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Slouching Toward Galeon 1.0 - page 3

GNOME at LinuxWorld Expo

  • February 2, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

Galeon is also closing in on a 1.0 release, and it's also changed a lot since our last look. Downloading and installing is much easier, there are plenty of features that have either been added or improved, and it's more stable.

To recap, Galeon is a fairly simple web browser built around Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine and GNOME. The project is built around the proposition that the world has a place for a browser that does nothing more than, well, browse, and now that it's evolved past an early stage that seemed a hair too spartan, it's a real pleasure to use.

Getting Galeon

Galeon is available from the project download page. In addition to the binary packages (available in RPMs, and .deb's, which are each about 500k apiece), or the source tarball (under one meg), Galeon requires a Mozilla installation, also available from the download page. The Debian packages, provided for Woody and Potato, are apt-gettable by adding a line to /etc/apt/sources.list.

If Galeon doesn't happen to be available for a specific distribution (Slackware and Mandrake, for instance), it's a reasonably painless build as long as Mozilla is installed from one of the provided binaries or the Mozilla libraries are properly included from /etc/ld.so.conf.

It's a little ironic that the first metric we applied when we last checked Galeon out, how quickly the browser loaded as compared to Mozilla, seemed a little less impressive this time around. There's no denying Mozilla has improved a lot in six months, but those improvements don't invalidate Galeon: it still loads faster and it seems free of a nagging sense of latency in page rendering we still experience with Mozilla from time to time.

Last time around, Galeon was a spare piece of software. There were hints of a few features that hadn't been implemented, and it was incapable of visiting sites that required authentication or SSL. When used with a 0.7 release of Mozilla, that has changed, and Galeon handles these sites with no problems. Another major gap Galeon has filled since then is support for Java and Javascript. We didn't have any luck getting the automated Java plug-in download (which works like Mozilla's) to work from Galeon, but we visited a few pages of Javascript examples and detected no problems on cursory examination.

Galeon has introduced an optional tabbed interface which allows users to open new browser instances under a tab instead of a new window. This is nice for users who like to keep their desktops tidy and don't mind mousing between tabs (there doesn't appear to be a keyboard shortcut for this yet).

Galeon now has a "fullscreen" view, which takes Internet Explorer's variant on the notion to a greater extreme: not only is the entire desktop hidden underneath the browser, all buttons and menu bars are removed from view with the exception of any browser tabs and scrollbars that may be required. We're fond of fullscreen views, but the lack of any sort of navigation (except from the context menu, obtained by right-clicking on the browser window) took the matter a little too far for our tastes. This is a case where a keyboard shortcut or very small navigation buttons would be welcome.

Another new feature is the "My Portal" page, which is accessed by entering 'about:portal' in the location field or setting it as the homepage. The "My Portal" page presents the user's bookmarks on a single page with the Galeon logo. The presentation of "My Portal" can be modified by creating a style sheet Galeon applies to the page.

Outside basic user interface tools, Galeon has outstanding crash recovery tools built in. Though it didn't crash a single time during our nightly use, we did eventually

kill -9

it to see what happened when we restarted it, and were rewarded with the option of restarting with our last session intact. All three windows we had open when we "crashed" the program were reopened and reloaded with the pages they were last at.

Galeon has also become much more configurable than before. Two exceptionally nice touches involved placing the "use own fonts" and "use own colors" on a menu instead of in the configuration window, which makes Galeon great for rendering sites that have difficult or hard-to-read design (it's 2001, and for whatever reason, people still think blue text and black backgrounds are keen) and quickly switching back to respecting the decisions of more sane designers.

Within the configuration window, Galeon offers a wide variety of choices from the usual colors and font settings to things like which version of the HTTP protocol the browser utilizes (1.0, 1.1), and whether to allow proxy keepalive. These two options in conjunction enabled the use of the Junkbuster banner blocker, which hasn't yet been updated for HTTP 1.1.

Finally, Galeon has the option to close and save the current browsing session, which allowed it to restore all our windows/tabs on restart.

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