Rekonq: A Quick Glance At Kubuntu Next Default Browser

The talk of the town is that the next version of Kubuntu (10.10, codenamed Maverick Meerkat) will have a new default browser, replacing Konqueror, the longtime KDE favorite. The replacement browser may very well be Rekonq, a browser that could be viewed as a next-generation approach to Konqueror.

At first glance, Rekonq’s interface design looks very similar to Google Chrome, and like Chrome, Rekonq has the Webkit layout engine at its core. Webkit, originally developed by Apple, is actually derived from KHTML, the layout engine for Konqueror. To make matters more confusing, KDE developers began working on Webkit with talks of replacing KHTML in Konqueror. That did not occur, but Rekonq has managed to bring Webkit to KDE via an entirely new browser experience.

Rekonq on Flickr.com

What’s in It?

1. KDE Integration

One of the features sorely lacking in most browser alternatives is true KDE integration. Firefox, Google Chrome, and most other browsers are primarily integrated with Gnome’s file picker and themes (although Firefox integration is now very close).

Some of the KDE features that Rekonq has appropriated are:

  • The ability to view a website’s source in a KDE text editor, such as KWrite
  • Complete integration of the KDE file chooser / save dialogs
  • Being a KDE application, it fully supports KDE styles and colors
  • Drag and drop support for images and documents
  • KDE web search shortcuts. With these, users can enter shortcuts like “imdb:” followed by a search term and automatically connect to the search engine associated with the the shortcut.

2. Webkit

rekonq Webkit settings

As a Webkit-based browser, Rekonq comes with the standard Webkit features, such as:

Web inspector: A great tool for web developers that allows them to view each HTML element and its corresponding CSS style.

Webkit web inspector

Javascript settings: Users can set specific Javascript settings, such as whether or not to allow Javascript to access the clipboard or open new windows.

Loading plugins: There are three settings for plugins (i.e. Flash player): autoload plugins, manually load plugins, or never load plugins.

3. Tab management

With Rekonq, users can clone tabs, detach them to open a new window, and drag and slide a tab to reorder it. In addition, each tab not currently in use will display a helpful thumbnail of its web page.

Rekonq tab thumbnail

Upon opening a new tab page, Rekonq displays a page similar to Google Chrome containing the now famous Opera-like “Speed Dial” thumbnails, called Favorites. Furthermore, the page has three more tabs at the top that can display even more features: Closed Tabs, Bookmarks, and History.

4. Privacy

Rekonq has many modern privacy features, such as private browsing, similar to Chrome’s incognito browsing, where private data, such as history and saved forms, are not recorded. Users can also clear any private data and manage cookies. Like Konqueror, Rekonq has full support for ad blocking and comes with an extensive filter list, blocking most ads out of the box.

Rekonq private browsing

What’s Missing?

Despite its plethora of features, there are still some things Rekonq needs.

1. Extensions – What makes Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome so powerful is that they can be extended and serve virtually whatever purpose users want. Rekonq will have trouble getting many addons unless the KDE community falls in love with it.

2. Flash block – Although Rekonq has support for managing plugins, there is no whitelist feature that most flash blocking extensions have in other browsers, including Arora browser, Rekonq’s closest competitor.

3.Social Media Integration -Perhaps not an absolute must, but the ability to easily share sites and blog about them is something that would be nice to have as an extension.

4. RSS feeds – By default, RSS feeds are displayed without any styles. Google Chrome also does this, but there is an extension that formats the XML files and offers subscription options.

5. Better Javascript support – For whatever reason, some websites simply do not work correctly with this version of Webkit, while Chrome and other Webkit browsers display them just fine.

6. Future technologies, such as HTML5 video – The developers probably have plans for this, as it will be an eventual requirement to meet Web standards. Many other browsers have already added preliminary support for Ogg Theora, H.264, or both.

Rekonq looks very impressive, and adding it as the default browser or even as an installed option in the next Kubuntu should help build some more community support for the young application. Does this mean Konqueror’s days are numbered or that Rekonq will eventually be merged with Konqueror? Your guess is as good as mine.

9 comments

  1. if some of the bugs related to plugins, particularly flash, are resolved, rekonq stands a very good chance of becoming my default browser in KDE … right now? its Chrom(e|ium).

  2. Oh glod, here we go again. Redesigning the wheel from first principles again.

    Look, I'm glad if it keeps them happy, but it isn't moving me at all. There are so many jobs more urgent than yet another minority browser.

    Let's see a photo/bitmap editor that isn't the Gimp. Or at least that works with raw files, full colour depth, and with controls a bit more up to date.

    Let's see some genuine innovation, or progress: speech to text, OCR, seamless versioned backup, music transcription from audio, Language tuition, associative idea data mining.

    If we want to rip something up and start again what about email? What about a system with new transport protocols, better security, trackability, traceability, and no way to forge headers?

