Linked by Eugenia Loli on Sun 19th Sep 2004 09:23 UTC
Internet & Networking A few days ago we read about the Deli Linux, which aims to fill-in the gap of Linux distros in the 486/586 machine range by running lightweight/older applications. The disto comes with Dillo and Links as its browsers, but I bet there aren't many people who know that there is yet another very lightweight browser for GTK+ 1.2.x and it is more powerful and more memory-optimized than Dillo: Access' NetFront. Check for info and screenshots inside.
Order by: Score:
v It's proprietary software...
by quaqo on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:00 UTC
Nice...
by Lumbergh on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:01 UTC

I'll put it on my old thinkpad that lives under the bed.

Somewhat offtopic, but is there any news on the fast rendering path for gtk2.x and western languages? I think the gap between gtk1.x and gtk2.x rendering speed could be improved.

And "non-free"
by artime on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:04 UTC

Elinks and Dillo are free (as in FSF+OSI+Debian definitions). This is an important "feature" for many people (I accept that not for the majority) and should be referred to while presenting new software nowadays... I know, YMMV, just my opinion.

RE: And "non-free"
by Jon on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:07 UTC

Important for you, maybe. For people who just want a browser to do their business, they don't care. If Netfront works better than Dillo and it's free as in beer, it'll be good enough for most people.

v RE: Artime
by Thom Holwerda on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:10 UTC
v RE: Free
by Thom Holwerda on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:11 UTC
RE: And "non-free"
by Jon on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:12 UTC

> I'd much rather use a good piece of software

Yup. Screenshots speak for themselves.

> I'ma try to get this running on OS X (if that's possible, I have no idea).

No, you can't. It is for x86 only (except if you have VirtualPC installed, emulating an i386 Linux distro).

From what I see on Access' web site, there is also a version of Qtopia!

Not so good
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:18 UTC

Not really as interesting as the article made it sounds...

I've browsed a bunch of websites with it, and while I was a bit surprised by its CSS capabilities (CSS 1 looks fairly good, but CSS 2 sites are rendered pretty badly), websites using older design techniques (nested tables and other junk) are completely unreadable: table cells may be empty as it appears on slashdot.org or reuters.com (granted: those sites are badly coded).

NetFront is also pretty slow on some websites, javascript support is clearly a problem here: you're going to get all those pop-ups, pop-under or other nasty dhtml advertisement junk.

Overall, it appears to me NetFront is trying to do more than it is really capable to do. Yet another lightweight browser, nothing more.

RE: Not so good
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:20 UTC

Slashdot works fine here with NetFront. I don't understand your problems with it. It is definately rendering better than Dillo (which is just about the only really lightweight X browser -- Chimera sucks).

RE: Not so good
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:25 UTC

I just tested NetFront with Reuters too. NetFront renders it great! Dillo is a disaster with it.

You must understand what we are talking about here: we are talking about a lightweight browser. We are not talking an IE or Safari or Mozilla contender. We are NOT expecting NetFront to do perfect rendering AND be lightweight. It is impossible to do both. But for what it really is, a [mobile] lightweight X11 solution, it is the best offering today. It blows Dillo away on every account.

@Eugenia
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:28 UTC

I downloaded NetFront from http://www.access.co.jp/nf/data/NF31SAR10LINUXGTKD.tar.gz as advertise on your article...

Well, here's a screenshot of /. run by NetFront: http://www.404consulting.com/netfront.png

See by yourself.

RE: Not so good
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:34 UTC

Wow, you are obviously hitting a bug there, or something!
Here is how it renders here:
http://www.osnews.com/img/8322/nf8.png

Please use the appropriate subject when replying.

Re: @Eugenia
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:39 UTC

Replying to myself...

I modified the font settings of Netfront and finally got it to render text on Slashdot. Quite surprising as I hadn't any problems using the same font setting on other websites (?!). Something is not 100% ready in their font handling.

