September 15, 2010

rekonq: KDE's Webkit Browser Continues To Come Of Age

As many of you no doubt know, and a few might not, rekonq is KDE's Webkit-based browser. Under heavy development for a while now, we can see this super-fast browser coming of age in a hurry. For users of Linux Mint 9, the version in the repositories mirrors that of what was installed by default on Kubuntu 10.04 Lucid - 0.4.0. Recently rekonq released 0.6.0 status and we had to take the opportunity to take the browser for a test drive
for a few days. But first, a quick rundown of the notable changes, as pulled from the project's page over at the KDE-Apps website:
rekonq 0.5.80
- QtWebKit 2.0 & KDE SC 4.5 based
- a lot of code reviewed
- adblock performance improvements
- Back to XMLGUI -> configurable toolbar(s)
- improved keyboard navigation
- improved bk toolbar
- smooth scrolling
- new zoombar (dolphin-like)
- Awesome Bar: bk icon and opensearch suggestions!!
rekonq 0.4.95 (0.5 beta 2)
- bug fixing from previous beta
- string freeze for 0.5
rekonq 0.4.90 (0.5 beta 1)
The features of the 0.5 series are:
- improved adblock, automagically updating filter lists (+abp scheme support)
- RSS support
- new urlbar (tech preview): it's just nice and more will come..
- auto-scrolling
- downloads history tracked
- SSL Info support
- Bookmarks & history panels improvements
- bugfixing & users wishes
As you can see, quite a lot has changed if the last time you used rekonq was the version in Mint. A lot of love and work has gone into this release to make it stable. It's also very fast. The inclusion of the Awesome Bar is a nice touch, as one gets rather spoiled at the intelligence of it over time and ease of use it bring the browsing experience. Auto-scrolling, smooth scrolling, and RSS support are other major highlights since the 0.4.0 stock preview release. Also, the history tab is cool, and in some ways better than Firefox's due to how well it's laid out and organized.

rekonq's history tab is well laid out
rekonq's history tab is very well laid out

Another thing likable, and expected in modern browsers today, is the ability to clear private data at the click of a mouse. rekonq does this as well, right from the history tab or from within the settings menu.

Clear Private Data Button
rekonq's Clear Private Data button

One thing really nice about rekonq being a native KDE application is the integration of status messages into Plasma's notifications area. Using Firefox the majority of the time one thing that might be an irritant (it is to us) is how Firefox's notifications are outside of KDE's system messages. A peer of ours commented on how it was pretty cool to see action notifications inside of KDE. Similarly, all dialogue boxes are KDE's. This means you can have access to the sidebar from Dolphin while you open or save documents! Sweetness.

System Tray Integration
rekonq's KDE notification integration is a nice touch and enhances the
feeling that yes, this is a KDE-thing

A few other things to like: It's fast and stable. We ran rekonq for a few days and had no crashes in Mint 9. Did we mention fast? It could also be argued that rekonq looks better in the Plasma Desktop (or Netbook, as the case may be) than any other browser. We also liked the fact that you could set the browser to auto-load missing plugins as needed. Users can also enable using KGet to manage downloads, if desired.

The only thing missing was the surprising, albeit minor, omission of not being able to select Startpage as the default search engine, especially given that there are so many others to pick from. For those desiring a bit of privacy in their browsing, Startpage is a must. Also the project's webpage could use some serious love, as rekonq's lead author, adjam admits. Any aspiring web authors who can help out are encouraged to do so.

The current stable release can be found and easily installed in Linux Mint, Kubuntu, etc. via adding the stable repository to your software sources list. If you haven't tried rekonq out in a while, now would be a good time to do so. And be sure to leave a comment below regarding your experiences - we'd love to hear about them.

Links:
KDE-Apps page
Developer's Blog
rekonq on Userbase
Nice photo gallery
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