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 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.
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.
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…
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.
- 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.
As 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.
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.