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5 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance

Himanshu Arora | Nov. 7, 2013
Are Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome slowing your machine -- or are they simply more than you need? We look at some alternatives.

Developer: Thomas Dickey (original authors: Lou Montulli, Michael Grobe, Charles Rezac)
Reviewed version: 2.8.7
OS support Unix, Mac OS and OS X, Windows, OS/2 EMX, DOS386+ (but not 3.1 or 3.11)
License: GPLv2

Lynx is a command line-based, open-source, lightweight and multi-platform text browser. It is more than 20 years old, making it one of the oldest Web browsers around.

It was developed by a group of students (Lou Montulli, Michael Grobe and Charles Rezac) at the University of Kansas in 1992 and is still being actively developed. Currently, Thomas Dickey is the chief maintainer of this browser package.

Lynx displays only the text part of a Web page and ignores everything else. It displays Web content just the same way as seen by a search engine bot and hence is a very useful tool if you need to test a site for any search-engine crawling problems.

Once you've installed the browser, then you can just type lynx on a command prompt to open it. Lynx displays different types of information in different colors. For example, bold text is displayed in red, italic text is displayed in blue, ordinary text content is displayed in violet or white, hyperlinks are displayed in green and a currently highlighted hyperlink is displayed in yellow.

What's new
Release 2.8.7 contains many bug fixes and new features. For example, the ability to save (or store) the current browsing session has been added. This version also offers improved support for Secured Socket Layer (SSL), HTML interpretation and cookies.

What's good about it
The Lynx browser has many advantages over graphical Web browsers — as long as you don't mind missing the images. Being a command-line utility, it opens up very fast (usually taking less than a second). A website can be opened by just typing lynx into a command line.

In fact, Lynx takes less time to load a website than any GUI browser. This can come handy in spots where you're stuck with a low-bandwidth Internet connection — in testing, it used far less memory than any of the other browsers covered here.

At the same time, it isn't difficult to understand. A feature that I really liked was the display of main keyboard shortcuts at the bottom of the browser window: Type H for help, O for configurable browser options, G to open a new URL, Q to quit, Ctrl+R reload a page and so on. There is no need to refer any user manual to start using Lynx.

Another good thing about Lynx is that it does not track user information — because it is a text-based browser, it doesn't contain the embedded tracking elements that are hidden in the interfaces of many Web pages. Though it supports cookies, Lynx asks the user to allow or deny a cookie every time it loads a website.


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