Tag Archives: Internet Browsers

New Snapshot of Opera 11 Introduces Smarter Address Bar and Visual Mouse Gestures

Almost a month has passed since the release of Opera 11 for desktop (Windows, UNIX and Mac), which finally introduced extensions to the venerable browser, and added some other nifty features like the mail panel. In the meantime, Opera Software has released multiple snapshots with further improvements, and more than a hundred extensions have been submitted to Opera’s official extensions gallery.

Earlier today, the Norwegian browser maker released, what is perhaps the most significant build since the original Opera 11 alpha. The new build fixes a hefty number of bugs, while improving Opera’s extensions API. The most significant changes are:

i) Improved Address Bar: Chrome has already succeeded in redefining the web-browser UI (user interface). It was the first browser to get rid of the complicated menu structure, and merge the tab bar with the address bar. Opera Software implemented this in Opera 10.5. Now, they have taken another leaf out of Chrome’s book to simplify the address bar. The new address bar hides parameters in URL and the protocol prefix (http://, ftp:// etc.), and highlights the main domain name when not in focus. It also prominently displays security information about the website currently open. While some advanced users might be turned off by the new address bar’s tendency to hide URL parameters, the purpose behind this move is clear. Opera Software wants to make it as easy as possible for novice web surfers to spot phishing sites.

Opera-Address-Bar

ii) New Mouse Gesture UI: Opera was the first browser to add mouse gesture support (with Opera 5 released in 2000), and is still one of the few browsers to offer it out of the box. Mouse Gestures is a brilliantly addictive and useful feature that improves productivity by enabling the user to perform common tasks with a flick of his mouse. Unfortunately, most users aren’t even aware that this feature exists, and even those that are aware, use very few basic gestures. The latest snapshot introduces a new UI that pops up when you right click and hold the mouse for a while (provided that you have enabled Mouse Gestures). This UI guides you through some simple gestures that you are likely to find very handy.

Opera-Mouse-Gestures

iii) Improved Mail Panel: The newly introduced mail panel has been refined to make to make it more pleasant both visually and in terms of usability.

You can download the latest snapshot from Opera’s Desktop Team blog. However, keep in mind that this is preview build, and has some known (and possibly several unknown) issues.

Shareaholic – a Simple Way to Share Web Pages

shareaholic-iconThe name of this web browser addon tells you who it helps. If you are addicted to sharing cool links or awesome images in Twitter, Facebook or any other social web service, Shareaholic could help.

I tried it out, and it’s helped my sharing output already. Shareaholic supports sending content to over 100 different services.

Services

It’s easy to install and use. Just point your web browser to the Shareaholic home page, and install the plugin. They support Firefox, Chrome, IE, Safari, Opera, Flock and Songbird.

Mozilla Firefox Google Chrome Internet Explorer 8 Safari Opera Flock Songbird Music Player

Once installed, you’ll be prompted to customize it, so that it shows only the services that you use. Clicking on he Shareaholic icon in your browser will bring up the sharing menu.

shareaholic-menu

You might have noticed from the image above, that you can assign keyboard shortcut keys for each service. You can also use it to shorten long URLs. That’s really handy. I also like the simple posts it creates.

shareaholic-post

If you need more details, watch this video about Shareaholic.

If you have a sharing habit, Shareaholic is an addon you need to try. It’s a lot easier than going through a twelve step program to cure your addiction.

arrow-down-double-3Install the Shareaholic Addon/Extension

Note: We previously wrote about Shareaholic almost a year ago. You may also want to check out a similar addon called AddToAny.


Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Caught Cheating in the SunSpider Benchmark?

Internet-Explorer-9-Cheats-Benchmark SunSpider is one of the commonly used artificial JavaScript benchmarks for measuring the efficiency of a browser’s JavaScript engine. With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft managed to pull off significant improvements, and leap frogged Firefox (which has already fired back with JagerMonkey) in the SunSpider benchmark. However, it appears that Microsoft might have resorted to cheating to achieve its considerable gains.

