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Epiphany Browser

Epiphany Browser

I like discovering alternative browsers and like experimenting with them. Currently my default browser is Epiphany – the Web browser for GNOME desktop. I am still a KDE fan, but that does not stop me from evaluating and appreciating products on other environments.

Powered by the Gecko engine, Epiphany displays webpages with the same speed and accuracy as Mozilla Firefox. In addition, it provides an elegant, responsive and uncomplicated user interface that fits in perfectly with GNOME, and it has been translated to over thirty languages!

I loved Epiphany, because of that keyword uncomplicated. There are subtle departures from the current trend, which enhance simplicity. It is a browser which I can handover to my Dad without worrying that he will get confused. Unlike others, it does not sport a separate Google search box. If you type in a simple phrase in the address bar, it will take you to the Google search results for it. Additionally you can create something called smart bookmarks, using which you can build your own search bookmarks.

For example, I have a Rollyo search engine for this blog. It uses a specific URL structure which has a specific location for the phrase you are searching.

  • http://rollyo.com/search.html?q=epiphany&x=0&y=0&sid=296891 will search for epiphany in this blog.
  • http://rollyo.com/search.html?q=firefox&x=0&y=0&sid=296891 will search for firefox.

To turn this into a smart bookmark, add a bookmark with location http://rollyo.com/search.html?q=%s&x=0&y=0&sid=296891. Type a search phrase in the address bar, wait for half a second, and you will be prompted with various smart bookmarks you have, including the one you just created. Select it and that will replace %s with your search phrase. We can very well do this with my blog’s native search.

In fact this applies to all search engines, as long as they allow you to insert the search phrase in the URL. Here are some others possibilities:

  • http://www.thefreedictionary.com/%s for The Free Dictionary
  • http://cssdocs.org/%s for CSS documentation
  • http://del.icio.us/anadgouda/%s for retrieving bookmarks by tags
  • http://del.icio.us/search/?fr=del_icio_us&p=firefox&type=user for searching through my bookmarks
  • http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 for Google

There are many such combinations that you can use to build your pre-set URLs. They are smart bookmarks because they give you a way of using the phrase that you entered in the address bar in your bookmarks.

Technically, this not new, it is the goodness of HTML GET request. Other browsers have a concept of web shortcuts to tell the browser where you want to go. However, it usually demands you to remember and use a prefix, which someone like my Dad detests. Epiphany gives you a chance to visually select, which is more usable, at least for the everyday user.

It also has friendlier error message displayed if you mistype the URL. It also sports a way of building extensions into it, with some necessary extensions, like Ad blocker, already built into it. Though you might have to download and install a separate package for the extensions.

Another of its advantages is that Epiphany is low on memory, and reasonable in speed. It uses Gecko for rendering Web pages, which means it is compatible to others. It is slower than Konqueror, which uses KHTML, but it offers a good experience if all the factors are considered.

I still see some things lacking, which is probably because of my KDEism. There is no way to configure the default search engine to something else other than Google, or I have not been able to find one. The preferences are kept at a minimum, which sometimes bumps you. Creating smart bookmarks can be more apparent, it might take a while for an average user to figure it out. The browser has its own download manager, but there is no way of integrating it with others. This can matter to those who download a lot of stuff. Another small rant is that the shortcut Ctrl+G is used to Find Next instead of the function key F3.

Otherwise it is one of the most usable tools I have worked with. It is refreshing to see a browser that is focused only on Web browsing and simplicity. Will I keep using it? I think I will keep switching between Epiphany and Konqueror for casual browsing and use Firefox for development work. Will my Dad use it? He has already taken a liking to it and likes the lack of congestion of controls and textboxes.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Is Firefox Losing Me? | iface thoughts said:

    […] « Epiphany Browser Aug 8, […]

  2. Vitaliy said:

    I have started using Epiphany on my desktop over Firefox for similar reasons, I just want to point out that Epiphany might see WebKit in the near future! http://live.gnome.org/Epiphany/WebKit

  3. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    That is an interesting development, thanks for the info Vitaliy. Unforking of WebKit and KHTML is going to help a lot. It will be interesting to find what has triggered this change.

  4. Zeth said:

    There is no way to configure the default search engine to something else other than Google, or I have not been able to find one.

    Yeah that is a tough one, you need to go into the gecko settings. Type the following into the location bar:

    about:config

    Then change the keyword.URL value. Thanks to sward who pointed that out to me on IRC.

  5. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Cool! The geeky way seems to be so anti-epiphany 🙂 But I like the fact that it is configurable. Thanks Zeth!

  6. Using WebRunner | iface thoughts said:

    […] that I have come to heavily depend on a couple of them. And this drove me to other browsers, like Epiphany. I use Firefox, but avoid it for browsing. So, what I do now is use WebRunner for those sites that […]

  7. The Other Browser Shortcuts | iface thoughts said:

    […] according to me, are extremely innovative and user friendly. This is one of the reasons I loved Epiphany, they are implemented in the most user friendly way. And now I see them being used in new browsers, […]

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  9. hermes handbags said:

    There is no way to configure the default search engine to something else other than Google, or I have not been able to find one.

    Yeah that is a tough one, you need to go into the gecko settings. Type the following into the location bar:

    about:config

    Then change the keyword.URL value. Thanks to sward who pointed that out to me on IRC.

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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