I will rate Netfront a bit higher now.

Re: Ced
by wowtip on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:41 UTC

Well, here's a screenshot of /. run by NetFront: http://www.404consulting.com/netfront.png

See by yourself.


Actually, from time to time slashdot looks the same here in Firefox 0.9.3 and PR_1.0. My guess is that it's a bug slashdot should be blamed for, not Netfront or Firefox.

CSS
by TonyM on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:51 UTC

The difference in those screenshots is because of lack of CSS support in Dillo...

RE: CSS
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 10:54 UTC

No, it is not just CSS.

Dillo has the nasty habit to completely go berzerk when tags are closing out of order (that's needed some times, in order to go around other browser bugs, including IE bugs).

Also, NetFront supports SSL and Js, that Dillo doesn't. NetFront is just superior.

Wow
by Roberto on Sun 19th Sep 2004 11:33 UTC

Dillo is terrible! That web page rendering is a joke!

RE: RE:CSS
by monkeyboy on Sun 19th Sep 2004 11:42 UTC

Dillo has the nasty habit to completely go berzerk when tags are closing out of order (that's needed some times, in order to go around other browser bugs, including IE bugs).

I'm sorry, but that last thing is just bollocks.
Even if that is true (I do a fair bit of web development and I've never seen the need to put closing tags out of order) it would be so horridly broken that you'd be doing the other browser a *huge* disservice by providing a fix in the html.

To not be able to render properly nested html is... unthinkable by any browser (including lynx). Ok, rendering bugs do exist - but they should not be fixable by such atrocities.

RE: RE:CSS
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 11:49 UTC

>I'm sorry, but that last thing is just bollocks

I don't speak bollocks Mr.

> and I've never seen the need to put closing tags out of order

Forms. Here's a scenario:
You have a table cell, you got a lot of things in there, then you open a form, you add some widgets. If you close the form inside the cell, you WILL get about 10 pixels of empty space by IE. Most of the time, that extra 10 dead pixels destroy the whole design, so the workaround is to close the form after the </td>. This way, IE doesn't create the dead space. This hack is around and about on the net, since 1997. It is widely used on many sites.

Now, if you do the above, Dillo never closes the </td> (because it expects the </form> to get closed instead), and so the whole page becomes terrible-looking, because cells are not closed as far as the browser is considered, even if the closing tags are there.

Funny...
by Andre on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:07 UTC

I was just browsing a bit around on my Zaurus with Netfront when I saw Eugenia's post on Netfront.
Netfront is indeed quite capable at rendering websites. I only have some troubles with certain ad-loaden news sites. OS News is rendered great on Netfront. Cheers!

Links
by Anonymous on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:14 UTC

The Links 2.x homepage has some screenhots:

http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/~clock/twibright/links/features.htm...

Links 2.x in GUI mode renders pages pretty much like Dillo (no CSS), but it also has a text mode so you can run it from console or xterm, which can be a useful feature sometimes (at least for some of us).

RE: Links - links-hacked
by Menno Duursma on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:28 UTC

Posting this with v031220 from here:
http://xray.sai.msu.ru/~karpov/links-hacked/downloads/

Build against the "links-fonts-new" tarball with:
./configure
--enable-javascript
--enable-graphics
--enable-form-saving
--with-ssl
--with-x

Onder X (started with "-g" option) at least, it supports "tabed" windowing - way kewl. However, no CSS either.

RE: RE: CSS
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:40 UTC

Eugenia said: You have a table cell, you got a lot of things in there, then you open a form, you add some widgets. If you close the form inside the cell, you WILL get about 10 pixels of empty space by IE. Most of the time, that extra 10 dead pixels destroy the whole design, so the workaround is to close the form after the </td>. This way, IE doesn't create the dead space. This hack is around and about on the net, since 1997. It is widely used on many sites.

