Konquering the Web
Konqueror: More than a Web Browser
Over the years, we have come to think of a Web browser as a kind of lumbering leviathan of an application: big, ponderous, and slow, bloated with features that extract their price in code size and then some. Many of us, perhaps most of us, figured that this was simply the nature of the beast--that these criteria were required of browsers.
KDE2's Konqueror puts the lie to those assumptions, though. What's more, it will initially be used as the new file manager for KDE2, and only later will the user realize that it will browse far more than the local drive, and in ways far different from any browser seen before. I've been using various alpha code builds of it since November. Its stability has increased considerably--it's pretty solid now, and has been more so each time I've compiled it. And I'm still discovering new and interesting features, after playing with it for six months.
A friend, having looked at Konqueror's Web page, recently dropped me a note: "What won't it do?" The answer is, not much--it performs all the tasks you could imagine and some that you haven't dared imagine. These include but are not limited to:
- Advanced file management (which we show in Figure 1)
- Extremely convenient FTP
- File viewing and application launching
All the World's a URL
The KDE coders didn't originate the idea of treating everything both on the local drive and online as a URL; they didn't even come up with the idea of exploiting it (you could, with some pain and inconvenience, do file management from within Netscape, for instance). What they've done, instead, is to make it convenient, transparent, and natural. (The word "intuitive" is ridiculous--nothing is intuitive, right down to the keyboard. With Konqueror, though, the user is constantly thinking, "but of course!" because it works the way one would expect. It just makes a lot of sense, the way it works. It's so powerful that it would be a thick book that documented it fully--but nobody would need the book, because controlling it is so obvious. Maybe there's higher praise for a GUI application, but I don't know of any.)
When KDE2 is installed, Kicker (the launchpad and more at the bottom of the screen) displays a Konqueror icon that, when clicked, displays the user's home directory. The Location bar tells you this; you can use the arrows to navigate or simply type in a new location. If you have a web connection, you can replace it with an http: or ftp: URL and you will go there. (Konqueror is also launched when you click on a URL in a KMail message.) There is a dropbox, typical of browsers, that lists recently typed-in URLs, which is especially helpful if you need to return repeatedly to a subdirectory several levels down in the filesystem. The Bookmarks menu automagically displays, in addition to bookmarks you have created in Konqueror itself, the contents of ~/.netscape/bookmarks.html, so you won't lose the bookmarks you have made and organized in that browser.
There's more, and it's very cool. A lot of it is found in the Window menu.