Category Archives: Internet Browsers

News and Information about Internet Browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Flock, Safari. Extensions, Add-ons, User Scripts, Tips and Tricks for all the Internet Browsers available today.

Ex-CEO of Opera Launches Vivaldi – A Powerful Browser for Power Users

Opera Software has always had a fairly sizeable and loyal fan base. The decades old browser never quite went mainstream, at least not on the desktop, but it attracted droves of power users thanks to its innovative streak and host of unique features. However, with its switch to the Chromium engine, Opera ditched almost everything that made it unique, and in the process disappointed most of its power users. It has gone from being a cutting-edge internet suite to a light-weight Chrome shell. There are still many users who use Opera 12 – released over two years ago, as their daily driver. The good news for all of them is that Jon Von Tetzchner – Opera’s co-founder and Ex-CEO has announced his next venture, and he is not giving up on browsers.

Vivaldi Browser
Vivaldi Browser

Vivaldi is a brand new browser from the very same people who brought to you Opera. Like the current Opera browser, it will be using Google’s Blink rendering engine. However, unlike the current Opera browser, Vivaldi aims to bring back most of the good stuff from Opera 12. The user interface of Vivaldi has been built using web technologies like Node.js, and Browserify. The first technical preview was released today with five key features:

  • Quick Commands: This is similar to Launchy on Windows or Spotlight on Mac. It offers a quick and easy way to navigate through tabs, search through history, change settings, and a bunch of other stuff with just the keyboard.
  • Panels: Panels used to be one of the many unique features in Opera, and it makes a comeback in Vivaldi. Right now the Panel provides quick access to bookmarks, downloads, and notes. In the future, you will also be able to access your mail and contacts from this section. Opera’s Notes feature has been improved, and now supports webpage screenshots.
  • Tab Stacks: You can organize tabs into groups (called Stacks) by dragging a tab on top of another. This is a really neat feature, but I hope that Vivaldi also brings back and improves the automatic tab stacking feature that Opera experimented with briefly.
  • Speed Dials: Opera introduced speed dials – visual bookmarks that are quickly and easily accessible, which are now present in all major browser in some form or the other. Hence, it’s hardly a surprise that Vivaldi also has speed dials. However, unlike most other implementations, Vivaldi supports folders in Speed Dials and you can also quickly open up your browsing history and bookmarks.
  • Intuitive UI: Vivaldi is bright and colourful, yet simple. The URL bar changes its colour automatically based on the website that you are currently viewing, and hovering over a tab opens a thumbnail preview. Any tab that you close can be restored from the trash can.

Other things that Vivaldi is currently working on include online synchronization, spatial navigation, extensions, and an email client.

Vivaldi Browser Screenshot
Vivaldi Browser Screenshot

The technical preview is pretty stable, but it’s obviously not ready to be a daily driver. Simple shortcuts like Ctrl+Enter are currently missing, and I did experience some stability issues. However, it already does enough to get me excited. It’s a refreshing new alternative, which can hopefully become what Opera once was.

[ Download Vivaldi Browser ]

ARChon Runtime Enables Chrome Browser to Run Android Apps on Windows, Linux, and Mac

Earlier in the year, Google had announced that it was working on bringing Android app compatibility to ChromeOS. However, developer Vlad Filippov has gone one step further. He has tweaked Google’s Android Runtime extension to enable Android apps to be installed as Chrome browser extensions on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Android Apps

Here are the quick steps to get started with ARChon runtime, which lets you run unlimited number of Android APKs on Chrome browser.

  1. Download ARChon from here.
  2. Extract the contents.
  3. Open Chrome extensions tool and enable ‘Developer mode’.
  4. Click on ‘Load unpacked extension’ and select the extracted instance of ArChon from Step 2.
  5. Find the modified APK for ARChon from the web or download the APK and follow the instructions here to modify a new APK.
  6. Install ARChon for Chrome
    Install ARChon as an Unpacked Chrome Extension
  7. Extract the APK contents.
  8. Click on ‘Load unpacked extension’ and load the APK.
  9. Now, click on ‘Launch’ to start the app.
Running Android Apps on Chrome
Running Android Apps on Chrome

If you’re confused, check out the video demonstration below.

