2002 Linux Web Browser Review
A Review by Rob Valliere:
Late last year, I upgraded my Red Hat system from 7.1 to 7.2 and was keen to review the newer Linux Web browsers. I use Evolution for Email and I needed advanced Web download facilities. Other than that, I had a open mind when I started the evaluation. The latest browser versions have improved considerably in the past few months; they were all stable, standards compliant and loaded with solid feature enhancements and additions. The best browsers are Galeon 1.0.3, Mozilla 0.9.8 and Opera 6.0 TP3. While all of the browsers run surprisingly fast on slower CPUs, you need 256MB of RAM for Red Hat 7.2 with the KDE desktop.
Browser Installations and Upgrades
The easiest way to install the browsers is from the most recent Linux distribution CDs, whether SuSE, Mandrake or Red Hat. The releases available with Red Hat 7.2 included Galeon 0.11.3, Konqueror 2.2.1, and Mozilla 0.9.2.1. Ximian provides a CD-ROM with the Ximian Desktop (US$30) for many Linux distributions, including the full GNOME package with the Galeon and Mozilla browsers. A CD version of Netscape is available and several third party companies offer KDE on CD for a small fee. Due to the dramatic improvements in the 2002 releases, downloading the newest stable version from the Web is recommended, although not all are easy to upgrade!
The following Web browsers were downloaded (except Konqueror), installed or upgraded, and reviewed:
Konqueror 2.2.1 (from Red Hat 7.2 CD)
Netscape 6.2.1 (an integrated download/install from 8.5 to 25 MB)
Galeon 1.0.3 (from Ximian, multiple RPMs 20.0 MB download)
Mozilla 0.9.8 (from Ximian, 4 RPMs 12.0 MB download)
Opera 6.0 TP3 (a 4.0 MB static RPM download)
The best downloads and installs were from Opera and Mozilla, which have minimal dependencies and should install on any newer Red Hat, Mandrake, Debian, or SuSE distribution. The Opera 6.0 TP3 static RPM version was the smallest download at 4MB (deb and tar versions also available). The complete Mozilla 0.9.8 download for Red Hat 7.x was 12.0 MB in 4 RPMs (tar versions also available).
While Galeon 1.0.3 itself is a small download (2.0 MB RPM), it requires Mozilla 0.9.8 and needs a fairly up-to-date set of GNOME library RPMs. Finding out what dependencies are needed may require some effort and depends on the version of GNOME installed. For my installation of Red Hat 7.2 with GNOME, the upgrade from Galeon 0.11.3 to 0.12.4-ximian worked fine and required about 30 MB, including Galeon, Mozilla and other GNOME RPMs. But upgrading to 1.0.3-ximian resulted in newsreader plugin and mime type problems.
Netscape does not provide standard Linux install files, but uses a slick integrated download/install facility that officially only supports Red Hat Linux 6/7. An initial small tar.gz file must be downloaded, uncompressed and then executed while on-line. The install program provides options to select the suite features and the download ranges from 8.0 to over 25 MB. Included is a option to save the downloaded files, but I was not able to re-install using these files.
To get the latest version of the Konqueror Web browser, you need to upgrade KDE including qt, kdelibs and kdebase. While this is possible, my personal experience with upgrading Red Hat 7.1's KDE was a disaster. I have read this: "Failure is not an option. It comes bundled with your Microsoft product." Don't you believe it. After downloading 37 rpm files totaling 69 MB, the upgrade destroyed my system!
The Best Browsers on Linux
On my Pentium II 300MHz with 224MB of RAM running Red Hat 7.2 and using the KDE desktop, the browsers that impressed me the most were Galeon, Mozilla and Opera:
Galeon is a lightweight GNOME/GTK browser based on the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine. Its interface is the most user-friendly, offers the best Tabbed browsing, and provides excellent integration and customization. As I use many GNOME applications that run well under KDE, Galeon is my favorite Web browser primarily due to its speed, usability and integration with Downloader for X. The downside of Galeon can be upgrading due to GNOME dependencies.
For a full browser suite, the latest Mozilla was the most impressive and like Netscape, has the best looking interface, is available on multiple platforms and includes a good help system. But unlike Netscape, Mozilla is rapidly developing, is easy to upgrade, is better than Internet Explorer/Outlook Express and includes some great features: it can use Tabs by default and saves complete Web pages perfectly.
Opera provides the smallest download, is the fastest browser with many features and has the most configuration options. If you have an open mind on software or need a multi-platform program, this is an excellent Web browser for US$40. Should Opera release an Open-Source version for Linux and include all the features from the Windows version, this could become the number one Linux Browser!
