Best Browsers for Linux

Monday Apr 11th 2011 by Matt Hartley
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A review of the leading open source browsers, with recommendations for various user groups.

With each passing day, I find myself more amazed at the level of innovation shown from within the browser community. Both open source and closed source browsers on the Linux desktop manage to extend browser functionality far beyond the usual. This has proven both exciting and problematic. Exciting in the sense that we can now do more than ever thought previously with our browsers, yet problematic in that we have more moving parts that malfunction us.

In this article, I'll highlight the best browsers for the Linux platform and offer some additional thoughts on how they have made an impact on our lives.

Mozilla Firefox

I've been a rabid Firefox fan for a number of years. Despite loosing interest with most of the 3.x releases, version 4 has won me back as things are running great once again. One of the biggest wins for Firefox is the organizational method for storing my data. It's cross platform, easily backed up and can be migrated to another PC very easily.

Firefox's best features include:

-Easy data transfer management

-Add-ons galore

-It’s stable for good surfing

-It’s open source

-It has the ability to sync your data from one Firefox install to another

Google Chrome

Clearly one of the biggest game-changing browsers to come along in quite some time, Google Chrome put its mark on the world with tremendous speed. Not without some controversy, however, due to how it handles data. The fact that some of this data is sent back to Google has had many freedom lovers up in arms.

Now some claim that Chrome by itself isn't really open source in nature. Nevertheless there are variants of the Chrome browser that most certainly are.

Chromium is among these open source variants, as the code is available for all to inspect. And those who have great concerns over privacy might be inclined to grasp a hold of browser based on Chrome called Iron. The Iron browser is a great compromise for those looking to utilize what Chrome has to offer, minus the privacy snafus.

Chrome's best features include:

-Its minimalist design

-It offers the ability to sync your data from one Chrome install to another

-Add-ons galore

-It’s a stable browser

Konqueror

Some might be tempted to claim that Firefox is the "Swiss Army Knife" of the browser community. I beg to differ with this train of thought, instead challenging that Konqueror easily wins over Firefox.

Konqueror is not a mere browser, it also offers file browsing capabilities in addition to being able to work automatically with a host of KDE applications. Need to view a presentation file? No problem, Konqueror can handle this out of the box without needing to install anything on your own. The same thing applies for image viewing and word processing documents.

The web browsing functionality is solid and on par with the bigger web browsers in use today. In addition to support for KIO plugins, you'll find that it also works great with protocols such as FTP and SSH.

Konqueror's best features include:

-The ability to read nearly any file type you throw at it

-It’ll browse practically anything you can think of

-It loads at the speed of light, thanks to the KDE back-end

-It’s open source

-It’s very customizable to meet your specific needs

Epiphany

Despite my love for GNOME as a desktop experience, its mainstay browser known as Epiphany simply isn't one of GNOME's strongest applications. Provided as a web browser for those looking to avoid the big-name browsers for the Linux platform, it's an application still under heavy use despite it's lack-luster presentation.

Epiphany also has – to the surprise of many – browser add-ons available to further extend its usefulness for those who enjoy its browsing experience. And while the add-on list is rather short, there are some old favorites available, such as GreaseMonkey and a decent little RSS reader.

Epiphany's best features include:

-Its integration with the GNOME desktop

-Its speed at loading most web pages

-It's open source

-It’s no-frills approach to development

Lynx

Lnyx is described by some as a dated web browser and not of value any longer, but I disagree. I see Lynx as an asset to those willing to explore its abilities.

Being able to browse the Web without all the distractions that we take for granted can be very eye opening. Looking for a better means of how a search engine sees a website? Lynx is the ultimate tool to give you this experience.

Having used Lynx in the past, I’m amazed at how different the experience can be as it provides you all the content without the annoying distractions. This isn't to say that Lynx is on the same playing field as the other browsers, rather that it provides a fun alternative. Lynx is definitely worth checking out to see how your favorite websites look without the extras.

Lynx's best features include:

-Clear control over content you're viewing without distraction

-Fantastic contrast unaltered by difficult-to-navigate themes

-Freedom to ignore your mouse and rely on keyboard navigation instead

Best browser for the home user?

Looking at everything above, which browser provides the home user with the best experience? I am inclined to lean toward a Chrome/Iron experience myself. It's simply a big win for me: it's fast, doesn't present a lot of browser bloat and allows me to work well on small screens.

I've also found that when working with dual-monitors, it's the best browser for separating tabs easily without a lot of bouncing around after tab separation.

Best browser for use in the enterprise?

If you happen to be using a KDE desktop, I immediately fall back to Konqueror. It's stable, trusted and provides the enterprise user with immediate access to a wide selection of great protocol support in addition to being able to open practically any file type.

For enterprise users, I also believe this is a nice win for those who manage the IT departments as well. It’s open source and works well without fear of unneeded crashing. It's a natural choice.

Best browser for you?

How can you determine what the best browser would be for your needs? The answer to this: you must be willing to spend some significant time with the browsers outside of your comfort zone.

If you love Firefox, try Chrome/Iron. Do you find that Chrome provides you with what you need? Give Firefox 4 a serious second look.

Taking this approach in trying new things is all it takes to gain a foothold as you discover new software experiences. Who knows? The next browser you take for a test drive could end up becoming your new preferred web browsing application.

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