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Can Konqueror Compete? A Look at KDE’s Browser

With Firefox marketshare now above 20% and rising fast, can the KDE Project's browser, Konqueror, compete? Recently I started running KDE 4.2.2 and decided to use Konqueror in place of my default browser — Firefox. Let's see how Konqueror stacks up.

How does Konqueror stack up against Firefox as a Web browser? The KDE Project has been building its own browser as part of its desktop stack for years. Recently I started running KDE 4.2.2 to see how KDE 4 was coming along, and decided to use Konqueror in place of my default browser — Firefox. Let’s see how Konqueror stacks up.

Browsing the Web with Konqueror

The first test for Konqueror was to just run through browsing the sites I use on a daily basis — everything from basic news sites like CNN to Google Reader, GMail, Twitter, Gist, and of course I Can Has Cheezburger? for good measure. What I wanted to do is to see how well Konqueror handles a variety of sites using three main criteria: rendering speed, layout, and support for advanced features. In other words — does Konqueror measure up speedwise? Can it render pages as they’re expected to appear in Firefox and IE? And does Konqueror support keybindings in GMail, and other advanced features in Web applications I use day to day?

Static sites like CNN ran OK, though it seemed that rendering speed was just a bit laggy compared to Firefox. When I loaded GMail, it would initially default to the HTML view of GMail. Konqueror can handle the standard GMail pages, but it’s much slower than Firefox. To be fair, the blame may fall on Google’s developers just as much as Konqueror’s, because there’s obviously little or no testing done to ensure that GMail supports Konqueror. However, as an end user, I don’t really care a great deal where the fault lies — just whether or not it works. And though it technically does work, it’s distressingly slow.

Most sites look pretty much the same in Konqueror as they do in Firefox, but there are occasional glitches or oddness. Konqueror shows KDE widgets for things like scrollbars, and CSS menus may not look quite right in Konqueror either. The WordPress dashboard doesn’t look right at all. Widgets that should only take up one-quarter of the page wind up taking up nearly the entire page, obscuring widgets to the right.

If you’re used to Firefox, running Konqueror takes a bit of getting used to, because its keyboard shortcuts differ in many cases from the Firefox defaults. For example, instead of Ctrl-t to open a new tab, you’ll use Ctrl-Shift-n to get a new tab in Konq. This is annoying when you’ve gotten the Firefox shortcuts burned into your muscle memory. On the other hand, if you’re a die-hard KDE user, you’ll appreciate that the shortcuts are standard across KDE applications.

If you’re more of the point-and-click type, though, you’ll probably not notice much of a difference. Opening a new tab, for instance, by double-clicking on the tab bar works just the same in Konqueror as it does in Firefox.

Overall, Konqueror isn’t a drop-in replacement for Firefox, at least if you happen to use many sites that have complex layouts and a fair amount of CSS.

Extensions?

The days of the Web browser being nothing more than an application to display Web pages are long over. Konqueror has a pretty good set of default features, but what about extending its functionality?

The good news is that Konqueror supports extensions, and quite a few are bundled in — including an ad-blocker, inline translation using Babel Fish, and validation tools for ensuring that your Web site is W3C compliant.

But that’s really about it. Konqueror doesn’t have a particularly active community developing extensions, or anything like the Mozilla infrastructure for getting add-ons and extensions. Theoretically, Konqueror could go toe-to-toe with Firefox as it should be possible to write a lot of useful extensions for Konqueror, especially since Konqueror has a number of embedded features it inherits from KDE that Firefox doesn’t enjoy.

The unfortunate reality, though, is that there’s just not enough momentum behind Konqueror for there to be many people writing extensions for it.

Beyond the Browser

One thing that Konqueror has going for it is flexibility above and beyond Web browsing, and integration with KDE. While Firefox is a great browser, it doesn’t do file management or have its own terminal emulator built in.