Konqueror is fast and fully integrated with KDE's File Manager and desktop. Its very configurable and is ideal for KDE users who do not install GNOME. In Red Hat 7.1, Konqueror had stability and compatibility problems; the newer version is better and I use it for local browsing due to its speed and KDE integration. However, the Web browser still has a few problems, is lacking in features, and its upgrade options are very limited.
The Best Features
Tabbed Browsing efficiently uses multiple windows (tabs) within the main Window: Opera pioneered this concept on Windows and uses Tabs by default, Galeon offers File - New Tab, and Mozilla offers File - New - Tab. However, both Galeon and Mozilla can be configured to use Tabs by default. With Galeon, I have set-up Tabbed Browsing as the default and added a New Window button to my taskbar; when this Button is clicked, a new Tabbed Window is created. And simpling clicking any link with the middle mouse button or dragging it to the New Window button opens the page in a new Tab. With the Tab menu or using drag and drop, I can move the Tabs left, right or to another window. Web browsing with Galeon has never been easier! Opera and Mozilla will open any page in a New Tab when a link is dragged to the Window bar. While the Tabs in Opera and Galeon are very functional, Galeon's configuration options are the best, and Mozilla has the best looking tabs including a right-click Tab menu.
Galeon, Mozilla and Opera Tabbed Browsing
User Interface. The latest version of Mozilla with the cool Modern Theme is the best looking, especially its Tabs, Sidebar and Bookmark window. But Galeon's interface is cleaner and the most intuitive. Konqueror, Opera and Galeon have the best File Dialog Boxes with file/folder tools; Konqueror and Opera include the ability to sort and show hidden files; Konqueror is the only browser that uses a single click to open folders! I prefer the GNOME way of presenting separate Folder and File boxes as its easier to navigate than the single box used with all other browsers.
Browser Downloading from http/ftp sites. As my connections to the Internet are slow, download tools with acceleration and transfer resume features were my priorities. One of the key features of Galeon is integration that includes built-in and GNOME handlers for both download protocols, but can also use an external program with configuration options for default download folder and auto download. So when I click on any down-loadable link in Galeon, Downloader for X 1.30 (a 1.0 MB RPM download) automatically handles everything, including automatic file transfer resumes! For anyone familiar with IE 5.x and Download Accelerator Plus 5.0, the Galeon/Downloader for X combination is superior! Galeon's download command for this magic is "nt %s". Opera includes its own very capable Transfer facility, but can not be configured to use an external program.
Saving Web pages correctly with content (graphic, js and css files) in a folder. Mozilla does this by default with Save Page As and Galeon offers an option to Save with Content; like IE, both automatically save the content in a separate folder based on the html file name. Konqueror has a Archive Web page tool that compresses all files into a single tgz file, a very nice feature! Opera has a Save with Images option, but you must manually create a folder for each page. Once feature missing in the saved files is the original URL. MS IE inserts the following line in all saved pages , so you can always find out where the page came from.
Customization. Galeon's Preferences is the best design, is very configurable and the great GTK features like menu and toolbar tear-offs are available when run under KDE. Mozilla/Netscape and Konqueror are quite configurable, but Opera has the most flexible options using Preferences, View Menu or right click context menus. Only Konqueror, Opera and Galeon have Preference dialogs with Apply | Okay | Close-Cancel buttons. Toolbars: Galeon's Toolbar is very easy to personalize. For buttons, I use the small Mozilla modern theme and have added Find, New and Clear Location buttons. Mozilla/Netscape have Personal toolbars that are very configurable. Konqueror offers extensive toolbar customization, but is somewhat complicated. Opera has the most toolbars that can be easily configured. Sidebars: Mozilla/Netscape have the best looking Sidebars that can be customized; Opera provides a Hotlist with Contact, Bookmarks and configurable Panels that can be docked or appear in a Tab; Galeon's Bookmarks or History can be docked; and Konqueror offers Bookmarks and History with full customization using the extended sidebar.
Galeon, Mozilla and Opera Preferences
Other Impressive Features
Performance: On a Pentium II 300MHz with 224MB of RAM, Opera was the fastest with rendering large pages, and both Opera and Konqueror loaded much faster than the Mozilla-based applications.
Bookmarks: All have good bookmark managers including import/export, and the best include drag-n-drop. Galeon is the winner with a manager window that can be docked and includes AutoBookmarks and Smart Bookmarks. Konqueror is also very good and fully integrated into KDE. I use Konqueror locally and export/import into Galeon. View Bookmark menu screen comparison . Opera can be configured to import KDE, Netscape and IE bookmarks on startup, and includes extensive sorting options.
