Over the last several years, a small group of open source projects has evolved to become much more than just great software. One notable example is Mozilla. Long criticized for being bloated, bug-ridden, and behind schedule, Mozilla has evolved into a capable development platform. Other open source projects use Mozilla's core technology, such as the popular Gecko rendering engine, to build next-generation tools and applications. In many ways, Mozilla has become an umbrella for such projects, including this month's "Do It Yourself" software, the Phoenix Web browser.
Over the last several years, a small group of open source projects has evolved to become much more than just great software. One notable example is Mozilla. Long criticized for being bloated, bug-ridden, and behind schedule, Mozilla has evolved into a capable development platform. Other open source projects use Mozilla’s core technology, such as the popular Gecko rendering engine, to build next-generation tools and applications. In many ways, Mozilla has become an umbrella for such projects, including this month’s “Do It Yourself” software, the Phoenix Web browser.
Keeping it Small
Some of the complaints aimed at Mozilla do have merit. Mozilla is a large and complex piece of software. For the majority of users, those who simply want to browse the Web without the need for all of Mozilla’s advanced features, it’s simply overkill.
Back in July 2002, we featured Galeon, one of the most popular Gecko-based browsers (that article is available online at http://www.linux-mag.com/2002-07/potm_01.html). However, Galeon, like Mozilla, is a power-user’s browser. It comes with dozens and dozens of options, a complex configuration tool, and a memory footprint to match.
Figure One: Phoenix shows the Linux Magazine web site
Phoenix is a relative newcomer to the world of Mozilla alternatives built with Mozilla technology. Unlike Mozilla or Galeon, which aim to deliver a ton of features, Phoenix is designed to be a lightweight browser. As of this writing, Phoenix contains little more than the essentials, but still manages to feel like nothing’s really missing. All of the features you’d expect to use on a daily basis are there.
Figure One shows Phoenix displaying the Linux Magazine home page. Like most browsers, it sports a tabbed interface, bookmarks, and a navigation bar.
While Phoenix’s minimalist approach to building a browser means you don’t need need as much memory and CPU power, you may find yourself yearning for some favorite feature. If that’s the case, just download a Phoenix extension or write your own.
Figure Two: Phoenix dressed up in the “Woody” theme
Extensions (or plug-ins) are downloadable programs that add new features to Phoenix or change its behavior. The NukeImage plug-in is a good example. Once NukeImage is installed, you can right-click on an image and select the option “Remove this image.” Removing an image makes it vanish from the page (visually, at least). It’s quite useful for getting rid of large, annoying advertisements or images that otherwise disrupt the page layout, making it difficult to read.
If you’re not fond of Phoenix’s simple appearance, you can download and install a new theme to spruce it up a bit. You’ll find a number of themes at http://texturizer.net/phoenix/ themes.html. Figure Two shows the “Woody” theme. Installing extensions and themes is a breeze.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new browser, Phoenix is worth a look. Thanks to the Mozilla project’s modular design, Phoenix is small, efficient, and getting better all the time.
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