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

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.