Rob Sayre, Mozilla’s Platform Engineer, was the first one to notice that something is fishy. He documented his observations in a bug report, and published it on his blog. The revelation was soon picked up the tech crowd at Hacker News, who further delved into the matter to dig up some compelling proof. It appears that Internet Explorer 9 is employing some optimizations that are specific to the math-cordic test on SunSpider. While it’s not illegal to come up with clever optimizations that improve performance, it’s important that they are applicable to a wide range of cases. Unfortunately in this case, even simple modifications to the benchmark code, like setting return to true, has been found to significantly alter the results returned by Internet Explorer 9.

It’s possible that this is just the result of an unreliable and narrow implementation of dead code optimization. However, if Internet Explorer is specifically targeting the SunSpider benchmark to work around its tests, then that is a probably a case of cheating.

(Image taken from www.ietestdrive.com)

Update: Rob Sayre has penned a new blog-post, in which he makes it pretty clear that he believes that Internet Explorer 9 is targeting the SunSpider benchmark.

New Symbian^3 Browser From Nokia Delayed

The Nokia N8 has been criticized for its disastrous text input system and the slow inbuilt web browser. The inbuilt browser will become very slow if users try to load some heavy website on it. Along with this, the loading time take by the web browser is also very high. It was already known that Nokia is working on a new updated browser for Symbian^3 devices.

Symbian_Browser

Earlier, it was expected that the new browser will be released for public consumption before the end of the year but sadly that is not going to happen. Eldar from Mobile-Review has tweeted that Nokia has postponed the new browser for Symbian^3 devices to February, next year. I am pretty sure this piece of news must have broken the heart of many N8 and future N8 owners.

Until February, I would recommend Nokia owners to use Opera Mini or Opera Mobile as their default browser. Hopefully, the delay will be worth it!

(Source)

Opera Mobile 10.1 Beta for Android: Review and Benchmark

Android doesn’t have a dearth of browsers. But as they say, the more the merrier. Opera Software has just released Opera Mobile for Android – the more capable sibling of Opera Mini. “Android users now have a better choice when it comes to using a browser on their mobile devices,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software. “With Opera’s new browser for Android, we give users the opportunity to access the Web, using the best tools available”.

The folks at Opera Software were kind enough to provide me a preview release in advance. I have been using Opera Mobile on a regular basis for almost a week on my Xperia X10 (Android 2.1), as well as Chinmoy’s Legend (Cyanogen 6). Here’s my in-depth review of Opera Mobile. Please keep in mind that this review was done using a pre-release build of Opera Mobile. It’s possible that there might have been some changes in the final build.

Opera-Mobile-Android

At first glance, Opera Mobile is indistinguishable from Opera Mini. However, under the hood, there are major differences. In Opera Mini, the webpages are first sent to Opera’s remote servers, where they are rendered and compressed, and then sent to your device. Opera Mini doesn’t render the webpage. Instead it simply displays the parsed output received from Opera Mini’s servers. The compression algorithm used by Opera Mini not only saves bandwidth, but also dramatically speeds up browsing on slower internet connections. On the other hand, Opera Mobile is fully capable of rendering webpages locally. This enables it to handle dynamic web content (powered by JavaScript, AJAX etc.) better than Opera Mini. However, if you wish, you still have the option of enabling compression to improve page loading speed on slower connections. In Opera Mobile, like in Opera for Desktop, this feature is called Opera Turbo.

Opera-Mobile-Settings

As mentioned above, Opera Mobile’s biggest benefit over Opera Mini is its improved rendering capabilities. For example, it supports Geolocation, border-radius and CSS3 transitions. But, how does it stack up, when compared to other popular Android browsers? I compared it with Froyo’s stock browser and Firefox Mobile 4 Beta 2 (Fennec) to get an idea.

I started off with the Acid3 Test, which puts the browser’s CSS rendering capabilities through the paces. To my surprise, I found that none of the browsers managed to pass the test. Opera was the best performer, but by a fairly small margin.

