View as Slideshow: Best Linux Browsers
Choosing the best Linux browser for your needs requires just a bit of homework: Web browsers for the Linux desktop have evolved over the years, just as they have for other popular desktop platforms. With this evolution, both good and bad revelations have been discovered. Revelations from new functionality, to broken extensions, and so forth. In this article, I’ll serve as your guide through these murky waters to help you discover the best in Linux browsers.
Firefox – Firefox has long been a friendly browser for Linux users. Accessible on both 32bit and 64bit Linux installs, Firefox also offers extensive extensions to choose from. It’s a fast loading, easy to navigate Web browser that has found itself in a popular place with Linux users.
The good: It’s easily installed from most common Linux software repositories, if not already installed on the distro by default. Thousands of extensions to choose from to make your Firefox browser more fully featured. Nearly every website on the Web (including government and banking sites) render properly.
The bad: Not too long ago, I was finding that Firefox’s frequent updates were breaking my extensions. This meant I needed to verify that my favorite extensions were compatible with new Firefox updates BEFORE I updated my browser.
To be blunt, this caused me to rethink which browser would be my default tool to browse the Internet. In fairness, Mozilla does post a blog post with each browser update for extension developers. In these posts, developers are told what has changed and what needs to be done to keep things working smoothly.
Chrome/Chromium – Google promotes its browser named Chrome, however I tend to put Chromium into the same group as Chrome since Chromium is used as its base for development. Unlike Firefox, Chrome/Chromium was late to the game for Linux. Linux users only considered it worth trying at the time due to the fact that Chrome/Chromium was perceived by many as being the fastest browser.
The good: Even today, Chrome/Chromium is considered pretty fast. Even with the recent updates made to other competing browsers, Chrome/Chromium hasn’t lost its speed. Extensions for Chrome/Chromium are plentiful and even better, updates to the browser have no affect on said extensions. This means that, unlike Firefox, I haven’t dealt with extension incompatibilities. Like Firefox, Chrome/Chromium also has an element inspection tool, built right into the browser. After trying syncing options with other browsers, only Chrome/Chromium has proven itself to be truly idiot-proof. Without question, Chrome/Chromium syncing is the best in the browser space, from my perspective.
The bad: Chrome/Chromium doesn’t always render pages correctly. Be it rare, some sites like Ebay don’t always render correctly. Case in point, if I create a new Ebay submission, I find there are buttons missing in some cases. I’ve also found that sometimes Chrome/Chromium can lockup completely if an open tab is rendering heavy script. Sites like Google Plus and Facebook are the most common offenders.
Qupzilla – When it comes to lightweight browsers, I’ve found Qupzilla to be among the most awesome. Based on Webkit, it provides decent rendering support while maintaining a very small resource footprint.
The good: Qupzilla is ideal for lightweight desktop environments where you need a modern browser capable of rendering pages correctly and generally providing a solid web browser experience. It’s extremely lightweight and will run on older PCs without missing a beat. Access Keys and GreaseMonkey extensions are installed (but disabled) by default.
Like Firefox and Chrome/Chromium, Qupzilla provides access to an element inspection tool as well. And finally, having Adblock installed by default makes this a clear lightweight winner for me.
The bad: HTML5 video doesn’t seem to work reliably. Also, in order to watch Flash videos, you must visit the preferences and uncheck Click to Flash in the Extensions, Webkit plugins area. This is a poorly thought out decision to essentially disable Flash out of the box, while HTML5 video remains completely broken.
View as Slideshow: Best Linux Browsers
Midori – I like to call Midori the lightweight Chrome alternative. Like Google’s browser(s), Midori offers a minimalist experience with its “hamburger menu,” which is nice as it takes up less browser space. Not only do you get a solid browsing experience without the usual browser politics found elsewhere, Midori is also quite fast.
The good: Midori is fast, lightweight and feels familiar out of the box. I’m also happy to report that it renders pages correctly and works great with sites like YouTube. The best part, in my opinion, is the built-in functionality for creating browser profiles and actual launchable links for Web apps. For example, you can easily create a web app on your desktop for Gmail or Facebook. You can also setup user specific browser profiles as well, without creating new Linux user accounts.
The bad: Despite mentioning user extensions for this browser, the selection available is less than impressive. Also, the browser layout takes a bit of getting used to. A trash can for previously visited websites – seriously?
Opera – Opera has long been one of the misunderstood browsers out there. Very early on, Opera provided Linux support despite being dismissed by the overall Linux community. In addition to being a compatible, fast web browser that has been nothing but good to Linux users, it’s also a full of configurable options.
The good: It’s fast and it’s full of user controllable settings. You can import and export everything from RSS feeds to email, and skin Opera with easy access to breathtaking themes. Plus, Opera offers an extensive library of extensions to choose from. Not to mention the ability to read RSS feeds and email, from your browser! Relive the days of the Mozilla Suite by using Opera’s extended suite functionality. And perhaps best of all, Opera Turbo – super-charge your browser speed with selective compression to provide a faster experience.
The bad: A nag for the Terms of Service on its first run. Also, Opera Turbo can slightly alter your browsing experience – YouTube for example, may not show a video’s thumbnail. Opera also provides so many options that it can feel a bit overwhelming to the casual user. And lastly, it’s a closed source browser that hasn’t been well recognized for desktop use. Most folks think of Opera as a mobile browser only these days.
Which browser is right for you?
With so many great choices, it can be a tough call to say which browser is right for you. Speaking for myself, I’ve found that I rely heavily on Firefox and Chromium due to specific extensions I put to work each day. For someone with a lower end system or netbook, my suggestion is to try Midori first and if that’s not a fit, fallback to Qupzilla.
So what about other web browsers for Linux? Such as the Epiphany browser or Konqueror? Browsers like these are great, but I feel strongly about the browsers I’ve shared above specifically. Each of the options listed above are browsers I use often and have found to be something I feel good about recommending to friends and family.
That said, by all means, share any browsers you’re passionate about in the Comments below so others can benefit from your preferred method of browsing the Web.
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