Browser 2014 reviews — epiphany (Web)

I started seriously testing “epiphany” this morning, in preparation for writing this review.  But “epiphany” turned out to be so poor, that I cut my testing period short.  In my opinion, this browser is not suitable for prime time.

The name

I first came across “epiphany” several years ago.  I seem to recall that it was part of a standard install of SUSE 10.1.  I briefly tried it, but did not pay much attention.  I believe that it was based on Gecko (the mozilla engine) at that time.

At that time, I thought the name “epiphany” was rather pretentious.  It was later renamed to “Web”, and I find that even more pretentious.  Perhaps I could say that it is pretentiously unpretentious.  The problem with that name, is that to most folk, “the web” refers to what we browse, rather than to a particular browser.  So naming a browser “Web” seems to be an assertion that this is the only browser anybody should use.

Since I don’t like that name “Web”, I shall continue to call it “epiphany”.

My testing

In preparation for testing, I logged into Gnome.  Since “epiphany” is intended for Gnome, I decided that I should do at least some of my testing in that environment.

The first thing I did in Gnome, was set “epiphany” to be the default browser.  I then started “akregator” (my preferred RSS reader), and I started “epiphany”.

The first annoyance, was that “epiphany” starts maximized.  So I unmaximized it, because I also want to be able to see “akregator” on the same desktop.  It unmaximized to a small size, vertically small.  So I had to resize it.  I then closed “epiphany”, and tried again.  Once again, it started maximized.  And, once again, after unmaximizing, it was too small.  So it seems that I will have to resize “epiphany” every time that I start it.  That’s already unacceptable.  To be fair, this only seems to be a problem with Gnome.  When I start “epiphany” in KDE, it remembers its window size.

Continuing from there, I middle clicked an article in the “akregator” display.  That opened the article in “epiphany”, as expected.  So something was working as it should.

I then went on to try some other web pages (not started from “akregator”) to get a feel for “epiphany”.  One of the pages that I tried, was the sudoku game for the Indianapolis Star.  That puzzle, flash based, seemed to start out fine.  But I could not play.  When I typed in a number entry at the keyboard, nothing happened.  That made the game unplayable.  The “sudoku” at USA Today has a similar problem (both are syndicated by uclick.com).

A little later, I clicked on another article in “akregator”, expecting it to be opened in a tab in “epiphany”.  Nothing happened.  With several repeats on different articles, the result was the same.

I closed “epiphany”.  Then I attempted to restart it.  Nothing happened.  I repeated that with the same result.

Checking at the command line, it seemed that the original “epiphany” process was still running, even though the window had closed.  So I killed that process with the “kill” command.  I was then able to restart.  However, attempts to open pages from “akregator” still failed.

I logged out of Gnome, and logged back in.  This was in case there was a failure somewhere in Gnome.  After the new login, I still was unable to open a page in the browser from epiphany.

At this stage, I logged out from Gnome, and logged into KDE.  I set the KDE default browser to “epiphany”, started “akregator” and started “epiphany”.

It started working again.  Middle click of an article title in the “akregator” display did open the page in “epiphany”.

It was around 30 minutes later, that I again tried to open a page from the “akregator” display.  And nothing happened.  The same brokenness was now showing up in KDE.  Closing the “epiphany” window, I again noticed that the process continued to run.

It was at this point that I terminated my testing of “epiphany”.  Too much was broken, for it to make sense to continue.

Tabbed browsing

The use of tabs seems reasonable enough.  However, I was unable to find a way of making it switch to a newly opened tab.  And that’s a disadvantage for the way that I use tabs.

Bookmarks

There is a bookmarks menu, though I did not test it very thoroughly before I gave up testing.  I was unable to import firefox bookmarks.  There’s an option for that, at least when running in KDE.  But it did not seem to work.  As best I can tell, it is confused by the format that firefox uses.

Passwords

The browser did offer to save passwords.  When I logged into a web forum, it offered to save the password.  I allowed that.  It saved the password in the Gnome login keyring (I was running Gnome at that time).  It also saved the password from my work webmail site.  I’m pretty sure that the webmail site specifies that the password should not be saved, but “epiphany” allowed me to save it anyway.  However, it did not offer to save the password from login to opensuse forums.

Configuration

When I first clicked the settings icon (looks like a cogwheel near the top right), I saw only very few options.  This was while running Gnome.  When I later tried the same step within KDE, there were several more options.  It seems that “epiphany” runs in a deliberately crippled mode in Gnome.

One of the options in KDE, is to open a “preferences” menu.  That was not a choice in Gnome.  However, the KDE menu shows that CTRL-E can be used as an alternative way of getting to the preferences menu.  And that continues to work in Gnome.  So perhaps most of the missing configuration options are still there, if you happen to know the key sequence.

Private browsing

Under KDE, there’s an option to open an incognito window.  That option does not show under Gnome.  The KDE option indicates that CTRL-SHIFT-N is an alternative way of opening an incognito window.  And that does work in Gnome.

I did not test private browsing very thoroughly, though it did seem to be working in some simple tests.

Copy/paste

Given the problems I found with “midori”, I decided that I should check out copy/paste with “epiphany”.  And it turns out to have the same problems.

I’m not sure what is up here.  Perhaps the software is being designed for when something like Wayland replaces X Windows.  But this only leaves me worried about Wayland.  If there’s a plan to switch to the awful Windows way of doing copy/paste, instead of the superior X-windows way, that will be a big disappointment.

Summary

This browser (“epiphany”) has too many problems to be considered in its present form.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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