The Conkeror Web Browser Conquers Small Screens
Most Firefox extensions work in Conkeror, but if you're used to Firefox extensions, installing an extension in Conkeror may feel like a step backward. First, find the extension on the Mozilla Web site (or another Web site), and download it to your computer. (Firefox extension filenames end in .xpi.) Then, press M-x, type extensions, and press Enter to start the extension manager. Choose the Extensions tab, click the Install button, use the file navigator to select the file you downloaded, and click Open. As in Firefox, you must restart Conkeror to load the extension.
Conkeror lets you edit HTML text boxes in an external text editor—for example, Emacs (Figure 5). Conkeror copies the text box's contents to a temporary file, opens your text editor on the file and reads the changed file back into the text box when you close your editor. To use this feature, you must compile Conkeror's small helper program, conkeror-spawn-helper. (If you used the instructions above to install the two Conkeror packages in Debian or Ubuntu, you may skip this paragraph.) Go to the Conkeror source directory you installed and run the following command: make. You don't need to run make install, because make compiles the program in the directory Conkeror uses.
Next, you need to tell Conkeror which text editor to use. Conkeror looks for the editor command in the $EDITOR environmental variable, but if $EDITOR isn't set, Conkeror starts Emacs. Most distributions let you set the $EDITOR variable by adding the following line to your ~/.xsession and ~/.xinitrc files:
Replace my_editor above with the name of the editor you want to use—for example, for the graphical VIM editor, gvim; the GNOME editor, gedit; or the KDE editor, kate. If you want to use a console editor, prefix the environmental variable's value with the name of a terminal emulator—for example:
export EDITOR="xterm -e vim"
However, if you use external editors in other programs, you may not want to do everything in a graphical editor. To make Conkeror alone start a specific editor, add the following line to your Conkeror RC file and don't set the $EDITOR variable:
editor_shell_command = "my_editor";
After all that configuration, using the external editor should seem simple. Use the Tab key or the mouse to place the input cursor in a text box and press C-i. You can edit small boxes—for example, a box for your name—or large boxes—for example, the edit box in a Wikipedia article. Conkeror grays out the text box while you edit. When you finish editing by closing your text editor, Conkeror restores the original background color.
The Conkeror start page links to its built-in tutorial, which you activate by pressing C-h t. The tutorial teaches you how to browse the Web with Conkeror.
Similar to Emacs' help, Conkeror's help can describe its own commands. The C-h f keybinding describes commands, and the C-h k keybinding describes keybindings. For example, to find out what the print-buffer command does, type C-h f and print-buffer. Conkeror will tell you that, “print-buffer is an interactive command in commands.js [to] print the currently loaded page.” Similarly, press C-h k and f, and Conkeror tells you “f is bound to the command follow in bindings/default/content-buffer/element.js.”
For complex problems, Conkeror can help you search its wiki. Press g, and type conkerorwiki, and enter your search terms. Conkeror searches its wiki, which includes troubleshooting information and lots of ways to get the most out of Conkeror. Of course, you always can go directly to the Conkeror wiki using the link in Resources.
I hesitated before trying Conkeror the first time. As a longtime vi user, I wasn't interested in anything based on Emacs. But, I did need a Web browser that could make the most of my Netbook's 5"-tall screen and crummy touchpad. Conkeror fit the bill, and I tried it. It impressed me. Although Conkeror may seem complicated in its sophistication, I spent most of my time going to pages, following links and editing text boxes—three things Conkeror makes easy and quick. After I slowly learned to use its other features, I found no reason I shouldn't enjoy the advantages of an advanced keyboard-driven Web browser on my desktop as well.
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