For years, Konqueror has been the default web browser and file manager for KDE. As a file manager, I loved it. It was so customizable, with a ton of options and a lot of great features. And actually, that describes Konqueror as a web browser too. The problem with Konqueror, at least for the last couple years, has been that a lot of websites don’t support it. That’s not necessarily Konqueror’s fault, but part of the problem has been that Konqueror uses KHTML as its rendering and layout engine. KHTML is an old engine, with a lot of history. It’s also the basis for WebKit, which Apple first used in Safari and is now used by Google Chrome, among other browsers. KHTML has, in many ways (including speed and web standards), fallen behind. So I was interested to see that for Kubuntu 10.10, a new browser was chosen to be the default. Rekonq is its name, and although I don’t feel it’s ready for prime time yet, I think it soon will be.
Rekonq is a fairly new project. But it does have a lot of the basics. First is the fact that it uses WebKit as its rendering and layout engine. Because of this, it is compatible with practically any website you throw at it. In Konqueror, with KHTML, you would receive a “please upgrade your browser” notice at Gmail, and were then shown a basic website, which was missing many new or advanced features. Rekonq doesn’t have that disadvantage. It is fast to render, and I haven’t had it crash on me in the time I’ve been using it.
It has most things you’d expect in a browser. Bookmarks, a bookmark toolbar, tabs, history, plus the ability to download files. It has a nice start page, using the speed dial metaphor used by other browsers, which is customizable by the user so that favorite or commonly-used websites are only a click away when starting up Rekonq.
Rekonq has definitely taken a few interface hints from Google Chrome. Instead of a menu, for instance, all of Rekonq’s options are accessible via the wrench icon. The bookmarks are available in the icon just to the left of the wrench. Other than back, forward, refresh and home buttons on the other side of the URL bar, Rekonq has no more buttons, unless you have the bookmarks toolbar open. As I said, it’s a very simple interface, but one that Google Chrome users should feel right at home using.
But don’t let the simple interface fool you. Rekonq is powerful. It has a ton of configuration options available, including built-in Ad blocking, network preferences, support for Java and other basic plugins (although I could never get Google Talk to work from the Gmail inbox, although it is installed on my system), and the option to use different external programs for downloading.
And there’s more. You can drag and drop images into Rekonq. It has a large number of development tools available (you can see them in one of my screenshots), including a web inspector, network analyzer, and the ability to open a page’s source inside an external text editor. Also present are pretty slick web shortcuts. Using these you can type a short phrase into the URL bar, followed by a search term, and Rekonq will search a particular site, and not Google. An example of that is the following:
This searches Amazon’s MP3 store for anything related to Phish. There are dozens of shortcuts available. None are activated by default, but getting used to remembering and using these shortcuts saves a lot of time, and is an incredibly useful tool.
The one thing that is missing at the moment is extensions. While Firefox and Google Chrome have large communities built up, with hundreds or even thousands of different extensions available, Rekonq doesn’t yet support extensions. Happily, there is work being done on that, which would possibly allow Rekonq users to use Google Chrome extensions. At the moment, however, no extension support exists. But Rekonq, especially after being named the default web browser for Konqueror, is seeing rapid development, and for casual browsing is an excellent choice. I personally have too much functionality provided by extensions to make a switch, but when that extension support does arrive, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself using Rekonq exclusively in KDE. It’s fast, integrates perfectly with KDE (something Firefox and Google Chrome can’t say), and it stable. With extensions, it might be perfect. Until then, I’ll wait and watch its development.
Note: I took a few screenshots, but for a large number of screenshots straight from the developer, check out the Picasaweb link below for more than a dozen.