Software

Five free alternative web browsers for Windows

There are other alternative web browsers that deserve a fair look. Here are five solid alternative browser choices.

1280px-World_globe.jpg
Considering that the World Wide Web is such an important part of our lives, using the right browser to service our needs is one of the most important components for using the Internet. Aside from the standard fare of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, there are other alternative web browsers that deserve a fair look. Some of them are based on pre-existing major browser projects like Chromium, while others strive for a purist "from scratch" approach. For the Windows platform, here are five solid alternative choices to the browser scene.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Five Apps

1. Avant Browser

Those looking to have it all, and then some, need to look no further than the Avant Browser. In addition to the tri-core switchable rendering engine capability, which allows you to switch between Trident, Gecko, and Webkit rendering engines effortlessly, there simply is no shortage of settings and tweaks at your disposal. You can set URL compatibility by browser engine, create mouse gestures for seamless navigation, store passwords in a password protected cache and even upload bookmarks and browser settings to the cloud for quick restoration later.

a1_AvantBrowser_1.png

2. Maxthon

This Chinese-made web-browser has been turning heads in recent years, with its superb attention to detail and useful extras. Three features that stand out the most in Maxthon are the extension sidebar, which grants the user speedy access to installed add-ons, a very polished download manager that can upload downloads to a cloud storage area for safe keeping, and a multi-PC browser sync. Now, thanks to their massive push into the smartphone and tablet arena, Maxthon will even sync browser data to supported mobile devices.

b1_Maxthon_1.png

3. SRWare Iron

Security-minded individuals that value their privacy will appreciate what this next choice has on tap. German software house SRWare has a browser based on Chromium called Iron. It does away with any unique identifying information that can tie your browser back to you, as well as disabling Omnibox auto-complete and other Google-specific code. Yet in spite of all these changes, the browser looks and functions virtually the same to standard Google Chrome, meaning all your browser extensions will work just fine.

c1_SRWareIron_1.png

4. Midori

Sometimes, simple really is better, and Midori is out to turn simplicity into an art form. Although you won't be looking to use this browser on rather plugin-heavy sites or for a large variety of extensions, Midori is quite swift at rendering standard web pages with JavaScript, HTML5, and other standards-compliant frameworks. Development is still rather young compared to other browsers, but its capabilities grow each day, and it's rather impressive work coming from a smaller open-source team.

d1_Midori_1.png

5. Tor Browser

And finally, when you need a browser that makes obfuscating web traffic easy as pie, Tor Browser should be considered heavily. Several notable features are the portable EXE format for easy transport on a flash drive, the inclusion of several security conscious plugins like NoScript and HTTPS Anywhere, and the Vidalia Control Panel, which allows you to refresh your online "identity" and monitor bandwidth usage on the Tor network quickly and easily.

e1_TorBrowser_1.png


About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

17 comments
SilverRider
SilverRider

Interestingly enough Browsers are still fighting to be everything we want and now I think one has finally resurfaced...almost. The compairisons and mechanics of the ones mentioned above although not as sound as they may say ?..still offer alternatives. Pale Moon is leaky and luvs to crash, Tourch is a nightmare to stablize and lock down yet allow things to work. Opera while not as solid as it should be has yet to be trashed by to much media hype so isn't all that popular yet. Mozilla ?..well still the choice of many users is also low on the list for blocking baddies and bots, but holds its own with a bit of help.

 Now the new kid and old friend arrives in a new suit of armor IE 11 . Still a bit touchy as to what it likes it looks like they finally got mad enough to say ..."Ok it our turn to rumble". Boasting a high speed engine and a  99% kill rate plus instant search hook with safe search, maybe just maybe life just got better?

 Now anyone out there want to test it ?...see if it handles the cruel world of online games and errors going to often bad sites that should be harmless ?...If it even holds half decent then I will go back to it ...and finally enjoy a Browser again that does what it says and means what its name Browser implys. 

 Happy we shall be :) 

Kieron Seymour-Howell
Kieron Seymour-Howell

Ahh, browsers.   So annoying and yet so necessary these days.  Most of these browsers listed here are not that good, mainly for being buggy, unable to render some forum sites, and insecure.

Tor Browser is very useful, especially if you are paranoid, a criminal, or on the run, but it is VERY SLOW, and you wont be watching any video, or playing flash games on it since most dynamic content is blocked completely.

Opera is "probably" the most secure browser out of the box so to speak.  It is fast, and has some really odd and unique features, but it does not do some basic things that others don't (which makes it more secure).  You will need IE as a back up on some bank and forum sites will not work or log you in properly. Opera is also a fully functional email client and an IRC chat client and some other things as well with their unusual addons.