Have ever tried to set the form tag margin to 0, thus overwriding IE's default margin ?

form { margin: 0;}

This will fixed the extra spacing issue. I haven't checked it out with IE (I don't have Windows), but it does work with other browsers.

Re: CSS
by XemonerdX on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:45 UTC

Forms. Here's a scenario:
You have a table cell, you got a lot of things in there, then you open a form, you add some widgets. If you close the form inside the cell, you WILL get about 10 pixels of empty space by IE. Most of the time, that extra 10 dead pixels destroy the whole design, so the workaround is to close the form after the </td>. This way, IE doesn't create the dead space. This hack is around and about on the net, since 1997. It is widely used on many sites.

Doesn't mean it is needed. Just don't put the opening form-tag inside the cell (same as with the closing tag) and IE will render it just fine without extra pixels, same with other browsers, and tags can be properly opened & closed (and even validate)...

RE: RE: RE:CSS
by Gabriel Ebner on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:51 UTC

> You have a table cell, you got a lot of things in there, then you open a form, you add some widgets. If you close the form inside the cell, you WILL get about 10 pixels of empty space by IE.

Ok, so IE inserts a few pixels somewhere. That's acceptable and should be expected. HTML is not a type-setting language and will never be.

> Most of the time, that extra 10 dead pixels destroy the whole design, so the workaround is to close the form after the </td>.

If you have a design that breaks if you insert a margin of 10 pixels, then it's broken.

@XemonerdX
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:51 UTC

That won't work out. By default, forms have a specific (8-10px) margin in most browsers, so that would just widen the container block (being a table cell or a "div"). To get rid of the extra margin, you have to manually set it to 0 using CSS.

@Gabriel Ebner
by Ced on Sun 19th Sep 2004 12:59 UTC

If you have a design that breaks if you insert a margin of 10 pixels, then it's broken

Eugenia is referring to table-based layout, sliced-image design. In that respect, any extra margin does break the design.

Though, I completely agree with you a web page is (should be?) liquid and is not meant to be displayed similar pixel-to-pixel on any browser.

There's two ways to design a webpage: do it the "graphic designer's" way: think the web as a monolithic medium (similar to TV or paper folders) or do it the semantic way (content and structure matter the most, liquid design and no useless/fancy presentation). The second way is obviously the right decision for web presentation.

Usable product at this stage?
by Robert Sullivan on Sun 19th Sep 2004 13:21 UTC

From my perspective, NetFront seems to render pages better than Dillo. However, it has a few serious shortcomings (as mentioned in the article):
- GTK menu names
- Manual DNS server entry
- Horrible fonts
Basically, the engine is good but the interface isn't, and until this piece of software becomes more usable, I won't be using it.
Is there any chance that this will be released under the GPL so that people can work on the interface? Probably not.

I can't wait until they phase out HTML and move to XHTML. It essentially fixes most of these problems by only working in a single, standard way. While this may be annoying to a lot of people who design pages with tags closed out of order, opened and closed in the wrong places, etc., it should make browser development significantly simpler since the browser won't have to "interpret" what the web developer really meant and try to render something appropriately.

As for Dillo not working as well, I agree with the post pointing out that Dillo does not yet support CSS. I'm pretty certain once they've got that coded, it'll be awesome all over again.

Re: Closing tags in order and all that good stuff...
by Charles on Sun 19th Sep 2004 17:25 UTC

Could you explain to me why XHTML (which I suppose to be a subset of XML,) would solve these problems? Does it include all of the functionality of CSS, etc? What problems does it solve, and WHY/HOW? (technical reasons here, I'm curious.)
Disclaimer: I am not a web designer.

Anyway, does anyone know of any lightweight browsers for other platforms, like Windows 98, or the old MacOS? I can think of iCab http://www.icab.de/ off hand for Mac. (Course, the Mac is my home turf.)

