Lean Web browsers on Linux

Geoff Leighly, 123RF.com

Trimmed down

Linux offers a number of lean web browsers which can be substituted for resource hungry ones like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Although they may appear rather austere, these browsers are nonetheless remarkably convenient to use.

Mainstream web browsers like Firefox and Chrome gobble up working memory by the GigaByte. On underpowered single board computers like the Raspberry Pi, there is often not enough space for the extra RAM required. Luckily most Linux distributions have a leaner web browser nestling in their package list. Raspbian, being based on Debian, is no exception. Newer applications such as Qutebrowser [1] are built on the Webkit rendering engine. The same goes for Apple Safari and more recently, Opera. However, even the Webkit engine is not exactly frugal in terms of system resources.

Instead, we should examine older web browsers which place less demand on memory. These browsers can generally be divided into two categories. These include those that use the X Graphical Interface, and those which are text based. The latter of the two types of browsers run on the Console, in a terminal emulator or remotely via SSH. There are exceptions. Some text based browsers use Framebuffer in order to also offer a graphical interface on the Console. One browser even supprots all three of the above interfaces.

In preparing this article, we looked at seven extra lean web browsers. All of them can be found in the repositories of Debian 8 "Jessie" and current Debian derivatives like Ubuntu and Linux Mint. The test platform was a 1997 IBM Thinkpad 760XD with 80 MB RAM running Debian 8 .


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