Konqueror started life as an answer to Explorer, which also serves as a shell for Microsoft Windows and file manager. Likewise, Konqueror was the default file manager for KDE and did double duty as a browser and file manager. These days, Dolphin is the default file manager on KDE, though it’s not as full featured as Konqueror. (You can switch to use Konq as the default file manager, however.)

Using the KIO (KDE Input/Output) slaves, Konqueror supports a number of protocols that you can’t use with Firefox. Want to work with files over SSH? Just type fish://remotehost in the location bar. Typing fonts:/ will show you your system and personal fonts (if any). sysinfo:/ displays system settings. You can also view Zip files and tarballs in Konqueror.

And one really cool trick up Konqueror’s sleeve is the audiocd:/ KIO Slave. Slip an audio CD into the drive, type audiocd:/ in the location bar, and you’ll see virtual folders with all of the CD’s tracks as FLAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, and WAV files.

Note that you can also divide Konqueror’s window into several slices by “splitting” the window horizontally and vertically, and even open a terminal emulator within the Konqueror window — which can be useful when you don’t need a full terminal instance to run a few quick commands.

Konqueror also embeds other KDE “parts” so you can view PDFs, images, edit text and other files using the advanced editor part, and so forth.

Konqueror Conquered?

Konqueror is an interesting browser, and its integration with KDE make it interesting for users who have chosen that desktop — but it’s a small slice of the overall market. Even with the KDE Project’s alleged support of Mac OS X and Windows (try actually finding packages for those platforms from the KDE Web site), Konqueror is pretty much limited to Linux and other *nix platforms.

Die-hard KDE fans might be able to do all their Web work in Konqueror, but if you’re hoping to get the full enjoyment out of the Web, you’re not going to get it from Konqueror.

But that doesn’t mean Konqueror doesn’t have its place. Linux users should take some time to explore Konq and see where it can fit into their routine. While it may not replace Firefox, it definitely has a place in any power user’s toolbox.

Comments on "Can Konqueror Compete? A Look at KDE’s Browser"

ioggstream

Konqueror is cool because you can both browse the web, open samba shares, ftp/http/webdav/ldap(s). opening and saving docs as if they were on your pc.

and it’s transparent for you. sure in the latest release it surfs slower :( but still avoids me to open tonns of windows using the same one for file browsing/preview and web.
Peace, R.

Reply
phil42

i recently tried to post a reply on a yahoo message board and failed. its good, but don’t remove firefox.

Reply
gerlos

It’s true that Konqueror isn’t so full-featured as firefox, and that some websites (really few) don’t work correctly with it.
But you forgot to say that Konqueror is *a lot* lighter than firefox!
It needs really few resources, giving you many “plus”: for example, you can drag-and-drop a lot of things from and to konqueror and using the kwallet integration you get web form autocompletition and secure password management.
In my experience, this makes Konqueror interface faster and more confortable than Firefox one.

And it’s not true that you can’t use Ctrl-T to open a new tab. Did you try? The main shortcut is Ctrl-Shift-N, but the secondary one is by default Ctrl-T. But if you don’t like it, just change it, like *any* shortcut in KDE. It’s really easy.

Obviously, its integration in KDE makes it reall useful and confortable for a lot of things. Just to say one thing, it uses as default download manager kget, that lets you download torrent files and metalink resources out of the box, without the need of any addon.
Also the search tool is more useful, since give you more options than firefox one (they are almost the same options of the search tool in the kate text editor).

And there is really a lot of work on it (as on all KDE). They are working on an auto-sensing spell check, that will change automaticcaly the language of the spell checker when you start writing on a french forum or on an english blog. There is also some work on the integration with nepomuk, that lets you add comment and tags to web pages, and lets you retrieve pages from a search, just like recent or tagged files. And they are speaking about a way to use firefox add-ons in konqueror.