Password management: This excellent facility is limited to the 3 Mozilla-based browsers, and both Mozilla and Netscape offer password encryption. Using Galeon, I log onto sites using different accounts. The first time, I can save the login data if I want to. When I return to the site, I get a list of accounts to select from.
Cookie management: All provide good tools including policy, maintenance and warning settings. But Konqueror and Opera have the best warning dialogs with details and options.
History. All provide history facilities, but the best have group, field and search options: Mozilla/Netscape have the most features.
Crash Recovery: Galeon and Opera are the best. With 6 active tabs, I killed Galeon, then restarted it. I was asked if I wanted to restore my connections. Opera offers a similar facility.
Change Browser Identify: This very useful feature is available as menu options in Konqueror and Opera.
Integration, either built-in or capable of using external programs:
External Applications: Opera provides 5 options, Galeon 3, and Konqueror allows Email only.
Newsreader: The Mozilla/Netscape suites provide very good newsreaders. Galeon uses the Mozilla newsreader as a plugin, but is somewhat problematic. Konqueror uses KDE's KNode, which is an excellent newsreader, and Opera can be configured to use KNode.
Email: Galeon, Opera and Konqueror can use Evolution or other Email clients. Mozilla and Netscape have their own excellent built-in email.
Contacts: Opera and Mozilla/Netscape have built-in contacts.
Downloads: Galeon offers the most options and is the only browser that can use external download managers. Opera has a dedicated Transfer window and its Download Dialog Box has the most options. Opera and Galeon are the only browsers that provide default download location options.
Plugin Support: Most of the browsers support the Netscape plugins: (Java, Flash, QuickTime, Acrobat and Real Player).
Multiple Platform Support: Opera, Mozilla and Netscape are available for Linux, Windows and Mac.
Manuals and Web Support: Mozilla/Netscape include the best Help systems; the Opera and Galeon manuals are reasonable. For Web support, Netscape and Opera have the best support features and Netscape has a very useful plugin page. And the Mozilla newsgroups are very good.
Browser Performance under KDE
Konqueror and Opera loaded much faster than the Mozilla-based browsers. While all the browsers loaded the smaller pages fast, Opera was the fastest and Konqueror was twice as fast as the Mozilla-browsers with the very large page. These results were from Red Hat 7.2 and KDE running on a Pentium II 300MHz with 224MB of RAM.
The tests were conducted after boot-up and started with Konqueror. For loading times, the first value is first time load, the second value is the average of the second and third loads and the final value is the average of the 3 load times. The tests were re-run in the reverse order, starting with Netscape. The only apparent differences were in the first load times: Mozilla/Netscape took longer while Galeon took less. The swap file not utilized during the tests. Rendering times were conducted from a local Apache server on 3 html files. Browser caches were cleared before testing, and sizes were set to 2048KB RAM (where available) and 5000KB disk. The results are the average of 2 tests. Page loading progress status was excellent in Opera and Mozilla.
1st | 2/3rd | Average:
8 | 4 | 5
8 | 3.5 | 5
15 | 5 | 8
12 | 10 | 11
15 | 9 | 11
122K htm + 90K gifs
425K htm HOWTO
1.8MB htm HOWTO
Browser Page Rendering
Konqueror can display Web pages using anti-aliased fonts if KDE has this option turned on. I downloaded gdkxft 1.5.2 including the Mozilla 0.9.8 patch to test this feature with Mozilla and Galeon. It was difficult to configure gdkxft, but I did manage to get GNOME applications to use anti-aliased fonts. However, Mozilla and Galeon failed to run using the patched Mozilla library.
Configuration: For Opera's page and system fonts, I needed to change 16 default page fonts to match my system fonts. With Opera and Netscape, I needed to manually add a mime type for viewing PDF files. When configuring each browser for page rendering, some browsers use Points, others use Pixels. I could not get the Adobe Acrobat plugin to work with Mozilla or Galeon.
Problems: Mozilla and Netscape inconsistently tried to load a Web page on startup. Opera's Add Hotlist Panel feature crashed the program, although the new Hotlist Panels were available after restarting. After upgrading to the latest version of Galeon, the newsreader plugin was buggy and crashed, and the PDF viewer disappeared. After spending some time on the Web, I found a somewhat messy solution. I backed up my bookmarks, then removed the Galeon configuration files, ran galeon-config-tool and then had to setup my preferences multiple times, due to some configuration caching.
to see the original article: http://www.robval.com/linux/2002/browsers.html