Firefox can be made into the most secure, but it seriously EATS system resources like nothing else.  It is powerful and amazingly flexible for just about anything you want to do.  The addons make it the most powerful browser on the planet, but you will STILL need IE, or the IE TAB addon, for the occasional site or forum that will not let you log in.  Some companies are starting to block Firefox, because it can me made very secure and you are denying them from their tracking revenue. (you will have to use IE or Chrome for those sites)

Speaking of Internet Explorer *takes cover*, it has actually evolved nicely and is actually much better (the desktop version), and faster than most of the others.  IE can also be be immunized!  Being able to secure a browser is VERY important.  Any browser that will not allow you to increase the security, I would not touch at all (cough, cough. Right, Google?). Use Spybot S&D to lock down IE and Firefox.  I would say that IE is probably the most compatible browser and renders every site you may visit.

Seamonkey and Torch are very good, but not quite as secure, they are fast though.  Seamonkey is interesting because it not just a browser, it is more of an Internet Suite, like Opera is.

There are many others out there.  READ THE REVIEWS.... never go by what the publishers claims alone.

IF you are an extreme minimalist, you can even get text-only browsers, if you want to see the Internet as Neo sees reality, you can try spider browsers that follow links like search engines do.  There are all kinds of interesting and odd open-source software out there to try out.

I STRONGLY suggest that you invest in multiple security tools if you are going to any sites other than the most popular ones.  Learn about blocklists, and whitelists, and blacklists, learn about HOSTS file and browser and OS immunization, and you might even want to look into Proxies, secure tunnelling, and IP filtering as well.   There comes a point though, when you have so much security that it takes you 15 minutes to do anything.  lol  If you reach that level, use a Secure Linux Boot CD and random names and never follow a pattern, it helps to make holes in the tinfoil to see what you are doing though.  :P

sunbear01
sunbear01

Downloaded Iron from above site.  Loaded with Trojans.  Thankfully AVG eliminated the threats.  I was afraid to open the browser and deleted everything after computer restarted. Just a word of caution.

dvroman
dvroman

I was a avid user of SlimBrowser for years. It was the first tabbed browser, before FireFox, and it has always had a non-intrusive popup blocker. The wars wore it down and the other browsers got better. One of the main benefits to me is that is uses the IE engine, which means I can use it for programming and testing too to the current IE (necessary) and not need to worry about IE's brain damaged security.

SnappyD3
SnappyD3

For finance and serious work....  SpeedResearch  ....  simple, not a Looney Tunes GUI, quick simple and business like for getting quick information.

tulaipaul
tulaipaul

Great! So, we are exposed to even more number of browsers. How many support mobile platforms? Will  the apps and games of appnext, admob, chartboost, inmobi work in these browsers?

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

SeaMonkey.

SeaMonkey is a descendant of Netscape and Mozilla.  It includes e-mail, newsreader, and composer functions, but I don't use those.  I just like the plain, old-style browser interface.  SeaMonkey runs most Firefox add-ons.

j.valenciaochoa
j.valenciaochoa

Interesting to see other web browser alternatives, but the really important is to find a tool capable to support Html 5 and that your information is in a secure mode

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Who cares about them ? They are just reusing wellknown existing web engines, with a "new" interface that offers no real advantages compared to the original, except that they remove their best security options.


Only Tor Browser merits some description  here because it is not just a browser (in fact it is Firefox) but because it includes a string privacy filter and connects to the Internet via the Tor Network (a peer-to-peer network using encrypted links used randomly to interconnect a very large set of anonimizing proxies, running inside voluntary hosts).

Such browser is not necessarily secure (and some sites will reject connections coming from Tor nodes, because Tor nodes are also used to spread malwares or send spam (sending emails via such networks will often fail because you can never trust the identity of users trying to send mails to normal internet via Tor nodes; but sending private emails to users from which you have a secret and strong identity prrof, ma be interesting to hide these communications). The Tor network if then useful to journalists operating in politically troubled areas, or for the "Anonymous" group revealing secrets to the world (but we now now that these people can still be found only because you can identify who had access to these secrets, and visible the US governement can still track who is using the Tor network and when, and correlate these communications with contents delivered from Tor to the world).


All other 4 browsers presented here are just bad, and in fact less secure than their original. MAy be you want them to avoid being tracked by major browsers, but you'll finally be tracked by a smaller company whose practices are out of control and not scrutinized and your privacy could be even more at risk. Finally their software updates are very late (compared to the competition) and this is a major issue for security updates in case of known attacks on discovered bugs, 

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

What other alternative web browsers would suggest we look at next?

SubgeniusD
SubgeniusD

@dvroman Opera pioneered tabbed browsing.  They're currently attempting a conversion to the Blink (Chrome) engine so many of us continue with the earlier - still excellent - builds. I'm surprised Opera is not included in every list of alternative browsers.

Editor's Picks