ARChon currently has several major limitations. The biggest is that it’s not automated, and the entire process has way too many steps for a casual user. It requires obtaining and modifying the Android app package (APK), which is not straight forward. It also doesn’t work for all apps. However, the Reddit community has been actively testing various apps. A small list of compatible apps and their direct download links is available here. Currently, there are better and easier ways to run Android apps on your desktop. However, this development is still exciting as it hints towards a future where all Chrome users might have access to the millions of Android apps available on the Play store.

[ Hat tip: OMGChrome WikiMedia ]

Microsoft launces Internet Explorer Developer Channel

On June 16, Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer will now have a Developer Channel release which can run side-by-side with the production/GA version of Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and Windows 8.x. This feature, which has long been available in Google’s Chrome browser and Mozilla’s Firefox, is a pleasant surprise to those who use Internet Explorer.

This release is a continuation of the effort Microsoft, and especially Internet Explorer team has started, to become developer-friendly by being proactive in communication about the roadmap and the features. This release, unlike the previous developer previews Microsoft created, not only runs side-by-side with the existing version of Internet Explorer but also includes changes to the UI as they are made.

Some of the key updates in this release include:

Updates to F12 developer tools

An enhanced debugging experience with event breakpoints that help you get to your event-driven bugs faster.

Richer analysis capabilities throughout the Memory and UI Responsiveness profilers, which support further reduction of noise through multi-dimensional timeline filter, while further increasing the semantic value of the data being reported by lighting up performance.measure() based instrumentation and dominator folding.

An improved navigation experience that provides more keyboard shortcuts (ctrl+[ and ctrl + ]), as well as new header notifications, which allows you to quickly determine whether any of the profiling tools are running or how many errors your page has.

The complete list of updates are on MSDN here.

IE Dev Channel F12 Tools
IE Dev Channel F12 Tools

Support for WebDriver standard

IE Developer Channel also comes with support for the emerging WebDriver standard through which Web developers can write tests to automate Web browsers to test their sites. It’s a programmable remote control for developing complex user scenarios and running them in an automated fashion in your Web site and browser. See how you can setup WebDriver in the IE Developer Channel, and try out this sample WebDriver project.

Support for Gamepad API standard and improved WebGL support

IE Developer Channel comes with support of the emerging Gamepad API standard that lets you use JavaScript to add gamepad support to your Web apps and games.

IE Developer Channel also improves WebGL performance and adds support for instancing extension, 16-bit textures, GLSL builtin variables, and triangle fans. This release improves our Khronos WebGL Conformance Test 1.0.2 score from 89% to 94%.

Status.modern.ie Gamepad Status
Status.modern.ie Gamepad Status

The team is promising frequent updates to the Developer Channel and we shall see how frequent that is. Given the pace and cadence across various other groups at Microsoft, it could be anywhere from two weeks (Xbox Music) to a month (Xbox One, Power BI) or three-four months (Windows, Windows Phone). Whatever it is, for developers this is much better than anything Internet Explorer has done in the past.

You can download the Developer Channel release from here.

Here’s Charles Morris introducing the Developer Channel IE:

Torch Browser: An All-In One Browser with Video Downloader and Torrent Client

Web browsers have come a long way over the past decade. They’ve morphed from being applications that displayed static content to being applications which enable other applications to run. Whether it is TweetDeck or Gmail or Aviary, the web apps of today are as powerful as many of its desktop counterparts. However, even as browsers have become more capable than ever before, they’ve also been trimmed down. In keeping with the trend of minimalism, web browsers have focused on becoming lighter and faster and cleaner than ever before. Even Opera, which once aimed to be the complete web productivity suite, changed tactics and killed of several features – IRC client, RSS client, Mail client, Torrent client Unite, and Widgets to name a few. Modern day browsers aim to include only what they believe is essential, and offer the rest through third-party extensions. However, if you want a browser, which does a little bit more out of the box, you’re not entirely out of options. Among the most promising new options is a little-known browser from Israel called Torch Browser.

Torch-Browser
Torch Browser

Torch Browser is based on Chromium, and looks and feels like pretty much Google Chrome. Once you login with your Google account, it will sync all of your Chrome settings, including your extensions. At the time of writing, the latest version of Torch is based on Chromium 29, while the latest stable channel release is Chromium 34. This difference might leave the Torch Browser vulnerable to security and performance issues that Google might have already patched. So, this is definitely something you should weight before opting for Torch.

Unlike Opera, Torch doesn’t try to cater to the power users by adding niche features like IRC clients and web servers. Instead, all of the stuff that it adds are stuff that almost everyone will find useful. Chances are, you already have a dedicated, third-party app or extension for doing the same.

