6 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance

Are Edge, Firefox or Chrome slowing your machine -- or are they simply more than you need? We look at some alternatives.

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Midori

Developer: Christian Dywan

Reviewed version: 0.5.4

OS support Windows, Elementary OS and *Nix systems

License: LGPL v2.1

Midori -- which means "green" in Japanese -- is an open-source Web browser that has a simple user interface. It is a GTK-based browser that is written in the C and Vala programming languages and uses the WebKit rendering engine.

It comes as a part of the Xfce desktop environment and comes pre-installed with some Linux-based operating systems like Elementary OS and Bodhi Linux. It also has a nice range of features, such as HTML5 support, anonymous browsing, etc.

Midori
Midori offers many configurable options like tabbed browsing, privacy settings, font/display settings and startup settings under the preferences option in the main menu.

What's new

Release 0.5.4 includes improvements in error page display, information on network errors and thumbnail generation. Developers will also be happy to hear that this version comes with glib 2.32.2, allowing users to build their own versions of Midori under Ubuntu 12.04. In addition, new features like default zoom level preference were also added, while there are also fixes for crashes and segfaults.

What's good about it

I like Web browsers with simple user interfaces, and the first thing that impressed me about Midori was the easy and uncluttered interface; in fact, it looks quite similar to Firefox's. All it consists of is a single-click menu icon, an address bar, a search bar and a few important buttons such as add a new tab, add a bookmark, refresh and back/forward navigation. This means that the Web page occupies the maximum amount of display area.

Midori provides many useful browsing features such as HTML5 support, bookmarks, RSS support and a spell checker. By default, Midori will remember tabs opened in the last session, which can be quite useful in case of a power failure or a crash.

It also offers many configurable options like tabbed browsing, privacy settings, font/display settings and startup settings under the preferences option in the main menu.

Midori is fast. In fact, it tested as the fastest of the browsers reviewed here (Firefox actually came out as the speed leader). It loaded most popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Gmail in less than a second, and had no problems with any of the graphics.

Midori supports all the standard keyboard shortcuts -- I could open a new tab with Ctrl+T, go to the address bar using Ctrl+L, go to the search bar using Ctrl+K, save a bookmark using Ctrl+D or navigate between tabs using Alt+1, Alt+2, etc.

Midori -- being user-privacy conscious -- uses DuckDuckGo (a search engine that doesn't collect or share user information) as its default search engine. (You can set it to use other engines such as Google and Yahoo, if you prefer.) Another thing that I liked about Midori is the private browsing feature using a separate launch icon. When you open Midori in private browsing mode, it clearly lets you know the details regarding how the browser helps to keep the browsing private in this mode.

I was especially impressed by the trash icon that sits left of the main menu icon; it can be used to bring back any tab that was closed recently. Though I was used to Shift+Ctrl+T or (History --> Recently Closed Tabs) to do the same thing with Firefox, this makes it easier than ever to open any of the recently closed tabs.

Other considerations

Compared to browsers such as Firefox, a stripped-down browser like Midori offers few features and configuration options -- which is the price you pay for efficiency. For example, no bookmarks are available while browsing in privacy mode, which can be frustrating sometimes. In addition, Midori still has a long way to go in terms of extension support.

I missed the ability to use a single mouse-click on, say, a plus icon to open a new browser tab (though the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+T worked perfectly fine). The location bar can be used to enter user search queries (with an option to use any of the supported search engines), but still there is still a separate search bar in the top right corner, which seemed an unnecessary waste of space to me.

And there are a few kinks to be worked out. For example, the use of http:// is mandatory when you're entering the startup home page in preferences. I tried entering google.com as my home page preference, but the browser showed a blank page every time until I replaced google.com with http://google.com.

Bottom line

Midori is no real threat to Firefox/IE/Chrome, but can be used as an alternate primary browser (unless you use a Mac). I would recommend that users of these mainstream browsers try out Midori, as it not only loads/renders fast but is light on resources and has all the necessary features for day-to-day work.

BRAVE

Developer: Brave Software
OS support desktop (macOS, Win 32, Win 64, Linux: Debian/Ubuntu, Fedora/openSUSE) and mobile (iOS and Android).
License: MPL-2.0

Brave, co-founded in 2015 by Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, and Brian Bondy, formerly of Khan Academy and Mozilla, is a newer addition to the line-up of lesser known browsers. The open-source browser automatically blocks third-party cookies, ads, trackers, and autoplaying videos. Brave does this by default -- no extensions are required. The browser also provides fingerprinting protection, which blocks recognizable attempts to uniquely identify your computer, as well as HTTPS Everywhere, which provides automatic secure connections wherever available.

By blocking third-party ads, Brave claims this is the key to providing faster browsing. The company claims that on Android, Brave is six times faster than Chrome, but we have not yet confirmed that figure.

Brave disables Flash by default, and if users enable Flash they will be asked to re-enable it after seven days. Otherwise, it reverts back to its default setting.
The browser also has an integrated micropayments system that allows users to support their favorite sites (Brave Payments, under Preferences>Payments). This service is opt-in and anonymously rewards sites that a user wants to support.

Conclusion

Each browser reviewed here has its own pros and cons.

Lynx is definitely not for end users. It is for pros who either do not have any GUI support (such as system administrators working on server machines) or for those who are still working on legacy systems that do not support GUI browsers.

Dillo has a very low memory footprint -- next to Lynx, it tested with the lowest footprint of all the browsers covered here. However, it has limitations when it comes to Flash/Java/JavaScript-based websites. For me, it's a useful secondary browser.

Epiphany and Konqueror integrate well with Gnome and KDE, respectively. Epiphany is a decent browser that has good page loading/rendering speed and a simple interface. However, I was disappointed with its stability and compatibility issues.

In my opinion, the winner here is Midori. Midori is an excellent alternative for someone who is looking for a simple, fast and robust Web browser. I have been using it regularly ever since I tested it for this review and I am more than happy with it.

Himanshu Arora is a software programmer, open source enthusiast and Linux researcher. Some of his articles have been featured in IBM developerWorks and Linux Journal. He (along with some like-minded friends) blogs at MyLinuxBook.

This article, 5 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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