Is It IE or Firefox?

very good
key review info
application features
  • Simple, efficient, fast browser.
  • (6 more, see all...)

The world of web browsers is divided between three great giants. Well, judging by their market share there is only one monopolizing web browser and that is Internet Explorer (with almost 80% of the market). The weird thing is that more and more polls show a user affinity towards Firefox (a normal effect for releasing a hell of a product). The third browser worthy of your attention is Opera with a market share even lower than Apple's Safari.

I like to think that all the other browsers out there are just variations of the original as in Windows environment most of them have their engine based on one of these three. Other popular web surfing tools that I recommend as alternatives are Flock, Maxthon and The World Browser. All of them are absolutely free and bring very useful options.

But, if you want an alternative to Firefox, you can go on and try K-Meleon, a browser based on Mozilla's HTML rendering engine, Gecko. The freeware has made quite a stir some time ago, while still in beta stage. Now it has reached its final version and is perfect for an analysis.

Some said that it is partly Mozilla, partly IE, some made affirmations like it is a lean, mean browser, while others simply labeled it as a viable IE replacement. These being said, I should warn you that the project is not yet complete (in fact it is quite far) as there are still things to take care of.

The buffed interface contains rounded icons giving it the most casual look. New tabs (which are called layers in here) are opened the regular way (Ctrl+T) and just like in IE7 and Firefox, double clicking on the tab bar will cause the apparition of a new layer.

Despite the fact that it is a relatively new web browser, it features a bunch of options that would raise most web browser's envy to the highest level. The list of options is quite large and comprehensive, covering everything from GUI, page display and the way files are handled to privacy and security options and plugins.

K-Meleon supports extensions (much of which are adapted from Firefox) in order to increase its flexibility. These can be found on the extension page and contain useful gizmos that can help you in fighting online ads, add IE tab, Mozilla's famous NoScript add-on or for backing up and restoring K-Meleon profiles.

One of the pitfalls available in K-Meleon is the disorder of options. I was expecting to see the Options submenu somewhere under Tools or Edit, but instead it is placed in Bookmarks menu (took me a while to learn that those were not the bookmark options). The same Advanced Preferences window can be accessed from Toolbars dynamic menu, under View. Or you can try Edit menu as the same Advanced Preferences are included. So there are three different locations of the same feature.

But no matter how advanced those preferences are, they still lack some settings like fixing your home page, changing the skin, configuring the cache options or the proxy. If you are interested in these you can access them under Edit menu, from Preferences.

Judging by the abundance of features and options available in K-Meleon I thought that there must be a way to save the browsing session for a later time. And yet that was the most difficult setting to find. Advanced Preferences did not mention such a thing and Preferences allowed you to open the browser with either homepage or a blank one. It seemed too unreasonable for this not to be available so I kept my eyes open wider than usual.

But it seems that there is a possibility to reload the last browsing session. All you have to do is walk the long way in View>Home and check the last option available.

As any respectable web browser nowadays, K-Meleon is designed to make your browsing as comfortable as possible and it supports mouse gestures (without an add-on or extension). The feature works like a charm as the software responds to the commands with no problems. However, enabling mouse gestures will cause a bit of an issue: the Advanced Preferences will no longer work and your browsing will be affected as clicking on the links causes no response.

The test has been performed in Vista environment, on both Basic and Business editions and the same result was obtained. The change is not effected as soon as mouse gestures are enabled, but at the first restart of the application. And as there is no option to restore all the settings to their default initial state, there is nothing else left but to re-install the application.

Adding bookmarks and managing them is as easy as in any other web browser. They can be stored in folders for better organizing. If you are looking for importing them from IE, you can simply press the Important Favorites and they will be automatically added to the list.

Privacy options allow the user to clear any sensitive or harmful data that there may be stored. The cookies can be erased at startup or when closing the application as well as cache, history or any passwords the software offers to store. Further protection of sensitive information can be enforced by applying a master password. It will encrypt any personal information stored on the computer preventing unauthorized persons' access. SSL3 and TLS are the protocols for encrypted transmissions. Pretty safe if you think that banks use the same protocols.

K-Meleon provides unrestricted access to searching information on any search engine you want. The list is extensive enough (I stopped counting at 70) to make the most finical user happy. And if the search engine is not listed, you can always add it yourself. The web locations include Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, AltaVista, Answers.com, eBay, dictionaries, Wikipedia (multiple languages), etc.

There is no built in email included in the application, but you can read your emails by accessing your email client directly from K-Meleon. All you need to do is go to Tools in mail and news and provide the path to your email client.

RSS feed support is more and more popular among web browsers, so the element of our analysis could not miss the occasion of providing you with the latest news. There is no default feed for you in the application, but adding them is easy. You can keep them organized in folders and the options permit choosing a time interval for automatic refresh as well as notification when new articles are posted. To make your job easier, K-Meleon supports importing and exporting OPML files from/to different aggregators.

Regarding the speed, K-Meleon proved quite hasty when it came to opening web pages. The results were very close to those obtained by Firefox. Yahoo! Mail Beta was not tested on it so it is not officially supported. The result is that there will be some errors in displaying some images. Acid 2 test was not OK, but then again, neither IE7 nor Firefox passed it.

The feel of K-Meleon is great. The browser is lightweight and provides extensive configuration settings. If you add the fact that advanced users can tweak it from "about:config" just like Firefox and the support for extension, then the application is complete. However, there are lots of options greyed out in Advanced Preferences and some of the settings are not working properly yet. Also, there used to be some trouble with storing users settings, but it seems that an add-on fixes the problem.

The Good

The interface is great and the abundance of options will bring advanced users the spice they are accustomed to.

The built in RSS reader, though it is not the most fortunate, provides all the necessary options.

For web searching the application provides the most extensive list of sites for you to choose from. And if you are not satisfied with that you can add remove them and add some of your own.

The Bad

Mouse gestures is the one feature you should stay away from (at least in Vista). Enabling it leads to browser dysfunctions that could be repaired only with a reinstall of the software.

Advanced Preferences is not equipped with Cancel and OK buttons. If you make lots of changes there is no way to revert to the default configuration.

Advanced Preferences has no place for itself. You can access it from three different locations (and one of them is Bookmarks menu). That may be a bit confusing for any user.

Enabling opening the last session of tabs is pretty difficult as the option is nowhere in the Preferences menu but in View>Home menu.

If you are not careful during installation the application will be set as your default browser. Most browsers let the user decide if they want it set to default or not the moment the program is launched.

The Truth

The application is a bit far from being complete (many options are still to be implemented), but it is worth playing with it.

Mischiefs like multiple locations of the same menu or like the fact that not all Display options are in the same place and if you are not a big fan of mouse gestures, you should give K-Meleon a try.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:


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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 4
pricing / value 4


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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