Lean Web browsers on Linux


Links 2.8 works like a genuine hybrid. It can be used as a text browser on the console (Figure*3) and also under X as a graphical application (Figure 4). If you only call links2, then the text version starts. Launch the graphical version via links2 -g or the shell script via xlinks2. The command links2 -g runs on the console as a graphical browser, but it requires Framebuffer. Unlike with NetSurf, this functions correctly.

Figure 3: Links2 as a text browser in an X-Terminal …
Figure 4: Links2 under X.

Links2 needs less than 20 MB of working memory even in graphics mode. It occupies around 3 MB of space on the disc. This is mostly because it has its own fonts and numerous localization capabilities, for example for Swiss German. The menu at the upper edge appears only when the user either clicks on the bar located there or presses the [F10] key. Otherwise, the only thing you will see is a left arrow that functions as the back button. Links2 cannot handle browser tabs but it can open multiple X windows from the terminal window.

The Links2 rendering engine takes some getting used to. Since it is utilized for both text and graphics modes, the graphical version looks very much like a text mode with proportional instead of equidistant fonts. The menus and dialogs are also reminiscent of the text mode. Links2 displays images only in graphics mode under X and when using Framebuffer. It uses external image viewers when operating in text mode (Figure 4).


W3m [5] very nearly leaves the graphics environment behind altogether. In text mode, it renders all text in the font used by the terminal. It uses different colors as well as bold text. If you install the Inline Image Support (in Raspbian, package w3m-img) then the browser overlays images, but only if you're using an X Terminal (install xterm). This gives the impression that the images are part of the window (Figure 5). This won't work from LXDE's regular terminal.

Figure 5: W3m in the X Terminal window with images that have been loaded.

Version 0.5.3 of W3m takes up a whole 2.1 MB of space on the disk. It needs around 10 MB of working memory to display the Raspberry Pi Geek Web page. There is a big difference between W3m and other text mode browsers in that W3m moves the cursor through web pages just like a text editor. The details for cursor behavior can be specified in settings. Users of other browsers jump via the arrow keys from link to link or among the fields in a form.

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