Saturday, September 6, 2008

Browsers & Extensions

Have you tried the new Google Chrome Browser? I installed it in a Windows test machine to see what all the fuss is about. There is also a page about how to install Chrome in Ubuntu using Wine. Linux Today has a good article about the new browser and it's implications. There is also a Google comic that introduces Chrome, it's architecture and features. Very interesting read.

Chrome IS very clean and fast, but I'm not ready to give up Firefox just yet. For one thing, I use several extensions that are very useful to me.
My favorites:

General Use
Adblock Plus - block adds and speed up browsing by not loading add graphics.
Add Bookmark Here - simplify adding bookmarks in the proper folder.
EMail This! - email a link using GMail, Yahoo or your own client, like Thunderbird.
DeskCut - make a link to a web page on the desktop.
Send Tab URL's - send links of all open tabs in an email.
Morning Coffee - load a set of tabs with one click.
ColorfulTabs - color tabs a different color for easy ID.
Taboo - save tabs for later review, without bookmarking.
Sage - A lightweight RSS and Atom reader.
Image Zoom - adds zooming capability for images.

Greasemonkey - modify pages on the fly to customize layout, get rid of annoying visual elements, etc.
Platypus - visually create scripts for Greasmonkey.
GMail Space - use GMail account for file storage.
SQLite Manager - visually manage SQLite databases.
Web Developer - LOTS of tools for web site creation, inspection and debugging.
Firebug - another great tool for web developers.
Clear Cache Button - puts a button to clear Firefox cache on the Bookmarks Toolbar.

Find them here. (And thousands more!)

I also sometimes use Konqueror, a pretty capable browser, but an even better file manager and so much more. Epiphany is also pretty good as a lightweight substitute for Firefox, if not as capable. Long ago, I used Opera in Windows and really liked it, but I haven't seen the need to use it in Linux. And it's not open source.
There are other specialized browsers too, like Flock for social networking, but I haven't used them.

As you can guess, Firefox is my favorite browser, though Chrome is definitely worth watching. Hope we don't have to wait too long for a Linux version. Come on Google, your whole operation runs on Linux, don't treat Linux users as afterthoughts!

One last note - text mode browsers. Why you ask? Well, if you have ever had the GUI fail to start and were stuck at the command line without another machine to get on the Net and research the problem...
Links2 or Elinks can be a life saver in that case. Links2 even has a graphical mode, but it is not always easy to get working (Ubuntu for example).
Though they are not easy to use without practice, I would recommend having one installed, just in case. Based on little use and a very cursory test, I think I would prefer Links2, especially with graphics. If you are ever stuck at a command line and need to surf the web, you can install it (on Ubuntu and Debian-based systems) like this:
"sudo apt-get install links2"
Be sure to start it with a URL:
"links2" for instance.
Use the Esc key to get menus, and navigate with the arrow keys.
w3m appears to be installed by default on Ubuntu systems at least. I would start it as "w3m -v" then read the FAQ. I also looked at Lynx for the first time in years. It is difficult to use like the others (at least if you are not used to them), but at least it has help at the bottom of the screen. Any of them will probably get the job done if you have the patience to learn their quirks, but really, unless you have special needs such as working on a server without a GUI or accessing the web over SSH on a remote machine, I would just keep a live CD handy that includes a graphical web browser.