I suggest you to come back to konqueror in a few month, say, in the autumn, there will be a lot of new interesting features…

Reply
alrac

Nice review, Joe, though as a developer an ace writer I wish you had dug into the issue of correct page rendering and performance more. We keep getting told “code your pages to standards and then you don’t have to worry about specific browser support.” So what’s the problem– does Konqueror not support standards, or do web devs code for specific browsers, probably IE and Firefox, and still ignore standards?

I’m not as happy with Firefox extensions as you are. Mozilla exerts zero effort to inform users if extensions are safe, and won’t even make them disclose their licenses. So users have no easy way to sort out proprietary extensions and FOSS extensions. Pretty lame for a supposed OSS project. It’s also a bit scary that Firefox updates are managed independently of distro package managers– this means there are no checks or balances against malicious code being inserted via a third-party extension.

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calcmandan

I use konqueror as exclusively as possible. I agree with the op on almost every point. I am not alone with the experience of needing to refresh the same youtube page five times before the video displays properly. It’s such a light browser in terms of resources that I sigh whenever I NEED to open firefox. FF is great and all, but gone are the days that it is fast and light (I miss it’s v1.0 days). Is it frustrating that gmail doesn’t load quickly? Sure, but I get my gmail via imap in kontact so it’s not that much of an issue. I wish I knew how to code well enough to assist in the plugin aspect of the browser. If it could get some love it would reinforce users like myself who would like to stick with a light/fast browser.

Reply
hhemken

I can understand why Konqueror-as-web-browser is compared to Firefox or IE, but that’s only part of the story. Firefox, IE, and Windows Explorer do not even compete as generic file viewers, which is what Konqueror really is. Whether you are surfing the web, your local filesystem, USB storage, or a variety of network shares, Konqueror is by far the best and most established tool to quickly take a look at file content. It has been my default file navigator for years, though I only occasionally use it as a web browser.

The point is that Konqueror in particular and GNU/Linux in general allow greater versatility and a wider range of behaviors than popular stereotypes of computer users would suggest. Locking yourself into one or a few well-known paradigms is stifling. Tools like Konqueror free your mind.

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wweng_linux

konqueror has very poor support for Chinese language.

And the poor support has lingered for many years.

Reply
flyingbaobab

For my day to day browsing i use firefox, but for a few special java applets I prefer konq. It performs way better when having multiple instances open, and it consumes less resources while doing that.

Reply
pecoraro

I use Konqueror for all my heavy lifting every day at work and at home, but I NEVER use it as a web browser. I think it’s unfair to expect this excellent file manager, graphical sftp client, etc. with wonderful KDE integration to be anywhere as good a web page browser as Firefox or any of the top browsers out there.

With Konqueror I can work with files located on computers all over the map as though they are on my local machine reliably, quickly, seamlessly and encrypted. If I click on a pdf file it opens right in the same window in 2 seconds with KPDF integration, for example. You could take the web browser functions out of Konqueror and it would still be my most used utility/program.

Reply
argon99

If Konqueror has a w3c validator why didn’t you use it to compare the pages between Konqueror and Firefox? I suspect that the pages that loaded much faster in FF where written to load faster in FF and they were not w3c compliant. But more to home I was attempting to set up a POS AP from EnGenius. The web interface would not render properly in firefox. It didn’t render properly to the point that I could not setup the device. Because I don’t do windows I have no copy of IE. But Konqueror worked just fine.

Also I have never seen Konqueror crash. Firefox crashes all the time. But they do give you a nice interface to go back to the page you crashed on. This means they know it crashes but can’t figure out why.

But they most damning thing about Firefox is how it handles bookmarks. Firefox uses a format for the book marks that does not allow one to easily convert them to a different browser (This is truly scummy). Konqueror uses basic HTML to store book marks. Firefox is using proprietary techniques to force people from leaving their browser. This single fact has me not using Firefox ever again. I won’t allow a software program have that much power in my life. Wasn’t the FOSS about freedom as in speech but I can’t get my bookmarks out of firefox??? Time to dump them.