XHTML, since it borrows a lot from XML, is much more strict than HTML. Tags must be opened and closed in a specific order. For example, if you put in <p></p> ... it's wrong. Right now it'll definitely error on validation, but hopefully it means browsers will not render it at all unless it's done properly. This makes it so web browsers can conform to the standard way of rendering it and not have to guess at what the developer is attempting to do. HTML is much more free form, so there are a lot of ways to do something and browsers have to try and figure out the best way to display the page.

XHTML is also pretty tightly integrated with CSS. So while you use XHTML for the document structure, you'd still use CSS to handle all the stylistic aspects of the page. So any browser would still need to be able to render CSS, but at least you'd hopefully have it so people who design pages poorly will have to own up to designing them poorly instead of blaming it on the browser.

There are other differences, but, it's probably best to check out w3.org to see what those are rather than me list them all here. ;)

Errr, damn it. It previewed fine! But apparently comments posted here don't jive with what the preview shows. Oh well, that example was me opening a paragraph tag, opening a tag for bold text, then closing the paragraph tag before closing the bold tag. So the tags were closed in the wrong order. This is valid in HTML and causes all sorts of headaches among different browsers. It is not, however, valid in XHTML.

@ced
by XemonerdX on Sun 19th Sep 2004 18:37 UTC

Read my comment again, please... Like I said, do *not* place the form-tags inside the table-cell, as long as it's not inside a visual element it's fine. Has been working very well for years now...

> XHTML, since it borrows a lot from XML, is much more
> strict than HTML. Tags must be opened and closed in a
> specific order. For example, if you put in
> <p></p> ... it's wrong.
> Right now it'll definitely error on validation, but
> hopefully it means browsers will not render it at all
> unless it's done properly. This makes it so web browsers
> can conform to the standard way of rendering it and not
> have to guess at what the developer is attempting to do.
> HTML is much more free form, so there are a lot of ways to
> do something and browsers have to try and figure out the
> best way to display the page.

Well, HTML was specified like that too (just as a SGML DTD) and you can see what those "webdesigners" did with it. I doubt it'll be much different with XHTML.

on topic please
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 20:04 UTC

Now, get back on topic, any other such off topic non-netfront comment will be deleted.

QT Based?!
by Anonymous on Sun 19th Sep 2004 20:43 UTC

It's me... or this browser is using QT Widgets to render the pages!?!?!

Can it be based on KHTML?!?!

RE: QT Based?!
by Jon on Sun 19th Sep 2004 20:51 UTC

No. ;)

v Re: on topic please
by MysticOne on Sun 19th Sep 2004 21:17 UTC
v Re: on topic please
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 21:18 UTC
v Re: Re: On topic please
by MysticOne on Sun 19th Sep 2004 21:36 UTC
v Re: Re: On topic please
by Eugenia on Sun 19th Sep 2004 21:42 UTC
NetFront is nice- my take on it
by RevAaron on Sun 19th Sep 2004 22:10 UTC

First- I've never used NetFront on an x86 Linux machine. I'll try to sometime, but I'm on a Windows machine right now. I have used it on PocketPC, Palm OS and on the Zaurus, which runs Linux and Qtopia. I've found it to be a great browser on these PDA platforms. IE sucked in PocketPC 2000 and 2002- but I've had a very good experience using IE on vanilla WinCE 3.0 (Handheld PC 2k) and WinCE.NET 4.1, both of which have a *much* better IE than the first two versions of PocketPC. That said, NetFront still did better than IE on my WinCE machines (Jornada 720 and Sigmarion 3) in one big way: speed. On the Zaurus C760, NetFront was quite a bit speedier than IE was on my Sigmarion 3, with the same CPU. NetFront also had a nice feature to retool the page for better viewing on a PDA- no horizontal scrolling.

