. Of all the browsers in this article, SeaMonkey was the biggest surprise. It is hands-down the best non-mainstream offering on the list, no question. This browser had no problem handling YouTube, Hulu, Yahoo, or even Microsoft Bing Maps. Apart from the theme, being an actual descendant of Netscape makes SeaMonkey very approachable to ex-users of Navigator. When you perform a search using the search bar, a pane appears on the left side of the screen displaying search results. This feature can come in handy if you have the screen real estate to spare on a wide-screen monitor. I really did not expect to find anything decent besides Firefox and Opera, but SeaMonkey is truly a great app; something that will remain installed on my machine long after this article is finished.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 6:39 AM
    tacoslavemy web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.

    I run Linux on my old notebook and the experience is more than just satisfying. In fact most of the office work I do on that notebook is now done in linux an Win are used only to play. If linux only got some more games...
  • 12 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 7:04 AM
    allow me to say this in a simple minded manner ...

    for the dumb there is OS X
    for the weak there is windows
    for the rest there is LINUX

    If u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.

    p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED :) 
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    tacoslave , September 15, 2009 6:29 AM
    my web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.
  • 15 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 6:39 AM
    tacoslavemy web machine runs on linux and i find the experience to be quite satisfying but i still game on windows.

    I run Linux on my old notebook and the experience is more than just satisfying. In fact most of the office work I do on that notebook is now done in linux an Win are used only to play. If linux only got some more games...
  • 12 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 7:04 AM
    allow me to say this in a simple minded manner ...

    for the dumb there is OS X
    for the weak there is windows
    for the rest there is LINUX

    If u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.

    p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED :) 
  • 4 Hide
    Hellbound , September 15, 2009 7:19 AM
    CharlesXumaallow me to say this in a simple minded manner ... for the dumb there is OS Xfor the weak there is windows for the rest there is LINUXIf u find my statement offensive, then DO something about it dont just sit there winning about it. (LEARN) Remember we were all DUMB ONCE.p.s : GAMERS NOT INCLUDED


    ding fries are done....
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 7:21 AM
    For FTP you can also simply use nautilus, the file manager. Just click file->connect to server (or in the menu bar places->connect to server)
  • 1 Hide
    cybrcatter , September 15, 2009 8:12 AM
    CharlesXuma:
    You truly covered all of you bases in that post.

    I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.
    I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.
  • 1 Hide
    mitch074 , September 15, 2009 8:26 AM
    I'm a Linux user. I'm not a big gamer.

    Still, that Nexuiz thingie gives my RadeonHD 4850 a workout. Chromium B.S.U. might be old but it's nice looking and addictive. And TORCS is not for the faint of heart. And...

    Well, if you go and dig into the results of 'linux games' in Google, you can find nice stuff.
  • 1 Hide
    dragoon190 , September 15, 2009 9:15 AM
    Thought you can run most of the games through wine
  • 0 Hide
    charlesxuma , September 15, 2009 9:42 AM
    u actually can run most of your games through wine, however if ur a hardcore gamer that installs and plays many (as in 20+) new games, wine still needs development for these kinds of users, your better off having windows os on the side, for that task in particular.

    There is an exception, but it will cost you a monthly fee, that hooks wine on to a software that updates installation and compatibility on a regular basis.(for the ones who can't configure wine themselves.)
  • -2 Hide
    crash27 , September 15, 2009 9:46 AM
    The mouse lag drives me nuts.
    got a gmae server up but it took so long I reinstalled windows and hit the install button. Server was up in less than 2 minutes.

    Linux is great if you have hours and hours to get it all working......
    oh and if you don't mind waiting to se where you moved your mouse all the time.
    No wait move it back just a little.....
  • 1 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 9:55 AM
    cybrcatterCharlesXuma:You truly covered all of you bases in that post.I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.


