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4 Better Web Browsers for Linux and Everyone Else
Firefox and Opera
November 1, 2010
Our Web browsers do everything these days, and they're also the #1 malware vector. Eric Geier reviews four excellent Web browsers for Linux, Mac, and Windows users that are safer, friendlier, and better than Internet Explorer.
Just about all the mainstream web browsers today are available for download in Linux. Since most of your computing time is likely spent in front of the browser, you shouldn't just settle with the one that came preinstalled with your distribution. We'll review four different browsers you can use in Linux, where you can pick the one that's best for you.
Before we discuss the unique features of these browsers, I should point out a couple features included in all of them. Some of these features might be new to you if you're coming from Internet Explorer. They each have some sort of pop-up blocker and phishing/malware protection. Additionally, they all have an integrated spell checker, which can really be invaluable. Each browser (except Flock 2.6.1) has a synchronization feature so your settings and favorites will be the same across all your computers. Plus they also have some sort of password and download manager.
Mozilla's Firefox is the most popular open source web browser. It's available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. The current stable release is Firefox 3.6, however, we're discussing the Beta version of Firefox 4.
Most modern browsers have hidden the traditional menu on the toolbar to simplify the interface and maximize webpage viewing. However, as you can see in Figure 1, the Linux version of Firefox 4 hasn't been streamlined yet--the Windows version already has.
In Firefox you can view all the usernames and passwords saved by the browser, nice if you forget the login credentials to a site. You can even protect them with a master password, safe guarding them from others users. The other browsers don't include this protection. Another unique feature of Firefox is a screenshot utility, accessible from the icon in lower right corner. It can capture the visible portion or entire webpages.
Every browser has its annoyances. In Firefox 4, for example, new tabs open to a blank page, rather than your homepage or list of suggested sites like other browsers. It would also be better if searching was integrated into the address bar rather than having to click in a separate search box. The download manager lets you pause downloads but doesn't resume automatically after a connection interruption.
Opera is a web browser for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. We're discussing the current version: 10.63. Opera Software also develops their browser for mobile phones and devices, including BlackBerry, iPhone/iPod/iPad, Windows Mobile, and Android. You'll even find Opera on the Nintendo DSi and Wii.
The interface of Opera 10.63 has been streamlined. The traditional menu has be replaced with a menu button in the upper-right corner, as you see in Figure 2, maximizing webpage viewing.
In addition to the synchronization of browser settings and favorites, Opera lets you remotely access and share files with their Opera Unite service. Another unique feature is that Opera can auto-fill forms on webpages with set values for your name, address, and other personal information.
Opera is a solid feature-packed browser but still could be improved. For example, you can view the list of sites where you have passwords saved but can't see the actual passwords like in Firefox. The search interface could also be improved. You can enter search terms in the address box, which will use your default search engine, but it would be nice to integrate the full search box functionality in the address box like in Internet Explorer 9. This would eliminate the need for a separate search box.