Easy Sharing

Torch provides out of the box sharing through a button that allows you to push content to Facebook and Twitter. There’s also another less-obvious, but way more useful way to share links, images, text, or and other content on the page. Just grab hold of the object you want to share, and drag left. It will display buckets where you can just drop the object. If you drag to the right, something similar happens. However, instead of getting options to share, you’ll be provided options to search for the selected content on Wikipedia, Google, Google Images, and YouTube.

Torch-Browser-Sharing-Button
Torch Browser: Sharing Button
Torch-Browser-Drag-Drop-Share
Torch Browser: Drag and Drop Share
Torch-Browser-Drag-Drop-Search
Torch Browser: Drag and Drop Search

Media Grabber

The media grabber allows you to download embedded videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, and other websites. Torch also ships with an audio extractor, which can just extract the audio from a video.

Torch-Browser-Media-Grabber
Torch Browser: Media Grabber

Download Accelerator

The download manager in Torch seems to be exactly the same as that in Chrome, but it claims to speed up the download rate of your media files with a powerful download accelerator. I didn’t find any noticeable difference during my testing, but your mileage might vary.

Torrent Client

Torch comes with a fully featured torrent downloader, that’s tightly integrated with the browser. Explaining torrents to your grandparents is never easy, but having it integrated with the browser does help things.

Torch-Browser-Torrent-Downloader
Torch Browser: Torrent Dowloader

TorchMusic

Torch even has built a Spotify-like online music streaming service called TorchMusic. It seems to be using videos available on YouTube to power its service. All the basic features including music discovery, tending section, music library, and playlists are available. And, it works everywhere in the world.

Torch-Browser-Music-Client
Torch Browser: Music Client

Facelift

This tool basically allows you to apply user styles to Facebook. You can chose from several existing themes, or create your own yourself by changing colours, editing fonts, and adding a background image. The theme that you apply, will only be visible to you, and other people who visit your profile using Torch browser.

Torch-Browser-Facebook-Skin
Torch Browser: FaceLift

Hola for Torch

This is essentially the Hola Unblocker extension, which allows you to access region restricted websites like Hulu.

Torch Browser promises to respect your privacy, and has been certified as 100% safe by Softpedia. However, I did find it installing an extension called Torch Shopping without explicitly asking me. I’m not sure what it does, but I’d recommend removing it before using Torch Browser. There’s also a malware named Torch Toolbar, but Torch Browser seems to have no connection with it. The only other annoyance that I’ve discovered while using Torch is that the omnibar (the address bar), is not resizable. This means that most of the extensions I’ve are hidden behind a drop-down list.

Torch-Browser-Shopping-Extension
Torch Browser: Shopping Extention

On the whole, Torch is a pretty interesting package. It retains almost all of the benefits of Chrome, and cleverly packages a few neat goodies of its own. A power user will probably have dedicated utilities or third-party extensions that they prefer for a lot of the stuff that Torch offers. However, I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would appreciate having all the essentials integrated within the browser itself.

[ Download Torch Browser ]

Firefox 29: New Features at a Glance

Earlier today, Mozilla officially released Firefox 29 for desktop as well as mobiles. Although the rapid release cycle has accustomed us to small incremental changes, this release contains several significant user-facing changes to make it interesting. Mozilla has made a determined effort to make Firefox more consistent, intuitive, and personal. This release is the culmination of more than two years of work on project Australis. Here are the most noticeable changes in Firefox 29 for desktop.

New Theme

The pillars of Australis are: consistency, precision and refinement. Mozilla has attempted to evolve and polish the existing user interface, while eliminating idiosyncrasies, and unifying various aspects of design including borders, colours, and spacing. With this re-skinning, Firefox now looks even more like Chrome, but that’s not really a bad thing. The Firefox button has been nixed in favour of a menu button in the address bar. The tab bar has been redesigned so that the active tab is now more prominent, while the others recede into the background. However, unlike Chrome and Opera, Firefox has retained the separate ‘Search Bar’.

Firefox-29

New Menu

The new menu bar houses all the commonly used options, but looks a lot cleaner and is undoubtedly a lot easier to use. It’s also entirely customizable, but I’ll discuss that a little later.

Firefox-Menu

New Bookmarks Manager

Once again, taking a leaf out of Chrome’s book, Firefox has simplified its bookmarks manager. Now you can open, delete, move and perform most of the stuff you want to do with your bookmarks without having to open the Bookmarks Library.

