CyberNotes
Web Browser Wednesday

More than a month ago I looked at 6 different browsers that were all based on the Firefox rendering engine (a.k.a. Gecko). The Gecko rendering engine is an important factor for some people when choosing a browser because most sites are tested and work well in Firefox, so it should be just the same in those other browsers.

I discovered the Windows-only K-Meleon browser when writing that article, and the low-memory performance really caught my attention. I was able to open about 10-tabs all while keeping the memory usage under a meager 40MB. That’s about what Firefox 2 uses immediately after starting it, and then when I get to work with Firefox, the usage quickly climbs upwards of 80MB or 90MB with about 5 tabs open.

So today I thought that I would point out some of the features K-Meleon has for those of you looking for a lightweight browser that is actually quite packed with features.

K-Meleon

–General–

K-Meleon is a browser that only runs on the Windows operating system, and uses the same rendering engine as the Firefox browser. The reason why it doesn’t run on any other operating systems is because it uses a tightly integrated Windows-specific API to give you the best performance possible on your machine.

One thing that I should mention right off the bat is that K-Meleon makes it easy to drag-and-drop toolbars in whatever order you would like them (including the Menu Bar). You can also turn off the toolbars completely, however, you cannot rearrange and remove buttons from the toolbars very easily. If you wanted to do that you would need to dive into some configuration files.

–Layers (“Tabs”)–

K-Meleon Layers

K-Meleon doesn’t actually support a tab system, but it has what they call “layers.” Each time you create a new layer it essentially opens a new browser window, but it only shows one entry in the Taskbar which represents the layer you currently have selected. If you switch to a new layer, K-Meleon goes to work hiding the appropriate windows, and showing only the one you have selected.

It sounds crazy, I know, but I believe that is one way it is able to use respectable amounts of memory. Not only that but you won’t really notice much of a difference between the layers and a full tab system. If not having real tabs starts to get the best of you, feel free to try out the Alpha version that has a tab implementation.

–Preferences–

There are an insane number of preferences that you can configure with K-Meleon, and there are so many that I would have to post dozens of screenshots if I wanted to try and cover them all. So I’ll just go ahead and highlight a handful of them:

  • Manually select the window size and position (in pixels) for K-Meleon when it starts up.
  • Block Flash objects by default and/or block ads.
  • Manage how pop-up windows are handled.
  • It has the most extravagant search engine management that I’ve ever seen!
  • Define keyboard shortcuts for up to 9 different sites. The shortcuts correspond to the Ctrl+1-9 hotkeys (much like Opera’s Speed Dial).
  • And a lot more

K-Meleon Preferences
Click to Enlarge

–Plugins–

The screenshot above has a section dedicated to K-Meleon plugins. This isn’t like Firefox where you can download and install extensions, but it does come with some useful plugins that can be enabled. Here’s a list of what’s included that you can configure:

  • Netscape/Mozilla Bookmarks – Share and use your bookmarks with Netscape-based browsers (like Firefox).
  • IE Favorites – Share and use your bookmarks with Internet Explorer.
  • Opera Hotlist – Share and use your bookmarks with Opera.
  • Layered Windows – Customize the Layers Toolbar such as the minimum and maximum “tab” width.
  • Macro Extension – Adds several smaller features to the browser, and their is a designated macros page where users can submit their own homegrown macros.
    K-Meleon Macros
  • Mouse Gestures – There is an extremely long list of actions that you can create mouse gestures for. Of course the most common thing you would probably use this for is going back and forward on a page.
    K-Meleon Mouse Gestures

–Themes–

K-Meleon SkinsAs with most browsers you can customize the appearance of K-Meleon by using a variety of skins that they have available. The collection is no where near what Firefox and Opera has available, but it might be nice for something different.

–Overview–

Using a combination of Opera and Firefox seems to suit me quite well for my daily routines, but K-Meleon is transforming into a speedy little browser that would satisfy most casual users. It renders pages very quickly, starts up extremely fast, and doesn’t treat my system resources like they are a midnight buffet. If you haven’t been satisfied with your browser, try out K-Meleon to see if it is right for you.

Download K-Meleon (portable version available)

There Are 7 Comments

  1. hands down the best browser for windoze at the moment, you miss out on all the extensions of course, but some do actually work. it’s great to have stylish and adblock on KM. There are also some more themes on the k-ninja page that work well.

    [geocities.com]

  2. I think Firefox is more of a culture than a web browser. Like: If you gotta be cool, then you gotta be using Firefox. However, I expect this to change with the release of IE 8 (hopefully)

  3. Does K-meleon support live bookmarks? Or do we have to install a plugin for this. The major advantage of firefox is that it is extensible through extensions. What are the ranges of extension available for this browser.

  4. Tinhead- There isn’t much in the way of extension. Though it does have quite a bit built in.
    The CSS adblocking system it has built in works as well as adblock plus does on Firefox, and if you dive into the config files, you can add or remove filters.

    It also has a built in compact/tiny menu that you can turn on via config files, as well…and as Ryan said in the post, you can turn on and off other menu buttons from the config files.
    Also, as Ryan pointed out, it has a lot of macros and mouse gestures.

    You also can customize the toolbars as much as you like. You can even move stuff onto the layers/tabs bar and such, which is more freedom than firefox gives you.

    Also, in the config files, there’s a way to customize keyboard shortcuts. When I used Kmeleon, I had ctrl+k set to open a pop up search box that uses Yubnub, so I was effectively able to search for a ton of stuff with the functionality of a search bar without the wasted browser space.

    It’s also got a pretty cool built in RSS reader.

    But um…if you want colored tabs, weather updates, greasemonkey, and stuff like that, you’re SOL.

    All in all, I used Kmeleon for a few weeks before dropping it. All in all, it didn’t handle the bookmarks menu and bookmarks toolbar good enough for me to continue using it. My main issue is that you could set (via preferences menu) the bookmark menu and toolbars to either open bookmarks in a new tab or the current tab, but you couldn’t middle click on a bookmark to open it in a new tab, which I really like about Firefox.
    Also, there were no favicons on the bookmark bar, so that was actually just useless all around.

  5. While I’d agree its memory usage is definitely better, its not really any faster then a well configured Firefox for me, maybe thats just my super fast net connection anyway.

    But I too everytime I give K-Melon a try, I just play with it for a few hours then ditch it. It has a few cool options and stuff Firefox doesn’t have, but it also has a lot less. One of the things I love about Firefox too is the ability to middle click pretty much everything. I don’t need a new tab button because I can just middle click my home page button.

    Also, there is actually an Adblock Plus written specifically for K-Melon too. Go to its actual homepage of adblockplus.org, K-Melon version on installation page, just extract the file to Program Files/K-Melon, and it will detect it and enable it when you start K-Melon.

  6. different browsers for different things :)…i like k-melon for fast startup & surfing

    “I think Firefox is more of a culture than a web browser” 8O

  7. DKong wrote:
    But um…if you want colored tabs, weather updates, greasemonkey, and stuff like that, you’re SOL.

    Yeah, I definitely missed the Greasemonkey support because I use those scripts in both Opera and Firefox.

    Thilak wrote:
    I think Firefox is more of a culture than a web browser. Like: If you gotta be cool, then you gotta be using Firefox. However, I expect this to change with the release of IE 8 (hopefully)

    I actually think you’re right. People that I know using Firefox have had a hard time switching from it because all their friends are using it. I really wonder if IE 8 will be able to bring enough to the table to pull people back away from Firefox?

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