Opera-Mobile-Acid-3
Acid 3 Test: Higher is Better

Next, I used the Sputnik test to check out the JavaScript rendering abilities of Fennec, Opera Mobile and the default browser. Sputnik is a crucial benchmark that indicate how standard compliant the JavaScript engine of each browser is. Opera pretty much owned this test. In fact, it was the only mobile browser that managed to finish the test without crashing or stalling.

Opera-Mobile-Sputnik
Sputnik: Lower is Better

Finally I picked the HTML5 Test to check out how future ready these browsers are. This test suite includes 300 tests that cover a wide-range of HTML5 and other related technologies that are likely to gain prominence in the future. Opera for desktop performs quite poorly in this test. Unsurprisingly, Opera Mobile fared even worse, with Fennec almost tripling Opera’s score.

Opera-Mobile-Sputnik
HTML5 Test: Higher is Better

The other critical factor when choosing a browser is speed. Opera for desktop is currently the fastest browser in the market, with a sizeable lead over Chrome. Does the mobile counterpart live up to Opera’s reputation? I tested this too, using Sunspider artificial benchmark.

Opera-Mobile-Speed-Test
Sunspider Test: Lower is Better

I used my friend’s Samsung Galaxy S (Android 2.2 – Darky’s Raw Steel) to run the speed tests. Sadly, Opera Mobile turned out to be a dud in the speed department. Not only was it slower than Firefox and the stock browser, but it was so by a huge margin. To be honest, the results took me by surprise, as I didn’t notice any speed issues during my regular browsing sessions.

(Update: The poor benchmark scores are due to the lack of JIT support in this build. Opera Mobile’s scores should jump considerably once that is uncorked. )

Opera Mobile’s interface is amongst the best I have seen in mobile browsers. In many mobile browsers, tabs almost appear to be an afterthought. Switching between them is often clumsy and time-consuming. Not in Opera Mobile. Features such as instant history navigation (pages from the history are opened instantly) and speed dials only adds to the intuitiveness of Opera Mobile. Other features we have come to expect from Opera Mobile and Opera Mini are also present in this build. Some of the notable ones are – password manager, bookmark and speed dials synchronization, search engine bar, in-page find, saving of pages, private data cleaner, download manager and more. Today’s release also introduces Pinch-to-Zoom support to Opera’s mobile products for the first time.

Opera-Mobile-Autocomplete

Unfortunately, there are a few serious issues with Opera Mobile that might be a deal breaker for many. First of all, the installation is pretty huge. In fact, with a disk space (ROM) requirement above 22 MB, it is the largest installed app I currently have on my handset. Also, if you switch to some other app while using Opera Mobile, the browser will quit and will be restarted when you return to it. This is actually not too different from the way other browsers work, and thankfully, Opera Mobile’s loading time is quite small. In fact, it’s actually less than half of Firefox’s loading time. However, the problem is that if you press the back button before the page has been loaded, Opera fails so remember it. Finally, possibly the biggest disappointment for me is the lack of any social feature whatsoever. You can’t tweet links, share webpages on Facebook, or send links via SMS. Adding this shouldn’t be too hard for any Android app developer, and by not taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Android, Opera Software is missing out on a trick or two.

On the whole, Opera Mobile manages to impress on its very first outing. It has a lot going for it. The interface is intuitive and functional, there are plenty of unique features that make it stand out, and it has a competent rendering engine. If it can improve upon it’s JavaScript benchmark scores and become more social, it might manage to become the definitive Android web browser. Nevertheless, if the missing sharing options aren’t a deal-breaker for you, I would highly recommend checking it out.

[ Download Opera Mobile 10.1 Beta for Android | Appbrain ]

What is RockMelt? Do We Need a Facebook Web Browser?

Yes, there’s a new web browser designed around the idea that you can share more, and share more quickly on Facebook and Twitter. That alone may turn some people away, depending on how much they value their privacy. However, after trying it for a short time, I can see how this browser could easily turn normal Facebook users into hyped up Uber-Facebook users.