Firefox-Bookmarks

Customization Mode

One of the many reasons, I used to love the old Opera was the flexibility of its user interface. While Opera ditched all of its strengths during the migration to the Chromium engine (Blink), Firefox is building on top of its solid foundation. Firefox always had a ‘Customize Toolbar’ option, but it was pretty limited. Firefox 29 replaces that with an extremely powerful and intuitive customization mode. Once in this mode you can easily add or remove buttons from the address bar as well as the menu. Buttons available include the ones that are bundled with Firefox, as well as the ones added by extensions.

Firefox-Customization-Mode

Sync with Firefox Account

The Firefox Sync option has passed through many iterations. With Firefox 29, you get the ability to set up Firefox Sync by creating a Firefox account. All you need to create a Firefox account is to enter your email address and set a password. This is a lot simpler than the previous mechanism which forced you to use a random sequence of characters as your identification.

Firefox-Account

Of course, these five are the biggest and the most visible changes in Firefox 29. There are a bunch of other changes including a new Gamepad API and multiple developer oriented enhancements. Firefox 29 is undoubtedly a major step forward for the browser, which was once dubbed as the ‘Internet Explorer killer’. However, it might have to move faster than it has in the recent past if it hopes to catch up with Chrome – the current market leader.

[ Download Firefox ]

Google Announces Blink, a New WebKit Fork That Will Power Chrome

Google-ChromeIn a surprising move, Google has decided to fork WebKit and create its own rendering engine called Blink. Since its inception, Google’s Chrome browser has been powered by the WebKit rendering engine, which itself was forked by Apple from KHTML in 2001. For the past five years, Google has been collaborating with Apple and numerous other Webkit users to develop and maintain the Webkit ecosystem. However, going forward, Google will be developing its own rendering engine that will be based on Webkit, but will gradually diverge over time.

The decision was apparently prompted by the growing complexities of remaining within the Webkit ecosystem. “Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects”, explained Adam Barth, a Software Engineer at Google. By making this change, Google expects to be able to remove 7 build systems and delete more than 7,000 files — comprising more than 4.5 million lines of code — right off the bat.

The core focus of Blink will be speed and simplicity. Google is also promising to strive for an open and inter-operable web by discouraging vendor prefixes and encouraging cross-browser compliant feature additions. Blink’s mission statement is “to improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship”.

Internet Explorer 11 Will Pretend to be Firefox to Avoid Non-standard CSS

Guess who is turning out to be Internet Explorer’s biggest headache. It’s none other than its own self. For years, Internet Explorer terrorized web developers, and anguished browser developers due to its lackluster implementation of web standards. Now that Microsoft is attempting to cleanup its act and move forward, the bad practices promoted by older versions of Internet Explorer is coming back to bite the software giant.

Opera, one of the earliest proponents of web standards, was forced to identify itself as Internet Explorer for a long time to get around silly browser sniffing scripts. Now, in a strange twist of fate, Microsoft might be forced to identify itself as Mozilla. Neowin has discovered that Internet Explorer 11 that is bundled with the leaked release of Windows Blue uses a userstring which includes the “like Gecko” command. Here’s what the Internet Explorer 11 userstring looks like:

Mozilla/5.0 (IE 11.0; Windows NT 6.3; Trident/7.0; .NET4.0E; .NET4.0C; rv11.0) like Gecko

Internet-Explorer-11-Like-Firefox
Internet Explorer 11 to Appear as Firefox

The command essentially instructs websites to treat Internet Explorer like Firefox. Most websites employ Internet Explorer specific hacks and fixes to ensure compatibility with Internet Explorer 8 and older. This change will prevent Internet Explorer 11 from being served the old non-standard code designed for older versions. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that Windows Blue is still under development, and things might change before it’s released.

Google Now Coming to Chrome Browser and OS

François Beaufort, a Google Chrome user from France, has spotted signs of impending arrival of Google Now in the Chrome browser. In the latest build of Chromium, the Google Now component extension can be enabled from chrome://flags. Before you get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that ordinary folks can’t play with it yet, since the extension requires Google Now server URL, which is yet to be uncovered.

Google Now is a personal assistant built on top of Google Search that uses natural language processing to answer questions. Additionally, it also pulls information from various Google services to highlight information it believes might be useful for the user. It was first introduced in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), and has since then been updated several times by Google.

