The Conkeror Web Browser Conquers Small Screens

Small screen? Crummy touchpad? Not a problem for Conkeror.

Conkeror is a Web browser with an Emacs-style look, feel and configuration. It uses Firefox's HTML rendering engine and works with most Firefox extensions, but it provides a keyboard-driven interface and makes excellent use of screen space. It's a fitting Web browser for Netbooks with their imprecise touchpads and small screens. Conkeror uses the same free software license as Firefox.

Figure 1. Conkeror Web Browser

Installing Conkeror

Users of Debian Lenny, Debian Sid and Ubuntu Jaunty should install the conkeror and conkeror-spawn-process-helper packages. Users of other distributions should install the XULRunner package (xulruner-1.9 or xulrunner). If you installed the Firefox package, that package installed XULRunner for you. After you install XULRunner, download a Conkeror snapshot and unpack it into your usual software directory—you don't need to compile anything. See Resources for a link to the Conkeror snapshot download.

To put the Conkeror launcher in one of your regular executable directories so that you can start Conkeror from a command prompt or application launcher, create a symbolic link from the conkeror/contrib/run-conkeror file to one of your usual executable directories. For example:

$ ln -s /usr/local/share/lib/conkeror/contrib/run-conkeror \
        /usr/local/bin/conkeror.

If your distribution doesn't include Firefox, download XULRunner from Mozilla and unpack it into your usual software directory. Then, download a Conkeror snapshot and unpack it also into your usual software directory. See Resources for links to the downloads.

You must perform an extra step to make the Conkeror launcher work. First, copy the xulrunner-stub file from the XULRunner directory into the Conkeror directory. Then, create a symbolic link from that file to one of your usual executable directories. For example:

$ cp /usr/local/share/lib/xulrunner-1.9/xulrunner-stub \
     /usr/local/share/lib/conkeror/xulrunner-stub
$ ln -s /usr/local/share/lib/conkeror/xulrunner-stub \
        /usr/local/bin/conkeror.

Browsing the Web with Conkeror

You don't need to configure Conkeror to get started; simply start the conkeror executable you installed. Conkeror's start page lists which keys perform which actions (keybindings). The first keybinding listed, g, goes to the URL you specify. For example, load the Linux Journal home page by pressing g and typing linuxjournal.com. Follow links by clicking them, as you would do in Firefox, and press B to return to previous pages or F to advance to later pages.

Return to the basic list of keybindings on the start page by pressing, C-h i. In Conkeror and Emacs, C- stands for, “hold Ctrl and press the next key”. For example, C-h i stands for “hold Ctrl, press h, release Ctrl and h, and press i”. Conkeror uses other Emacs keybinding abbreviations also: M- means hold the Meta key (the Alt key on PC keyboards and the Option key on Macintosh keyboards); S- means hold the Shift key. For a complete list of Conkeror keybindings, press C-h b.

Although you can follow links by clicking them, you should learn to follow them using the keyboard to get the most out of Conkeror. To follow a link with the keyboard, press f. Conkeror places a small number next to each link (Figure 2), including link images. Enter a number to follow its link or type letters from the name of the link you want. As you type letters, Conkeror removes the numbers from links that don't match those letters and renumbers the remaining links. Even on a slow computer, this happens instantly. If only one link matches the letters you entered, Conkeror automatically follows it.

Figure 2. Following Links in Conkeror

For example, let's assume the three link names: foo, bar and baz. Typing f and 3 follows the third link, baz. Typing f and baz also follows the baz link. Typing f and b removes the number next to foo, so that you can press 1 to select bar or 2 to select baz.

As in Firefox, you can start a search within Conkeror. Press g, type “google”, type your search term, and press Return to go to the Google result for your search term. Replace “google” with “lucky” to go straight to the first Google result, or replace it with any of the following words to use another search engine: “wikipedia” “sourceforge” or “dictionary”. When you search Google, Conkeror asks Google to guess what you're searching for and displays the best matching results in a list. Press Tab to select the top result, use the keyboard arrow keys to select an alternative result, or simply finish typing your search terms and press Enter. This also works for Wikipedia searches.

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If you want a variation on

Anonymous's picture

If you want a variation on Conkeror, you can also try Vonkeror, which is a forked project of Conkeror with many different features, including gopher supporting.

vi keybindings

CyberBob's picture

Conkeror is emacs-ified by default. But, if you are a vi user you can just change the keybindings. I did, and now use Conkeror with vi-like j/k keybindings for scrolling up and down, and other such customizations. I mention this option as I find that it's a smaller/more streamlined solution than using Vimperator with Firefox.

Conkeror is also available on Arch

Matt's picture

I second the recommendation of vimperator if you are a vi user. It gets rid of the menu bars in Firefox and is driven entirely from the keyboard.

New name!!!

Anonymous's picture

This sounds great. Any idea how well it works on eee PCs? I'll try it out later with the netbook desktop. BUT, get a new name! Why confuse this with Konqueror, when it's a Firefox derivative? That doesn't make sense. Develop a name better suited to the product.

I've been looking for something like this

Anonymous's picture

Very interesting, I have kinda been looking for a better browser for my AAO, now I have found one. What's more is that it supports Windows, too (I dual-boot, yes shame on me, though windows only has like a 30GB partition and Linux has closer to 60GB).

Get a different name.

Jacob's picture

If it's good - why be lazy?

Get a decent name - no need for kanckeroar.

Good thing it doesn't sound

Anonymous's picture

Good thing it doesn't sound like Konqueror. We wouldn't want people to be confused...

Re:

x33a's picture

David, since you are a vi user, you should definitely check out vimperator. it's an add on for firefox, and it also lets us browse the web using the keyboard only.

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