Reply
slasher01

Konqueror is one of the main reasons why I use KDE rather then GNOME. Perhaps one day Nautilus will be as versatile as Konqueror – but until then…

Reply
cybe_r_wizard

One little nit:
You said, “…KDE Project’s alleged support of Mac OS X and Windows (try actually finding packages for those platforms from the KDE Web site)…”
I had not known about this effort and admittedly didn’t go through the KDE website as you said, but a simple Google search for, “kde windows,” turned up http://windows.kde.org/ pretty quickly (first hit).

From there it’s just one click to download the installer.
Sorry I can’t comment on it further as I have no Windows.

Reply
wweng_linux

In the old days that Nautilus can also use gecko and act as a web browser. I don’t know why they whacked it, probably because the thing is soooo damn slow…

Reply
masinick

I find that how well Konqueror renders certain pages depends on which browser identification string I use for certain sites. Reading Yahoo Mail works fine as long as I select an ident string that Yahoo recognizes.

General performance of Konqueror is acceptable as a Web browser, but tight integration with KDE and the use of the KDE Parts is what really makes it nice. I see no compelling reason to use Dolphin instead of Konqueror as a file and resource management application, but I can understand why people would use alternative Web browsers.

I’ve seen discussions (and arguments) about whether KHTML support should be continued or if KDE should adopt the full time use of Gecko, Webkit, or some other rendering technologies that are under more rapid development. From my perspective, I do see some of the other technologies seemingly advance at a more rapid pace, but I also see plenty of allegiance to the hard work that has gone into the existing KDE effort. As long as that interest continues, why not have an alternative? I still use Konqueror as a browser on occasion, though I most definitely use it as a file manager – and in that role, I find it to arguably be the most complete one around, though not the “lightest and fastest”. Overall, Konqueror is a great resource to have on the system. I’d rate it mediocre as a browser, but excellent in nearly every other way.

Reply
bcspratt

I agree, Konqueror is by far the best file manager I have ever seen. I really love it’s ability to allow me to split screen and drag and drop files to and from folders. I can even drag and drop files to and from web sites like they were just another folder on my PC.

I rarely use Konqueror as a web browser and would only be tempted to do so on a system that was thin on resources.

Reply
hugocoolens

After experimenting with lots of webbrowsers which I want to display
_fully_ _vocalized_ Arabic, my conclusion is that the Times New Roman
font together with Konqueror is until now the best way to go. As I
have heared some news that Konqueror will be put on a “side track”
in favour of Dolphin, I only can hope the developers will keep the
excellent support for displaying Arabic language.
I have put a html-test-file on my website which can be used by the
developers to test whether their browsers perform correctly and also
some screenshots which show the typical problems with a lot of browsers when
displaying vocalized Arabic:
1. http://users.skynet.be/hugocoolens/download/arabic_test.html (test-
file)
2. http://users.skynet.be/hugocoolens/download/split_problem.png (this
shows the “split-problem” which occurs with many browsers when using
fully vocalised Arabic i.e. the occurence of unwanted gaps between the
characters)
3. http://users.skynet.be/hugocoolens/download/test_iceweasel2.0.0.17.png
(this shows “vocalization-mash” i.e. vocalization signs being written
_on_ the characters in stead of below or above, this was done with
iceweasel 2.0.0.17) (It’s a shame that the iceweasel/firefox
developers don’t use the experience which the Konqueror developers
have)
4.http://users.skynet.be/hugocoolens/download/test_konqueror3.3.5.png
(correctly placed vocalization signs and no split-problem, this was
achieved with Konqueror 3.3.5)

As I don’t have yet the latest Konqueror version at my disposal I hope
the developers will keep maintaining their excellent support for
displaying Arabic. Maybe you think why is all this so important, but just imagine how you would appreciate your roman text characters being displayed distorted every time you are browsing the Internet.

regards,
Hugo Coolens

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