    I'm afraid that for the most companies "efficient use of their capital" means outsourcing (and "downsizing" the number of workers).
    As for companies SWITCHING from Windows to Linux there are many obstacles, like in the process of doing so the working process in the company would be affected or even partially halted; employees often don't like to change the software they are used to work with (although working with most software packets in Linux is not so much different than in Windows - especially office applications); possible hardware compatibility problems; but most of all the biggest problem is Windows licensing: you can hardly buy a computer without Windows already installed - if you switch to Linux you "throw away" the money paid for the license.

    The interesting statistics would be how many of NEW FOUNDED companies are using Linux as they don't all the problems mentioned above and are also strapped of cash.
  • -7 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 9:59 AM
    cybrcatterCharlesXuma:You truly covered all of you bases in that post.I was hoping that with the recession, perhaps companies who were really trying to make more efficient use of their capital would start to look at Linux as a tempting prospect.I wounder if there are any intriguing statistics about this.


    I'm afraid that for the most companies "efficient use of their capital" means outsourcing (and "downsizing" the number of workers).
    As for companies SWITCHING from Windows to Linux there are many obstacles, like in the process of doing so the working process in the company would be affected or even partially halted; employees often don't like to change the software they are used to work with (although working with most software packets in Linux is not so much different than in Windows - especially office applications); possible hardware compatibility problems; but most of all the biggest problem is Windows licensing: you can hardly buy a computer without Windows already installed - if you switch to Linux you "throw away" the money paid for the license.

    The interesting statistics would be how many of NEW FOUNDED companies are using Linux as they don't have all the problems mentioned above and are also strapped of cash.
  • -4 Hide
    ibnsina , September 15, 2009 10:33 AM
    No doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows.

    Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 10:59 AM
    Linux developers need to learn how to design a efficient user interface. The fact that a commercial Unix (OS X) has the most usable interface between the hundreds of linux/unix distros is a testament of their flawed philosophy of "open software is always better"
  • 0 Hide
    C 64 , September 15, 2009 11:22 AM
    Quote:
    ibnsinaNo doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows. Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.


    There already is an cut down version of Linux with a smooth user friendly GUI - it is called OS X (the mass market aspect is questionable though) :) .

    As pretty much everything with Linux the graphical interfaces come in various shapes and sizes (so to say). In Windows you are pretty much locked in AERO GUI but there are several different GUI's.
    Most popular are GNOME and KDE - and at least they don't lack in usability compared to Windows.
  • 1 Hide
    sanctoon , September 15, 2009 1:05 PM
    ibnsinaNo doubt Linux is more stable and reliable than Windows, however where it falls behind is graphics user interface and usability. A simplified and cut down version of Linux should be made for the mass market, with a smooth user-friendly GUI that can match Windows. Even then it would be still unlikely Linux can threat windows, because the dollar rules, major software companies are here to make money.


    My Jaunty GUI is much more efficient than any windows one. Thats the beauty of it all, the customizability. If you ever think, oh it would be nice if my GUI could do that or look like this, chances are, with a bit of google you could do it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 1:08 PM
    Thanks for the list toms!
    If this where an article that covered all programs it wouldn't be up by 100%, but 100x.
    There are nearly 1000 free apps for Linux, and a couple of hundred payed or semi payed apps.

    It also greatly differs from which version of Linux. Most apps talked about here work in a gnome/denian based Linux. There's also Slaxx, or redhat based linux.
    Programs that work in Ubuntu may not always work in Mandriva, or DSL.

    But it's a good list of options in case I would want to switch to a Buntu style Linux.
  • 3 Hide
    syedcdp , September 15, 2009 1:15 PM
    At last, I see an article related Linux after a very long time on TH. Did I miss any articles btw?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2009 2:11 PM
    pepe_2: I assume you're completely ignorant to Linux, Linux is very, very useable, but the UI isn't dumbed down to MacOSX levels, and I wouldn't want it to be. I take it you're a Mac user, is that 2-button mouse a bit too complicated for you?


    PS: Nice article, I appreciate the attempts to spread awareness. I use Linux as my main OS, and I would never go back to Windows now, most people don't switch just because they don't realize that Linux can do everything they need it to. Kubuntu9.10 is just amazing, I tried the alpha live CD, with the new video driver, it runs fast even on my crappy 5 y/o Intel IGP.
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