Wed, 28 May 2008
Browsers: Back to Square One
On Oct 15, 2005 i wrote about Galeon development slowing down, and I speculated that I would have needed to choose a new browser. With recent problems of Galeon in Fedora 9, I have decided to look at the current state of browsers again.
Firstly, Firefox: it is not a bad browser, the Firefox 3.0beta in Fedora 9 even feels much faster than Galeon. With some essential extensions it is almost usable: TreeStyleTab allows to have tabs vertically on the right side, and NewTabURL allows something other than a blank page to be displayed in newly opened tabs (I wonder why these two features are not included in the Firefox itself). FireGestures are even better than in Galeon: more configurable (not that I need that), but also the plugin displays the gesture. It also does not have a long-standing Galeon bug, where gestures do not work over an empty tab.
Now the bad part: I need a "middle button pastes the URL in new tab" functionality. It is much faster to have it on one click instead of having to open new tab manually beforehand. Another problem is that newly opened tabs do not inherit parent's history, so you cannot do Back in them. There is no way how to create a "smart bookmarks" toolbar (i.e. bookmarks with a wildcard in their URL, which are then displayed as input boxes). In Galeon, it is very convenient to have things like dictionaries, IS MU people search, Wikipedia, etc., each with separate input box. Moreover, in Galeon you can open the search results in a new tab by pressing Ctrl+Enter instead of Enter. The Firefox search inputbox is really a bad joke: the text entered there remains there, for example. So when you want to look up a new dictionary word, instead of just pasting it there you have to clear the previous search contents. Sometimes the NewTabURL stops working, so after opening a new tab I wait whether my home page gets loaded or not. Unread tabs are not displayed in a different color in the tab list. And finally, there is this bug, which makes saving and restoring session with multiple authenticated tabs next to impossible. Reported almost two years ago, and still unfixed.
As for Epiphany, it is a bit better: smart bookmarks are there, there is an extension for moving tabs to the right side (left side actually, but it can be trivially modified for the right side; I wonder why this is not in the main distribution - having two line Python plugin instead of a configuration option is really ugly). However, the gestures use a middle mouse button, and it clashes with possible future "paste URL in the new tab" functionality. Also the cookie manager is not as flexible as in Galeon and Firefox.
So after much experimenting and testing, actually using both Firefox and Epiphany for several days, I have decided to downgrade Galeon in my Fedora 9 to the one from Fedora 8, and I am back to square one. Galeon is still the best browser available, despite being in pure maintainance mode for two years. Both Firefox and Epiphany are getting better, but they still lack some functionality, not to mention having real bugs.