Introducing Dooble, A Browser Focused On Privacy

The combination of Qt and Webkit seems to be very fertile, because new lightweight browsers built on it are surfacing constantly. One such browser is Dooble, a small but fast application that runs on Linux, Windows, OS X and FreeBSD. Dooble is mainly concerned with privacy and security, and its interesting approach makes it worth taking a look. It is relatively unknown and not very popular because its early versions garnered negative user reviews. However, the current version is stable and doesn’t consume too many system resources.

Linux users who wish to install Dooble can look for it in the repositories of their distributions, but the newest version (1.50) is not available in all of them. Arch Linux offers it in AUR, so it’s easy to install with an AUR helper. Ubuntu and derivatives can rely on an unofficial PPA and pull the package from there:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:richard-sellam/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dooble

Those who wish to play it safe and compile Dooble from source can do so by downloading the code from the project’s Sourceforge page. In my case, the installation on Linux Mint from the aforementioned PPA went smoothly, and Dooble was immediately ready for browsing.

The focus on privacy and security is obvious from the first run.

dooble-first-start

Dooble works on the principle of protected user profiles, where each profile has its own passphrase used to access bookmarks, browsing preferences and history. All data is encrypted, including temporary (guest) profiles without a passphrase. However, a passphrase is mandatory to save and restore sessions because temporary sessions are not preserved.

Apart from links to live news on the default home page, Dooble doesn’t look different from any other modern browser. It supports tabs, offline browsing, optional toolbars and history in the sidebar. The choice of search engines is somewhat unconventional.

dooble-search-engines

Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to replace them, and the same goes for customization of the default home page. However, it’s possible to set your own home page and add up to ten custom links which will all open simultaneously when clicking the Home button in the toolbar while holding the Ctrl key. The bookmarks window is simple and straightforward, making it easy to import or export bookmarks in HTML file format. Dooble also supports print-to-PDF option for entire web pages or just for selected frames.

dooble-file-manager

Another amusing feature is the Dooble Desktop, activated by clicking the button next to Home and the address bar. This launches a file manager window within Dooble, from which it’s possible to browse the entire filesystem. Sadly, the options are limited to deleting and renaming files and creating (sub)directories. Double-clicking a file opens a dialog where the user has to select an external application to view the file. Default applications can be set for a few file types in the Dooble Settings dialog.

dooble-security-settings

Somewhat confusingly, this dialog is in the Windows menu (instead of, for example, Edit or Tools). Still, the options are neatly organized in tabs. It’s possible to modify Dooble’s appearance by changing the icon theme and a few details. The “Tabs” section is particularly useful because it helps customize tab behavior, a feature which even some mainstream browsers offer only via add-ons, and not by default.

dooble-privacy-settings

Again, security and privacy are clearly Dooble’s forte because the most thorough customization is offered for them. Nearly every security aspect of web browsing can be tweaked, from obligatory HTTPS, Do-Not-Track settings and Javascript execution to cross-site scripting permissions, detailed proxy settings (with support for I2P links) and automatic cookie cleaning. Users can define website exceptions for each of these features and turn on console notifications, which appear in the bottom right corner if the status bar is enabled. Dooble was also supposed to show the IP of current website in that same status bar, but this feature didn’t work for me.

dooble-tab-settings

Privacy-per-tab is a practical concept, and Dooble makes it easy to set up by simply right-clicking on each tab and adjusting its individual privacy preferences. All in all, Dooble’s security features are commendable, and it packs many of them by default, whereas in other browsers an add-on would be needed. On the other hand, Dooble itself doesn’t support add-ons – there’s a menu for them, but it’s empty, so it is unclear whether they were removed or they might be added in upcoming versions.

Despite its efforts, Dooble still feels unpolished; for example, the Favorites toolbar can be toggled, but there’s no way to change or remove predefined links in it. It’s not surprising since Dooble is a project developed by a small team. However, this lack of refinement might put off a significant number of users. Advanced users will not be satisfied with Dooble because it can’t be extended with plugins and add-ons. Basic users could find its security warnings overwhelming and intimidating.

In this unpolished form, Dooble might be useful as a lightweight alternative to big, bloated browsers for when you just want to quickly check something, or as a testing ground for security settings on different websites. Even if Dooble doesn’t succeed in the future, don’t worry – a new Webkit and Qt-based browser will surely appear soon.