    Let's be thinking about authentication that isn't password based. Some simple Open Source hardware device that can read existing credit cards and corporate ID, and rfi tags, and maintain a secure Identity on some remote server based on a best-of-3 rule or something (loook, it's me OK? I've had me credit card nicked but this is my passport and my rfi wrist watch. Oh and my emergency question answer. Yes, I promise if you let me in now I will set the security up properly again tomorrow.) Then add hooks to all the tools so that documents, email, IM messages, will be flagged as authentic (or probably authentic today, the burke has lost his credit card), or unauthenticated.

    Look at how brilliant X-marks has been on sharing browser setups between machines. How about doing the same for whole computing environments? A thin client login from any machine (windows, '*nix, mac, etc) onto either an ISP server, or your home machine, so all your tools and data are everywhere?

    Oh look, let the computer say, he's stuck the SD card from his camera in. last time he saved the whole lot to his photo organiser, and then shipped them up offline to photobox. And flagged the ones with the blonde woman in and put them in a separate folder. Oh look, those two are of busses. I'll make a draft email to his bus-spotting mate and he can send them when he is ready. ooohh. 6 of them taken during working hours – best not send them to photobox in case they are corporately sensitive. And one of those funny video files that won't play on his mum's computer. He always converts them from quicktime to mp4, I'll get on with that right now.

    How about a file system with filters? and conversion. It's an audio file. It may have arrived as an mp3 or an AAC, but it's being opened by a .ogg player. I'll pipe it through this thing 'ere while no one is looking. Drag and drop a load of videos to a cowan personal player – and have them change to lower resolution and different encoding on the way. Trying to open a bitmapped file in a vector editor? Leave it to me. I'll sort it out. Oh look, now she's saving it again. She hasn't told me if she wants a bitmap or a vector file, I'll save both and make them look like there is only the one of them.

    or a file system with views? View by name, tag, application creation, age.

    Let's actually FINISH some of the CAD projects, shall we? before we make yet another another replacement for yet another perfectly good browser? Think about porting specialist apps from windows, like knitting pattern generators or interfaces to embroidery machines or model railway control. PLC ladder logic apps or train timetable searches or 3-d printers or point-of-sale or hotel booking. Find out why Serif page plus won't work in wine, and make it right.

  3. Chrome extensions support are already in the works.
    It has RSS feed support to add RSS feeds to the default feeds reader(or other).

    It's coming a long nicely.

    Finally KDE should have a good web browser.

  4. Hi Bob, I agree with you. KDE browsers are lagging behind in authentication other than passwords — and even in that area, only one username/password combo per page. This is just not ok. I have 2 gmail accounts (mine and my wife's) and since we use the same computer at home, we want both our username/passwords to be remembered. Konqueror/Rekonq etc cannot do that. Firefox/Chrome, on the other hand, happily take a list of username/passwords for one page.

    Also, at my work, I use a USB key to authenticate to internal websites. Again, the only option is Firefox because it can read the Class-A certificate off the USB key to authenticate to websites that don't always have password option.

    I have always said on forums etc that KDE needs to get more business-centric. Plasma is fine but we now need real meat (applications) behind it. By real, I mean ones that do the job in a corporate environment.

    I will always use a KDE desktop as the other major option gives me a headache :) However, I am forced to use:
    1. Firefox
    2. Pidgin

    Simply because they talk the language (protocols) that a business env needs. KDE applications are sorely lacking here. I would be disappointed if KDE remains a “geeky” desktop only useful for hardcore developers or just casual microblogging users.

  5. That's basically what this is. It's Webkit in a QT framework. Pretty synonymous with a better integrated Chrome. Besides, if we tried to integrate Chrome better we would have the same challenges we faced when trying to integrate Firefox. Namely it would lack:

    * The ability to view a website’s source in a KDE text editor, such as KWrite

    * Complete integration of the KDE file chooser / save dialogs

    * Supports KDE styles and colors

    * Drag and drop support for images and documents

    * KDE web search shortcuts. With these, users can enter shortcuts like “imdb:” followed by a search term and automatically connect to the search engine associated with the the shortcut.

    There is much more planned, too. Plus, I view it a plus to have all the power of Chrome minus the privacy concerns. Combined with using Startpage as the default search engine makes for some insanely secure browsing compared to other options.

  6. Better privacy than chrome? At least it has an option for turning OFF google search suggest. I’ve been trawling rekonq’s configuration window for 15 minutes now, and I have yet to find it. Seriously?

    Missing features or new solutions generally don’t alienate me, but forced features do. The only reason I’m writing this in firefox instead of rekonq is because I can’t turn off the search suggestions.

    The wide-spread adoptation of google into god-knows-what is bad enough, please stop.

  7. i gave it a good try, daily i try to force myself to use it. i give it -2 stars, two main reasons why i even open my web browser, to facebook(yeah… im a social network whore) and to use yahoo to search. rekonq crashes randomly on either one, so minus one star for each site it crashed on. on yahoo, if i see an interesting story, i like to right click, and open in new tab or window, so i can set it aside, then search for whatever i was searching for. rekonq often stops responding when i do this, eventually leading to a crash.

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