Alternative Browsers

Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari lead the market, but there are other browsers out there for PC and Mac users which can be better then the one you’re using now.

When Microsoft, Mozilla or Apple comes out with a new version of Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari, it makes news, mainly because most of us use one or more of these three Web browsers. In fact, with the exception of Google’s Chrome (which made a big splash, mostly because it came from Google), most of the alternative browsers out there tend to get lost in the shuffle and it’s too bad, since some of these relatively unknown browsers are good, and could be better for some users than the ones they’re already using.

Check these browsers out; one of them may work for you.

Camino
It is an open-source browser based on Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine, is clearly designed to be a simple, user-friendly, yet fully functional browser. With a look and feel very similar to Safari and Firefox, almost anyone will find it easy to work with in seconds.

Maxthon
It’s got just about every feature built into competing browsers, and many that you won’t find anywhere else, such as a “file sniffer” that makes it easy to download YouTube videos and a popup notepad for pasting or dragging text you want to save. Power users will love it. Those who like sleek design will turn away.

OmniWeb
OmniWeb’s best features include extensive ad-blocking, auto-saved Web browsing sessions and site specific preferences. From the unique tab drawer to support for browsing Web pages using OS X’s built-in Speech Recognition, OmniWeb’s hold of Mac specific technologies wrapped in a clean and uncluttered interface makes the product a delightful browser alternative.

Opera
Opera 9.6 for Macintosh is a fast, option-laden browser that represents a formidable entry in an extremely competitive product category. Its standout features are Speed Dial startup page, extensive search engine support built into the browser and it also offers support for widgets.

Shiira
Like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome, Shiira is based on WebKit. One of the first unique interface elements was Shiira’s PageDock which provides the same functionality as tabbed browsing, but with complete thumbnails of every page that is opened. Other features includes the menu items for automatically e-mailing the URL or entire contents of a page with a single click, and a very effective full-screen-mode option that would be perfect for presentations or watching video.

Which is the finest?
It all depends on what you require from a browser!

HTML 5: the next version of the HTML

World Wide Web Consortium released the first working draft for HTML 5 this year in January. It is a fifth major revision of the HTML we all use every day. When HTML 5 is expressed in XML, it is called XHTML 5. The current version of HTML is 4 which developed in 1999.

Apple, Opera, and the Mozilla Foundation – major browser vendors – came together as a group called Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WhatWG) to build up an updated and upgraded version of HTML. W3C took note of these developments and started its own next-generation HTML effort with many of the same members.

This new version HTML 5 also goes under the name Web Applications 1.0 and it would be immediately familiar to existing HTML programmers. There are no namespaces or schemas. Elements don’t have to be closed. Browsers are forgiving of errors. A p is still a p, and a table is still a table. At the same time, we would come across some new and confusing elements. Our div remain, but now HTML includes section, header, footer, and nav as well. em, code, and strong are still present, but so are meter, time, and m. img and embed continue to be used, but now there are video and audio too. However, closer inspection by the html programmer would reveal that these elements aren’t that different. This can also be an effort to make HTML more developer friendly; the datagrid controls seem similar to those of ASP.NET in name and possibly functionality too.

It was explicitly designed to degrade gracefully in browsers that don’t support it. It provides real benefits to programmers today while promising even more for future page visitors.

But remember that HTML 5 is still a draft and this draft may not be finalized for years, work on HTML 5 continues. Perhaps it will be in our browsers in December 2010.

» View draft recommendation

What are Web Browsers?

Web browsers are applications that display Web pages you create with HTML, HTML, and CSS. Many different browsers are available, and most are free of charge. Almost all PC operating systems include a Web browser by default, and most people use the browser that came with their PC.

Major Web Browsers
Starting with Netscape Navigator in the early- to mid-1990s, many Web browsers have come and gone. Today, only a few browsers remain viable. This section names and briefly discusses three of the more popular browsers.

1. Firefox – Firefox is a new, free Web browser that was designed to be fast, secure, and simple to use. Firefox includes powerful features such as tabbed browsing, multiple home pages, and an integrated search feature that lets you search major Web search engines such as Google, Amazon.com, and eBay. You can download Firefox from www.getfirefox.com.

2. Internet Explorer – Because of the popularity of the Microsoft Windows operating system, it should be no surprise that the most popular Web browser is currently Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Although IE is included with Windows, you can also download it from www.microsoft.com/ie.

3. Netscape Navigator – Netscape Navigator was one of the first commercial Web browsers available. Earlier versions of Netscape (versions 4 and prior), though still used by some people, do not support many modern Web standards. It is therefore a good idea to test all Web pages you design in both newer versions of Netscape (such as Netscape 7.2) and older versions (such as Netscape Communicator 4.8). Netscape is available free at www.netscape.com.

Versions
A few years ago, Web browser manufacturers would introduce new versions of their browsers on a frequent basis. Because of the standardization in HTML, XHTML, and CSS, Web browsers today typically offer a major upgrade once every year or two. You should always make sure that your Web pages are viewable with the most popular Web browsers at the current time.

Enhancements
In the early days of the Web, browser manufacturers would introduce enhancements to their Web browsers that only applied to Web pages viewed with that manufacturer’s browser. This practice made writing Web pages difficult because designers had to figure out how to handle users who did not have the browser for which a certain Web site was optimized. In many cases, the users would receive a message saying the site was not supported by their browser. This was more of a concern in the past, before the standardization of HTML, XHTML, and CSS. This should not happen in the future, as most Web browser manufacturers now support most of the latest Web standards.