Opera 6 for the Zaurus has a similar feature but is much crappier. Opera 6 was a little faster and I liked it over all a wee bit more than NetFront on my Zaurus C760, so I ended up using it a lot more. One very annoying "feature" (?) of NetFront on the Zaurus is that you can only have something like 4 tabs- with Opera there is no limit other than memory space. Not a big deal for a lot of people I imagine, and something that hopefully doesn't exist on the desktop version, but for someone who uses my PDA as my main computer, it often made me go to Opera. When doing a lot of web browsing, it is common for me to have both Opera and NetFront open, with NetFront handling the pages with a lot of horizontal scrolling, which is fixes for me very well- without mangling the way the page looks.

The speed and rendering capability of NetFront makes the Zaurus a very good platform for mobile web browsing. Anyone who has read my reviews of the Zaurus C760 here or elsewhere knows that the Zaurus does *a lot* of things poorly... But web browsing is one of the places where it beats out WinCE and Palm OS IMHO.

As I mentioned above, there is a Palm OS version of NetFront. NetFront is what Palm bases their "Web Browser" app on- it's just a re-branded NetFront. It it quite fast, be it over a USB/PPP (try out SoftTick's app!) or wifi connection. Though with the POS version, there is no ability to have multiple windows or tabs, which is a show stopper for me other than looking up something quick on the web.

It does look like it's using the Qt widgets to render within the page itself. It does *not* use KHTML, though it could have statically linked Qt in there. Though it would be odd- Qt and GTK+ in the same app, though it has certainly happened in the past.

As for the bug viewing slashdot: I can second that this is a problem with Slashdot, not the browser. I have seen this little glitch many times in Firefox, NetFront, Opera and IE. Just reload the page. I'm not sure what causes it, it always seemed to me that my browser wasn't delivered all of the HTML or CSS that it needed to display the page correctly.

RE: NetFront is nice- my take on it
by Jon on Sun 19th Sep 2004 22:26 UTC

>It does look like it's using the Qt widgets to render within the page itself.

It's just the gtk theme used, Geramik. It is using 100% GTK.

RE: Links - links-hacked
by jirka on Sun 19th Sep 2004 22:41 UTC

The graphics mode of Links-hacked is nice but there is no way to select code page. And rendering of ISO8859-2 text is ugly (ISO8859-1 characters are OK but other are not). Original Links2 has no problems with it...

And both NetFront and Dillo are useless for browsing of non-English (Czech, Polish, Russian etc.) sites because they don't have any possibility to switch codepage. And it is imposible to use non ISO8859-1 font in Dillo. So Links2 is still the only choice for many people :-(

Doesn't matter for some...
by dpi on Mon 20th Sep 2004 01:54 UTC

Links2, Dillo and W3m all work fine if you're just searching or information instead of gaining some visually awesome website. I use GUI browsers for their added and addable extensions but you must understand some people just don't care how a website looks like. If you care for information (text, video, pictures) a text-browser or simple-GUI browser just works fine. Not everyone uses primarily their senses on the Internet. Hence, for some and/or in situations webbrowsers such as Links2, Dillo, W3m or even (yes) Lynx work fine!

The freeware vs FOSS argument also has some major influence on some. I don't really care for it that much here, but since the software is practically not portable this browser runs on a lot less platforms than existing. The power to port lies at a small minority. I'm actually interested in running this on non-x86 Unices! I mean, try Mozilla on an older MIPS or SPARC. Its just a 'bit' too slow and i'm not always on information-mode.

Gmail not supported
by Rishi on Mon 20th Sep 2004 02:11 UTC

I just tried Dillo and figured Dillo does not work on this browser.

RE: Doesn't matter for some...
by jirka on Mon 20th Sep 2004 11:29 UTC

> The freeware vs FOSS argument also has some major influence on some. I don't really care for it that much here, but since the software is practically not portable this browser runs on a lot less platforms than existing. The power to port lies at a small minority.
Yes. The software can be nice and usefull but if it runs on x86 only that is is really useless for many people.There is lot of people running Linux/NetBSB/something on PPC or SPARC (for example) and there is lot of IRIX and Solaris users. Open source usually can be ported to those platforms but closed source freeware can't.

