Alternative Web Browsers

No, this article isn’t about Net-surfing kids with green hair and lip piercings. But to Internet Explorer or Firefox users, an alternative web browser can be just as approachable as that other kind.

Whether you need a browser for an older PC or just want to try something new, there are a few good choices that can quickly become favorites.

One of the more popular alternative browsers is Opera. Using tabbed browsing and a familar set of menus, it’s easy for IE and Firefox fans to get accustomed to. Like Firefox, Opera’s appearance can be changed using downloaded themes or color schemes. Downloads can be paused and restarted later, or can be retransferred in the Transfers page. The best feature is the Quick Preferences menu, which lets you set pop-up ad blocking and enable or disable a website’s sounds or animated images – when you’re listening to music on your computer and a site starts blaring MIDI noise, this comes in handy.

Opera isn’t without its flaws. Starting the software is more than just opening a browser window; it loads the pages you last visited before closing the program (a feature that can be disabled), opens full windows for bookmarks or downloads, and just takes longer to do most things than Firefox or IE. That’s not a problem for heavy Internet use or even a middling PC, but when you just want to do a quick search it can be frustrating.

Arachne is a popular choice for old PC’s that need graphical Internet access. Arachne’s browser is one of the lightest, cleanest and most attractive around. It’s fast and uses very little RAM to work – it can even be run in DOS!

When using a dial-up modem through a phone line to connect to the Web, Arachne is second to none. Unfortunately, trying to use it on a local area network or cable/DSL line is a fine way to give yourself a headache. The setup wizards it has for these types of Internet access are limited to only a few network cards, and Arachne won’t detect any others without some hard-to-find drivers and performing some very esoteric tasks.

Dialup users will love Arachne, but network users will only find frustration with it.

One browser that’s nearly foolproof is Lynx. It’s very fast, uses hardly any system resources, works easily over dialup or network lines, can be run on many operating systems and is completely free of pop-up and banner ads. So, what’s the catch?

Lynx is a text based browser – it uses no graphics at all. Downsides to this approach are obvious, but for many old computers it’s the only option, and even Windows XP users may come to love the larger text and freedom from growing ads.

Whether you need a different browser or are just curious about them, these are some of the best available. All of them are free, so experimenting with them only costs a little hard drive space.

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