Browser review – epiphany (or Web)

Today, I have been doing most of my browsing with epiphany (or Web, as it is now called), so as to get a good feel for this browser.  However, I am reverting to firefox for composing this post.  I’m sure that I could have also done that in epiphany.  However, as part of my experimenting, I nuked its configuration and started over.  Since I had already tried using and logging into wordpress, I saw little point in repeating that.

For a history of epiphany, see the Wikipedia page.

The browser name

Is it called “epiphany” or is it called “Web”?  Until recently, it was called “epiphany”, but has since undergone a  name change.  Personally, I don’t much care for that name change.  To me, calling it “Web” is pretentious, particularly when there are so many alternatives available for browsing the web.  I already thought that the name “epiphany” was a bit pretentious, but calling it “Web” seems far more pretentious.

Regardless of what the developers want us to call it, if you wish to install this browser in opensuse, you will need to look for “epiphany” in Yast software management.  The actual program that is running is “/usr/bin/epiphany”.  And the configuration settings for this browser are in “$HOME/.config/epiphany”.  At least, for the present, I will continue to call it “epiphany” since that seems less confusing.

Tab support

Epiphany does use tabs, as do most of today’s browsers.  The tabs do not show in the browser, unless there are at least two in use.  I could not find a configuration option to change that.

Middle click on a link does open that link in a new tab.  However, it does not automatically switch to that tab and I was unable to find a preference setting to change that tab behavior.  So that makes tab use a little less convenient than in the browsers that I mostly use.

A more serious problem is that I could not tell which tab is in use.  All of the tabs look the same.  There is no special highlighting or other indicator to tell me which tab is used for what I am currently seeing in the browser.  Often I can tell from the tab title, but that won’t help when there are two tabs with the same title.

Bookmarks

I imported bookmarks from a file that I had exported from firefox.  Importing was simple enough.  Unfortunately, the bookmarks were sorted into alphabetical order as they were imported, making it harder for me to find a bookmark in the menu.

There is an option to have a small bookmarks window.  Or alternatively, I can use the bookmarks menu.  I prefer the latter.

Passwords

I logged into six sites while using epiphany.  They were two internet forums, my ISP webmail site, my work webmail site, wordpress (to manage this blog), and opensuse forums.  For the first five of those, I was asked whether I wanted epiphany to save the password.  I told it to go ahead.  It appears to have saved those in the gnome keyring.

For the last site, opensuse forums, I was not prompted to save the password.  I have no idea why.  This seems like inconsistent behavior.

My work webmail page is setup to tell the browser to not save passwords.  Nevertheless, epiphany allowed me to save that password.  I approve of that behavior.  Not allowing passwords to be saved is a foolish practice.

Private browsing

There’s not much to say here.  Epiphany does not appear to have a private browsing mode.  It does have some preference settings related to privacy.

Flash videos

I could not get flash videos to play with epiphany.  I am not quite sure why.  Some sites reported that I am missing a plugin, while others urged me to install flash (which is already installed).

I am not quite sure why this is happening.  It could be a bug in epiphany.  However, it could that epiphany is attempting to play flash videos some other way, instead of using the adobe flash plugin.

I am using opensuse 12.3 RC1, and the packman repos were not available at the time of installation.  I could have used the packman factory repo, but I decided to hold off.  So I have not installed the extras needed for multimedia.  And if epiphany is trying to play flash with a different player, that would explain why it doesn’t work.

I’ll come back and take a second look at this after 12.3 final has been released (and installed), and after I have added the multimedia support.

Summary

Apart from the unexplained flash problems, this is a reasonably congenial browser, and a lot simpler than firefox or chrome.  It won’t be my choice, partly because the way it handles tabs does not fit well with my usage.

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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