App Directory: The Best Web Browser For Linux

Linux users have a lot of choice when it comes to web browsers, but Google Chrome still wins out over all the others, for its extensibility, great syncing features and usability.

Google Chrome

Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux Price: Free

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Note: We know a lot of you Linux users value open source, so we think it's worth noting that if you prefer an open source browser, you can grab Chromium for Linux as well, which is very similar to Chrome minus a few closed-source features (like its Flash plugin or the built-in PDF reader). You can download Chromium for Linux here, and see the full list of differences between Chrome and Chromium here.

  • Tabbed browsing with pinnable tabs and regular tabs that are easy to reorganize or drag off into separate windows.
  • Supports extensions that add new features to your browser, both from the Chrome Web Store and elsewhere.
  • Sync passwords, bookmarks, preferences, themes, autofill information and extensions between Chrome installations through your Google account.
  • Fast page rendering and JavaScript engine.
  • Chrome "Omnibar" that lets you type in URLs and search terms in the same box.
  • Automatically creates custom search engines and lets you create your own.
  • Automatically recognises web content that's not in your native language and offers to translate it for you.
  • "Incognito Mode" for private browsing and other things.
  • Choose from a variety of themes, or make your own.
  • Each tab and plug-in is isolated, so tabs and plug-ins will only crash individually instead of bringing down the entire browser.
  • Plenty of privacy preferences to keep Chrome from tracking what you do (which it does).
  • An automatic update system that downloads and installs updates without you having to do anything.
  • Safe browsing helps warn and protect you from phishing attacks and malicious web sites.
  • URL-based settings pages so you can send people links to settings pages or just enter them in yourself, manually.

Chrome is the power user's browser, and it's easy to see why. Chrome's biggest strength over other browsers lies in its usability. Chrome has really put a lot of thought into its UI, making it minimalist but powerful, smooth and easy to use. It also has an incredible library of extensions, not to mention it can sync everything — including extensions — to your Chrome installations on other computers. Its rapid release cycle is also great, so whenever a new feature is ready for Chrome, you'll get it right away — no need to wait until the "next big version" that could be months away. It's constantly improving and giving you more ways to make your workflow easier.

Chrome started off as a great lightweight browser, but over time has grown very resource-hungry, the very thing that made so many people leave Firefox. It also has a tendency to be unstable sometimes, crashing certain tabs or plug-ins for unknown reasons. There's a lot of little annoyances, like its handling of SSL certificates, that make you scratch your head a little.

Chrome's biggest downside, however, is its lack of customisability. It has a lot of incredible extensions, no doubt about that, but when it comes to the browser itself, it's far, far behind something like Firefox. The interface is great, but you can't really change anything, so you're stuck with what Google gives you. In addition, there are a lot of more advanced options seemingly missing — like the ability to automatically focus a new tab — that you need to install new extensions to fix. Even disregarding Firefox's super powerful about:config and customisable userChrome.css, Chrome could stand to have more options.

Chrome's most obvious competition is, Firefox, which is still the default browser on many Linux distributions. Firefox kills Chrome in customisability but has fallen behind in other areas. Almost all Firefox's extensions still require a restart of the browser to install and it still can't sync them between installations, which seems ludicrous in this day and age. It also still carries the same memory leak and resource hogging issues that have plagued it for years, though users with more powerful computers may not notice (and we're seeing these go away with every new version). Still, Firefox's customisability is hard to beat. You can move toolbar items pretty much anywhere you want, tweak even the smallest features in about:config, and fix every pixel of its UI with userChrome.css. And, if I know Linux users (and I think I do), that's something that's a pretty big draw.

Opera, while not one of the most popular browsers, has a very dedicated following and it's easy to see why. Its extension libraries aren't quite as vast, but it's pretty customisable, and has a lot of cool, well-integrated tab management features, BitTorrent support, blinding speed and a turbo mode that's perfect for slow internet connections. If Firefox and Chrome aren't doing it for you, Opera's a breath of fresh air.

Lastly, Linux has a load of other smaller browsers, like Epiphany, which is a lightweight, straightforward browser for GNOME; Konqueror, which integrates very nicely with the KDE desktop and is pretty customisable and Midori, which has a nice little library of extensions that let you tweak how you use it (though it's nowhere near the level of Firefox and Chrome). If you're looking for something a bit simpler and a bit less bloated than the more popular browsers, check out one of these, as they're likely to suit you better.

I find they're great as secondary browsers for logging into alternate accounts, testing out web pages to see if my main browser is acting up and so on. Don't expect the level of customisation and extensibility you get from the others, but if you don't want life-changing extensions like LastPass, then you may not care.

Obviously, there are more smaller browsers for Linux that we didn't touch on, but the audience for them is pretty small with browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Opera taking over the power user market with their comprehensive feature sets. Got a favourite we didn't mention, though? Share it with us in the comments.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.


Comments

    Firefox should be getting addon sync within the next few releases.

      ^This

      Also, how long ago did you use Firefox. from the tests I've seen, it's a better than chrome regarding memory usage. Seriously, Chrome is the memory hog when it comes to just a FEW tabs compared to a dozen for firefox.

      Chrome does however throw away it's cached memory faster than firefox (it drops it about 2mins later after closing). As for the extension restart, full of extensions, two whole second restart, oh the humanity.

      The only thing I like about Chrome better than Firefox, is its Omnibox Addressbar. It's much quicker at deciding what is a search or domain. Other than that, it's choosing what makes the experience fun.

        Hm, I use Opera and whenever I have about 20 tabs open (basically everyday i like news) it'll hog my memory, but opera's fine whenever you're just doing stuff, without more than, like, 10 tabs. But it's incompatible with iTunes link thingies, which is kinda annoying.

        I used to use Firefox, because I had quit using Opera for a while, because the current version (at the time) crashed quite alot. Though I still use firefox quite a lot. Not a big fan of Chrome though, it's just too... bluegh.

    I've found Chrome on Linux (several different distributions) to be woefully unstable. I don't think I've managed more than 5-10 minutes without a crash. It may well be down to my config, but every other browser (Firefox, Opera, Epiphany) are totally stable (barring intermittent Flash flakiness).

    not to mention open tab sync. cannot live without this now, including Chrome for Android.

    As a Firefox fanatic on all operating systems (I use both Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS), I kept an open mind and tried Google Chrome for a week... Absolutely hated it... Found Chrome to be far more resource hungry then Firefox ever was, both my systems slowed to a crawl...

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