Three Alternative Web Browsers for Linux

Most Linux users will be familiar with Google’s Chrome web browser and Mozilla’s Firefox. As good as they are, these aren’t the only two browsers available. Among the alternative web browsers are Opera, which has a native Linux version as well as versions for OS X, Windows, Android and iOS; ELinks, a text mode web browser; and Midori, a lightweight and fast web browser that is the default browser on the Raspberry Pi. Each of these browsers offers something different than Chrome and Firefox, and you can install them on Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions) relatively easily.

Opera Software’s browsers are used by some 350 million users to access the Internet from a wide range of platforms including PCs, smartphones and tablets. The native Linux version can be downloaded from Opera’s web site. There is a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version. Download the package for your flavor of Linux (in my case Ubuntu) and then install it.

To install it on Ubuntu, you can either open the .deb file with the Ubuntu Software Center by double-clicking on the downloaded .deb file or install it from the command line:

sudo dpkg -i opera_12.16.1860_i386.deb

opera_12.16.1860_i386.deb is the name of the file you download from the Opera website.

To start it, either find “Opera” in the launcher or type “opera” from the command line.

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Opera offers a range of interesting features including Speed Dial, which lets you see your most visited sites on the new tab page, and Opera Link, which lets you store your bookmarks, Speed Dial sites and passwords so that you can access them on any of your computers and devices running Opera.

ELinks’ unique proposition is that it is a text browser. This means you don’t need to be running the graphical desktop to access the web. It is available for most Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Fedora and Raspbian (for the Raspberry Pi). To install it on Ubuntu or Raspbian type:

sudo apt-get install elinks

To start the browser, type “elinks” at the command line.

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Since ELinks only shows text, pages appear very quickly, however on complex websites, it can appear a little disorganized as the browser attempts to take all the complex HTML and CSS and downgrade it to simple text. Considering the enormity of such a task, ELinks does a great job, and after a short time you should find navigation easier. For some sites, you will need to find the “simple HTML” or even mobile version of the site to get the best results. The simple HTML version of gmail (mail.google.com/?ui=html) is actually reasonably usable.

To navigate around a web page use the UP and DOWN keys. To open a new tab type “t” and to switch tabs use “<” and “>”. You can close a tab using “c,” and pressing ESC gives you access to the menu system.

Midori is a lightweight and fast web browser that tries to do as much as possible with limited resources. It is the default browser for Elementary OS and Raspbian. You can install it on Ubuntu via the Software Center or using the command line:

sudo apt-get install midori

To start it, either type “midori” from the command line or find “Midori” in the launcher.

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Midori uses WebKit at its heart, the same HTML rendering engine as Apple’s Safari browser and many versions of Google Chrome. This means it is fully HTML5 compatible and it passes the Acid3 browser test one-hundred percent. It has features like tabbed browsing, privacy browsing and the ability to restore recently closed tabs. Interestingly, it uses DuckDuckGo as its default search; however, you can easily set Google or Yahoo as the default if you so desire.

If you have used Opera, ELinks or Midori on Linux, please share your experiences in the comment section below.