Since the open-source Mozilla Project began a few years ago, the promise of a lightweight, reliable, standards-compliant browser for Linux has loomed on the horizon. This article looks at seven Linux web browsers currently under development and documents how well they performed several browsing tasks.
All of the browsers worked well and were stable, but there were some disappointing test results, such as the inability to print a range of pages. As all of these browsers are still under development, there is hope that these types of problems will be fixed soon.
The browser versions covered in this article are: Beonex-Communicator 0.7-dev-2, BrowseX-1.5.0, Galeon-1.0.1, Konqueror-2.2.1, Mozilla-0.9.6, Opera-5.0-static and SkipStone-0.7.7. SkipStone and Konqueror were compiled from source, the others were installed as RPM packages. Due to the rapid development of these browsers and the production schedule inherent in a monthly publication, these versions probably will not be the latest by the time you read this.
The system running the browsers was a Red Hat 6.2 installation on a Pentium 133MHz computer with 80MB of RAM. GNOME 1.4 and KDE 2.2.1 also were installed, along with the CUPS-1.1.5 printing system.
The tests that the browsers were put through were meant to determine how well they performed tasks such as browsing, downloading files and printing. The tests and results are summarized in Table 1, and the actual tests are explained below.
Web Banking: this test determined if a browser could log in to my bank's web banking system and view account data.
PayPal: each browser had to sign in to PayPal (www.paypal.com), view account balances and transfer money from the PayPal account.
Encryption: the SSL Check page at Fortify.net (www.fortify.net/sslcheck.html) was used to determine the strength of each browser's encryption.
My eBay: passing this test involved signing in to eBay (www.ebay.com) using the Sign In option and viewing multiple pages within My eBay without having to sign in again.
iPrint: the iPrint site (www.iprint.com) allows the creation of business stationery with a web browser. To successfully pass this test, the browser had to be able to select business checks and edit their layout.
Printing: printing capabilities of the browsers were tested by seeing if the browsers could print a range of pages, print in first-page-first and first-page-last order, print in color and grayscale, print in portrait and landscape orientations and print a page to disk.
Save Site to Disk: this test simply involved saving web pages to disk and then being able to view the files.
Downloading: the downloading capabilities of each browser were tested by clicking on download links and by logging in to FTP sites. The ability to specify external downloading applications was also noted.
Usability Features: this category notes some features that increase the ease of use of the browser. The following values were possible: disable animations (it is possible to disable GIF animations), drag-and-drop (URLs can be dragged to the browser or to other applications from the browser), ID (the browser's user-agent string can be changed), mouse wheel (the browser responded to the mouse scroll wheel), one-click clear location (the browser provided a method to clear the location text box with one click of the mouse) and zoom (the browser had the ability to increase and decrease the size of the text on the displayed page).
Mail: this test indicates how each browser handled mailto: links. It also indicates which browsers offer the ability to launch user-defined mail programs.
Java: this test determined if the browser could run Java applets, such as the demo programs from the Sun web site. The Java2 package used was downloaded from Netscape's site.
Plugins: to determine the ability of the browser to recognize Netscape plugins, specifically the Macromedia Flash plugin, and successfully display a site that required it was the purpose of this test.
Transparent PNG: to pass this test the browser had to properly display a web page containing a PNG picture with a transparent background that was created with The GIMP. The browser that failed the test showed the picture with a black background.
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