Google-Now-Chrome-Browser-OS

I am not convinced about the utility of Google Now as just a Chrome browser extension, but it does make some sense for Chrome OS, in which everything is done from the browser. In fact, it’s very much possible that Google might be planning to add new cards to Google Now to make it more appealing for desktop users. For now, it appears that Google Now will be available only on Chrome browser for Windows, and Chrome OS.

Google Chrome for Android to Get Opera Turbo Like Data Compression Abilities

Google Chrome’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular. While Google’s deep pocket and marketing muscle has undoubtedly helped, it will be unfair to deny that Chrome deserves its popularity. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the folks behind Chrome knew what they were doing. Chrome boasted of a host of innovations including a minimalistic user interface, super fast JavaScript engine, and per-tab processes. However, it was also smart enough to take inspiration from the best aspects of different browsers. It copied various features from Opera including the ability to resume previous browsing session, restoring closed tabs, and visual bookmarks on the new tab page. Staying true to its tradition, Chrome is aping another popular Opera feature, and eliminating one of biggest advantages of using Opera on mobile phones.

The new feature that Chrome has its sights on is Opera Turbo. When Opera Turbo is enabled all HTTP traffic is redirected through Opera’s servers where text and images are compressed. The browser sitting on your system downloads this compressed data, instead of loading the full page. While image compression can reduce quality and the re-routing can increase latency, on slower connections this can result in significant speed improvements. If you are on a metered connection that is billed according to the data usage, this will even save you money by reducing the amount of data downloaded. In the recently released Opera for Android, the veteran browser firm re-branded Turbo as Off-road mode and gave it a more prominent spot in the user interface. Now, Google has announced that Chrome for Android will also incorporate a similar feature in the near future.

Google-Chrome-Data-Compression-Proxy

In fact, if you are on the beta channel, you can already try out this new feature. Just open up chrome://flags in your browser and select Enable Data Compression Proxy. Google is using the open-source PageSpeed libraries, which are specifically tuned for the Chrome for Android, to perform the compression. All images will be automatically converted to Google’s WebP image format. Additionally, Google is also hoping to reduce latency by using its own SPDY protocol for communications between the proxy server and your browser. You can keep a tab on the bandwidth savings by opening the bandwidth section of chrome://net-internals.

Google-Chrome-Data-Compression-Proxy-Bandwidth-Savings

To be fair, Opera didn’t exactly invent the data compression proxy feature. Before it embedded Turbo, it had tied up with a company called Slipstream, which provided a similar compression service. However, enabling this feature required purchasing a subscription. And, even before this, there were companies like ONSPEED providing similar services to users through third-party software. However, Opera undoubtedly made the feature mainstream. It was also the first company that I am aware of to offer it for free. Opera took the concept to the next level with Opera Mini, in which not only were the resources compressed, but the entire web page was also rendered on the remote server. A static representation (OBML) was sent back to the browser. It’s important to note that the Turbo feature in Opera Mobile and Opera Desktop, and Opera Mini are different. Remote rendering in Opera Mini allows it to run on extremely low-end phones, but also prevents it from working with modern dynamic websites. Chrome’s new compression technology will be similar to Turbo in Opera Mobile (now called Off-road) and not Opera Mini.

Internet Explorer 10 Now Available for Windows 7

Internet-Explorer-10Internet Explorer 10 is finally ready for Windows 7. Exactly four months after IE 10 officially debuted with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft has managed to get its browser ready for Windows 7 users. Unfortunately, if you are still on Vista or XP, you are out of luck. Microsoft is no longer interested in supporting you. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives, each of which works flawlessly even on the more than a decade old Windows XP.

One of the things that kept Microsoft busy while making Internet Explorer 10 compatible with Windows 7 was touch API support. In fact, ArsTechnica is reporting that installing Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 requires the installation of a platform update that brings Windows 7’s version of these APIs in line with Windows 8. Hardware acceleration using Direct2D and DirectWrite is also in. Other features Microsoft is touting include 60% increase in supported modern web standards, 20% improvement in rendering speed, and improved security, privacy and reliability.

If you installed the preview release, Internet Explorer 10 will be marked as an important update for you, otherwise it will be an optional update. However, Microsoft will be marking Internet Explorer 10 as an important update in more and more regions over the coming months. As per the default Windows Update settings, important updates are automatically downloaded, while optional updates aren’t.

[ Download Internet Explorer 10 ]