Sunday, July 15, 2012

New and Exciting web browser: Qupzilla

The world of web browsers is a split between the core used to render web pages. Webkit is used by Midori and all Google Chrome / Chromium variants. The other option, Gecko, is used by Firefox. Webkit offers some functionality over Gecko, including plugins and faster rendering of pages. A new web browser has recently come into existence that is fully cross-platform compatible and uses webkit called Qupzilla. Despite the weird sounding name, this web browser could give some of the larger browser a run for their money if it gets some of its kinks worked out. Here is the breakdown:
 Every operating system that has a Qt port and webkit can run Qupzilla. Windows, OS X, and any major Unix are all eligible. That is better support than Google Chrome and it's only a year old. Other than the great support it has other advantages:

Built-in addons
The web browser has multiple addons installed by default. Greasemonkey, a personal information handler, a speed dial (pictured, and adblock are all installed from the get-go.

Theming and Configuration
Themes are installable like in other browsers. The browser comes  with a few themes installed by default. They try to mimic the appearance of a theme for a certain operating system. The Linux theme integrates with you Qt theme specified in qt4-qt4config (run with qtconfig).

 Configuring Qupzilla is similar to configuring Firefox. Going to edit>preferences brings up a terse set of menus for configuring your web browser. A bunch of goodies are packed into here, including network proxy configurations, notifications, the password manager, and the download manager. A dialog for notifications is also including, and I was impressed at how well it integrated with free-desktop compliant notifications as well as OSD just like a more mature project like clementine does.

Qupzilla can import bookmarks from most major browsers. For playing video and game content, HTML 5 and Flash both work perfectly.

Browsing experience
Webkit loads pages very fast. I am on a slow connection and I was able to take note of the speeds that were achieved with webkit. Because of Qupzilla's use of Webkit and how it works with the operating system the memory usage should be FAR lower per-tab than any other major web browser. There are also other features in the browsing experience that make it unique. The IP address of a loaded page and the progress of loading is shown in the status bar. The search bar AND omnibar can both use different search engines depending on a set preference dialog or a key-letter like "g" for google or "d" for duckduckgo. Flash playing support is installed by default.
Like Firefox, Qupzilla has a download manager. A feature that I found to be very interesting was the ability to pass off an external program and parameters as the download manager.

Development Process
Major web browsers always feel the same anymore. Qupzilla is not to that point of maturity yet. Every update (which are somewhat frequent) brings some new and exciting feature along with it. The project is open-source and listed on github. The developers and anybody interesting in helping the project (as well as just normal users) should join #qupzilla on the freenode IRC network. I've talked a bit to the developers, and they are all very nice people that tend to listen to suggestions.

Of course, like any project it has its disadvantages too. Here is a rundown of those:

Addon support
The web browser has an extension system, but almost nobody is developing extensions that work with Qupzilla. The addons including by default are ported by the developers and may not be fully functioning. In fact, my beloved spell check doesn't work. This was the only real dealbreaker for me. Userscripts do work but they may not work exactly right.

The project is relatively new and bugs are being worked out. I haven't had a crash from it yet, but at one point it wiped all of my speed dial entries.

Qupzilla certainly is not the best web browser in the world in its current state. The major gripe with its users is addon support, and I couldn't agree more with how much this helps a browser out. I've contacted the developers, urging them to improve the plugin framework by looking at Firefox and Eclipse's approach. If addon support improved and better UI customization came to be, I would definitely use this as my default browser.

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