RockMelt was founded by Eric Vishria and Tim Howes, and is backed by Netscape developer Marc Andreessen.   It was released yesterday, mostly by invitation only. You can get a copy of this browser by visiting RockMelt.com and signing up via your Facebook ID.

After signing up late last night I received my invite and downloaded it. The install went fairly quick and here’s the first thing I saw … a Facebook login.

rockmelt-login

Yes, that’s right, it seems to be required. However, that makes sense.

It took me quite awhile to figure out most of the actions I could perform. If you open the RockMeltmenu at the top right corner of the browser, and click the Helpitem, you’ll find help for a few basic tasks. Here’s the first thing you see there.

4

As some of you have already noticed, RockMelt is built on top of Chromium, which is the basis for Google’s Chrome web browser. Those using Chrome now won’t have a hard time getting around in the browser.

Rather than go into too many details, I’ll show you the RockMelt video preview. It’s very well done.

RockMelt video

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I tried it, I like it, and haven’t found any major bugs yet. If you are already using Google Chrome, and you’re in Facebook often, there’s no reason not to give RockMelt a try. You don’t have to make it your default browser, and it won’t do anything to your current web browsers.   My wife reports that Farmville works very well in Chrome and RockMelt.

Download: http://www.rockmelt.com/


Firefox 4 Beta 2 for Android and Maemo Released: Faster and Sleeker

Although Mozilla is struggling to ship Firefox 4 for desktop operating systems, work on the mobile version seems to be going on at full throttle. Firefox 4 Beta 2 for Android and Maemo was released yesterday. I went hands-on with the Android version, and it’s definitely a significant improvement over past releases.

Firefox-4-Mobile-Android-Start-Page
Start Page of Firefox for Android

No, the newest Firefox for Android won’t rock your world, but it is usable, and that alone makes it a significant improvement over its predecessors. One thing that I really like about Firefox Mobile (or Fennec) is its interface. It completely does away with the need of using hardware buttons. Instead, you can perform everything you wish to by simply swiping on the screen in different directions. Of course, this breaks the standard navigation model in Android, where you are supposed to press the ‘Menu’ button to bring up the application menu and tap the ‘Back’ button to go the previously open page. Some people might hate the change, but I wish that more applications followed this philosophy. Apps designed for the touchscreen should be completely controllable via the touchscreen alone.

Firefox-4-Mobile-Android-Rendering
TechieBuzz Rendered with Firefox for Android

Mozilla has tweaked the start page, which now displays tabs opened in the previous session, and can even fetch opened tabs from your computer, if you are using Firefox Sync. Other new features in this version include an extremely handy undo option for closed tabs, which allows you to recover accidentally closed tabs, and a context menu for links and webpages. You can now share any link or webpage by long pressing and choosing the sharing option that pops up. Mozilla has also slashed Firefox’s ROM space requirements from a ginormous 40 MB to about 17 MB. It’s still a lot more than what most apps require though.

Firefox-4-Mobile-Android-Tabs
Tab Management in Firefox for Android

While Firefox impresses with its interface and functionality, it lacks polish. I loved it at first glance, but things fell apart as soon as I started using it. I found the rendering to be choppy on occasions, and the browser takes way too long to load. The innovative interface also creates problems on websites that aren’t optimised for mobile phones. If the website has horizontal scrolling, you are going to find yourself accidentally triggering various UI (user interface) aspects quite frequently. Firefox only makes matters worse by not offering a text reflow mode. And finally, the one thing that really annoyed me, was the lack of copy-paste.

Opera is the king of the hill when it comes to mobile web browsers, and Opera Mobile for Android is slated to be released in a couple of days’ time. Mozilla has the advantage of a larger fan base and powerful extensions, but that might not matter much if they don’t hurry up.

Firefox-4-Mobile-Android-Rendering
Awesomebar in Firefox for Android

NotScripts: NoScript Extension for Opera and Chrome

A large number of browser exploits take advantage of JavaScript and third-party plugins like Java and Flash. NoScript is a popular multi-award winning Firefox add-on that blocks all such scripts and plugins, and allows you to intelligently and selectively execute them only on trusted websites.

