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Looking at the Galeon Web Browser - page 2

The Bare Essentials

  • July 18, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Galeon is one fast-loading program. It ought to be, since it provides only the barest of GTK-based interfaces running on top of the actual rendering engine. The designers stripped everything but the most basic browser functions. There's nothing there but basic navigation tools, an address field, and a small bookmark editor that actually makes a little more sense to me than Netscape's.

The inevitable comparisons to how long it takes Netscape Communicator to drag itself to the desktop caused a second round of more speculative thinking. There are times when an 800-pound gorilla of a browser is just fine, especially when it's crammed to its eyeballs with all the features you have to have to so much as order a paperback on the Web.

On the other hand, when you just want HTML rendered and you wouldn't mind looking at the pictures on the page you're planning to read instead of resorting to Lynx, something less cumbersome than a "browser suite" is a pretty attractive proposition.

One of the GNOME-terminal features, for instance, includes being able to open a referenced URL by right-clicking on it and selecting "Open in Browser." I use the text-based mutt as an e-mail client and still frequent some BBSes you get to through telnet. Galeon is able to accept command-line arguments, so it is the perfect helper application for checking out a URL referenced in someone's e-mail signature, or mentioned on a BBS. On a similar note, galeon also offers a great way to preview HTML or read other local HTML documentation without wasting the time to start a larger browser.

After building it, I threw a lot of pages at it, wondering when it would break down. It was able to render everything that didn't involve more than HTML, and remained fast and responsive after a long browsing session. I did finally manage to bring it down by using it as a file browser, but only after spending a half hour visiting numerous sites. It's clear that the simplicity of the wrapper galeon's programmers have placed around the Gecko engine has made for a fairly solid piece of programming, even at an early stage of the game.

It was easy to tell Gecko was running underneath it all. If you're already sold on how well Gecko performs under the Mozilla UI, you'll remain satisfied with galeon's performance. Pages render remarkably quickly, and the sort of flicker you get from scrolling with Netscape 4.x isn't there. It also handles window resizes with grace, redrawing the page with very little delay.

Though it might not seem to be in keeping with the spirit of things, there are a few small details galeon's missing before it's perfect for basic browsing. There's no support for cookies at this point, for instance. Even though I'm religious in my use of junkbuster, I do allow a few cookies from my favorite sites to slip through. It would also be nice, on the topic of junkbuster, to allow for configuration of a proxy. Finally, if you visit pages that require a password, galeon isn't going to get you there.

These are trivial points considering the relative youth of the project. Galeon was launched to deliver us all from big browsers, and it looks like it will succeed. It's a project I'll be following with anticipation.


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