> I'm actually interested in running this on non-x86 Unices! I mean, try Mozilla on an older MIPS or SPARC. Its just a 'bit' too slow and i'm not always on information-mode.
Yes, Mozilla on IRIX (on my SGI Indy) works nice but is too slow. But Dillo is not much faster here (I have no idea why) :-(

I'm not sure why the difference. I had excellent results with most of the sites using open source Dillo. My test of the lynx vs. ELinx screen showed much better results using lynx.
I'll not bother with NetFront for now since my tests with open source Dillo were much better than the screenshots and more closely resembled the NetFront display.
Nice article though, it got me to try ELinks and open source Dillo.

The question is not open-sources or Proprietary

NetFront is surprisingly a better propriatory browser for old i(x)86 computer. Wich is interresting, considering that the industry is looking towards: newer is better and bigger is better.

I never used it, up to now but, if the license software agrement is nice, i will.

The real purpose of theses browsers is to surf the web, no matter how.

Reusing old computer is nescessary, Economically or mostly environmentally.

So all browsers named here have their own purpose... i mean use. In wich they excel.

Say dillo is: Very quick on anything that has a cpu at the expense of being html only, but still render image. Which mean less complexity, and mostly more security.

Say links is: A very good text based browser wich have the most modern rendering.

Say lynx, w3m, debris are: Very good for their purposes...terminal works. Under X11R? or not.

With all of them you can see images through X and "xli %s".

They are all good for slow computer...

>Yes, Mozilla on IRIX (on my SGI Indy) works nice but is too slow. But Dillo is not much faster here (I have no idea why) :-(

The sgi indy is pretty old for a computer and mostly the X server is damn slow, because the port doesn't get much attentions.

Take the sgi R5000 and try browsing in a terminal (no X) with links-ssl and aalib . Oh It is quick again.... You can even use the spare cpu time to listen to music or .... even a server

Somewhere in the article it was said that dillo use a lot of memory. see the .dillo/dillorc for :

# Dicache is where the Decompressed Images are cached (not the original ones).
# If you have a lot of memory and a slow CPU, use YES, otherwise use NO
use_dicache=NO

Charles ;-)

On Linux/x86 it rocks too!
by RevAaron on Mon 20th Sep 2004 19:00 UTC

A bit of a follow up: I got around to trying it on a Linux/x86 machine, although under VMWare. A lot of things are pretty slow in Linux under VMWare on this machine. FireFox, Mozilla and Konq all take too long to start. I was amazed to see NetFront pop up in just two seconds! And browsing was fast too, much faster than FireFox and Konq in this setup. Which is saying a lot, as those browsers are both quite fast. It uses a lot less RAM too: 19.5/12.0 for NetFront and 104.3/25.5 for FireFox. Numbers are both in MB of RAM, VSZ/RSS and both had the same 4 pages loaded each in a tab (osnews.com, newmobilecomputing.com, apple.com and slashdot.org). If you're on any sort of slower machine, check this out.

I didn't have the weird problem with the funky menus that was in the screenshots. /me shrugs The pages looked a lot nicer when I switched the font from fixed to Helvetica too.

Only 15 bit screens and more
by B. Welmers on Mon 20th Sep 2004 20:09 UTC

Seems to be a good browser when I tried it on my modern system. The footprint seems to a bit more then Dillo, but can't determine well because of the funky themes i'm running on GTK.
I wanted to try this program on my old laptop (486 33MHz with 12MB RAM) it complains about a 8 bit video mode not being supported and just quits. That's really disappointing. (and closed-source so you can't bypass the check just to look wether it works or not)
BTW: dillo, sylpheed and abiword works quite well on the old laptop

Any other emulations tried?
by dpi on Tue 21st Sep 2004 17:20 UTC

Like, e.g. Sun's Janus or something else which provides Windows/86 or Linux/x86 compatibility?