I have always felt that using NoScript borders on the verge of paranoia, since it hinders normal web browsing experience. However, a lot of people obviously don’t mind this, since NoScript can protect users against scary click-jacking exploits, XSS vulnerabilities and even zero-day exploits that haven’t been discovered yet. Many Opera and Chrome users have been requesting similar functionality for a long time. However, most NoScript implementations for the aforementioned browsers have been limited due to the rigid nature of their APIs. Fortunately, Eric Wong has found an ingenious way of make NoScript work within the framework of Opera and Chrome’s extension library.

NotScripts is a NoScript inspired extension for Opera and Chrome, that utilises storage quota allocated to HTML5 applications and UserJS files to offer many of the functionalities present in NoScript. It supports both whitelist (everything is blocked, unless explicitly allowed) and blacklist (everything is allowed, unless explicitly blocked) approaches, and allows you to block scripts either temporarily or permanently.

NoScript-Opera

NotScripts is still not perfect, and as mentioned earlier, taking a whitelist approach might create usability problems. Nevertheless, NotScripts is the best implementation of NoScript I have seen for either browser.

[ Download NotScripts for Chrome | Opera ]

Opera Mini 5.1 for Android and Symbian Updated

Opera Mini for both Android and Symbian has received minor updates. While the Symbian update is mainly concerned with improving performance, the Android update delivers improved readability and usability. The detailed changelogs are as follows:

Opera Mini 5.1 Beta for Symbian Changelog

  • Faster start up time.
  • Even faster page loading.
  • Improved scrolling performance.
  • Integration with your your phone native input.
  • Improved performance, especially for older S60 devices.
  • Improved fonts.
  • Device integration for cut-and-paste, email client and more.
  • No more dialogue boxes asking permission to connect to the Web.

Opera Mini 5.1 for Android Changelog

  • Adjusted font sizes.
  • Font fixes for Chinese and Japanese, so speed on pages with these fonts should be greatly improved.
  • Improved stability.
  • Improved input for Sony Ericsson X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro.
  • Chinese users can now download the application from the Android Market.
  • A bunch of bug fixes.

Opera-Mini-5

Opera Mini, the most popular mobile browser in the world, offers full-fledged tabbed browsing, password management, bookmarks, speed dial, synchronization and more on almost any phone. Opera Mini routes all data through its servers where it is processed and compressed before being sent to the handset. This makes Opera Mini significantly faster than most other mobile browsers on slower networks. However, this also means that, unlike Opera Mobile, Opera Mini isn’t able to render rich web content that heavily utilizes AJAX and other modern technologies. Opera Mobile is designed for modern-day smartphones and delivers a truly PC like web browsing experience. It is already available for Symbian and should be released for Android within the next couple of days.

You can download the latest build of Opera Mini from the respective app repositories (Ovi Store for Symbian and Market for Android) or by simply browsing to m.opera.com on your mobile phone.

Firefox 4 Won’t Be Ready Until 2011

Last week, we pointed out that the development of Firefox 4 was taking a lot longer than anticipated, as a result of which, the final version might not be released by the end of this year. A short while back, Firefox’s director Mike Beltzner, confirmed our fears in an update posted on Mozilla’s Dev Planning group. He wrote:

As those who have been tracking our nightly builds know, great things are happening with Firefox 4. The user interface changes are converging, the graphics and layout features are wrapping up, and recently the JavaScript engine was dramatically improved. The result is a fast, capable Firefox that provides better speed and responsiveness for web applications and users. Completing this work is taking longer than initial estimates indicated as we track down regressions and sources of instability. As part of our commitment to beta users, we will not ship software before it is ready.

Firefox-4-Beta

Firefox 4 Beta 7, which was originally expected to arrive on Sept 17, will ship in early November. Similarly, the release date of Beta 8 has been pushed back from October 1 to Nov 12. The RC build (Release Candidate) should arrive in early 2011, which will be followed shortly thereafter by the final build.