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Ask Slashdot: Best Small-Footprint Modern Browser? 475

Posted by timothy
from the treading-lightly-on-the-silicon dept.
Annirak writes "I've recently started a paid internship at a company which is expanding faster than their IT department can supply new hardware. As a consequence, I've been issued a P4 2.4GHz with 512MB of RAM. Currently, I am using Firefox 4, but I find that it eats up far too much of my limited RAM. I'd rather not give up some of the more modern UI features that are offered by the current versions of Firefox and Chrome, but I need a smaller footprint. What other browsers are out there which could help me conserve resources?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Small-Footprint Modern Browser?

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  • Opera (Score:5, Informative)

    by Derf_X (651876) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:33PM (#35985694)
    I use Opera 11 with Windows 2000 on my P3 with 256 MB of RAM and it works quite well.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Agreed. Make sure you turn off the features you don't want like the mail client, web server, torrent client, etc. It can get very slim.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by WOFall (1265240)
        By "turn off" I assume you mean "don't turn on", because if you don't set up a mail account, enable Unite, or download a torrent with the built in client, these features will use the same amount of memory as they would disabled.
      • by mobby_6kl (668092)

        You don't really have to disable anything, all that functionality is there but it's not doing anything until you use it.

        I set up Opera for my dad on a P4/512MB PC, and it does indeed run very well. However, soon he started complaining that it was very slow. I checked and it turned out that he had so many tabs open (many of them with some Flash videos paused) that you could only see their icons and none of the title text. Oops.

        Admittedly I have the same habit of using tabs as bookmarks, but at least I have 1

  • Obvious answer (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrwolf007 (1116997) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:34PM (#35985702)

    is of course Lynx.

    Aside from that Opera should require at lot less resources.

    • There are several free X servers that can run on WIndows - Xming, Cygwin, etc. Run one of them and log in to a nearby Linux server that has enough RAM to actually run Firefox on. Or boot Linux from a memory stick.

      Or if you only have Windows servers, use Windows Remote Desktop to run the browser on one of them, though that's a bit more awkward.

  • Lighten the Load (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Try disabling flash, other plugins, and javascript. It makes 99% of sites faster, and only breaks about 30% of sites. Of the sites that aren't worthless, only about 5% are broken (mostly shopping sites).

    If you install NoScript in Firefox, you can selectively enable/disable scripts and flash and other plugins for specific domains, only enabling what you want.

    This also prevents most advertisements from loading.

  • Lynx (Score:4, Informative)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:35PM (#35985726)
    Lynx [wikipedia.org]

    Browsing in Lynx consists of highlighting the chosen link using cursor keys, or having all links on a page numbered and entering the chosen link's number. Current versions support SSL and many HTML features. Tables are formatted using spaces, while frames are identified by name and can be explored as if they were separate pages. Lynx cannot inherently display various types of non-text content on the web, such as images and video, but it can launch external programs to handle it, such as an image viewer or a video player.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lidocaineus (661282)

      Why do people keep suggesting Lynx? I'm glad you know about 90s-era text browsing, but even that's moved on. If you're going this route, use Links [wikipedia.org] people!!

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:36PM (#35985734)

    I saw the "expanding faster than their IT department can supply new hardware" note, but - come on. That hardware is close to a decade old! Is their IT department run by an 80-year-old man?

    • That hardware is close to a decade old! Is their IT department run by an 80-year-old man?

      Exactly. I'm not sure I would want to intern (slave labor) at a place that tossed me one of those. Is it a "Gateway"? You can find them at Goodwill for $20!

    • No one ever got sacked for buying IBM boxes and Lotus123 software... and who needs more than 640K anyway? From and 80 year old man.
    • by lennier1 (264730)

      Doesn't really surprise me.
      A while ago I had to use a laptop with a 1.5 GHz Celeron, 1GB RAM and Intel graphics.

  • The RAM usage in FireFox isn't a bug, and there are things you can do to make it use less RAM:

  • by nurb432 (527695)

    Bring back grail.. it was small, fast and mulitplatform out of the box, being based on Python.

    ( and one of the first broswers.. )

  • by viking80 (697716) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:39PM (#35985760) Journal

    "...expanding faster than their IT department can supply new hardware" is corporate terms for "..because we are almost broke"

    My recommendation, just stay away.

    • Not necesarilly (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pavon (30274) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:06PM (#35985936)

      This happened to me (an apparently many other interns) at one of the National Laboratories. The lab wasn't strapped for cash nor going away anytime soon. The real problem was that the guy that hired me didn't plan ahead and order a computer (which can take weeks to get thanks to procurement overhead), so he panicked and snagged one on the way to reapplication. I scrounged up some more RAM from reapp, and it worked fine for the three months I was there.

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:16PM (#35986026)

      Nah, that's corporate speak for "Interns? They don't need a laptop to make coffee! Just dig up something from storage and let 'em play with that."

    • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:28PM (#35986126)

      Nope, not at all. I work for one of the largest software companies that isn't going anywhere (even if you wanted it to). The process, at least in our office, is that new employees get whatever's available in the warehouse (currently mostly P4s with 1-2GB of RAM and WinXP) and a new machine is ordered for them (Core i5, 4-8GB, etc). It can take a while for the new hardware to arrive.

      I have a feeling though that whoever is doing the hiring for our team doesn't pay enough attention to this, otherwise the new computers could be ordered in advance. But that's just annoying at most, and not an indication that the company is broke.

      • Our biggest client has a habit of never telling us when or how many people they are hiring, so we've gotten in the habit of having 4 systems for them on hand, ready to go, at any given time. Then of course they decided to hire six people all within the space of two weeks... Two unlucky people will be stuck with 6 year old laptops til their new PCs come in.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @01:43PM (#35985792) Homepage Journal

    Run the browser on the Corei7 guy's computer, use his RAM, and see it on yours. ;-)

  • Opera (Score:5, Informative)

    by vga_init (589198) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:04PM (#35985912) Journal

    I think you would want to give Opera a try. I compared some of the major browsers several months ago, and what I found was that Chrome was fast but uses RAM excessively, and Firefox was slow but used less RAM. Opera seemed to be strong in both speed and memory conservation, the main drawback being that it is not open source. Firefox is faster now that version 4 is out, putting it in competitive range of Opera, although I'd wager that Opera is still more efficient.

    Now if you're able and willing to try non-mainstream browsers, there are a lot of fun things you can play with. Epiphany is a popular underdog choice, and other alternative browsers run a full gamut of niches. In the past I've tried Konqueror, Midori, Aurora, Dillo, and yes, even elinks (I've actually used it productively, so I'm not joking). There is even that funny K-Meleon browser for windows. I don't know how many of these are still in active development, but many alternative browsers do excel in being lightweight, so on systems with limited resources you will see noticeable speed gains. The downside is that you will get compatibility problems, and the Javascript engine may be slow.

    If you really want to have fun try browsers designed for embedded/mobile systems, such as Android.

    • I second the opera recommendation, even if endorsing opera on slashdot means getting flak from the haters. I currently have around 140 tabs open in opera and I am only using 1200mb of ram. Try doing that in any other modern browser :)
  • Back during the Firefox 4 betas I sometimes used a 300Mhz P3 laptop (380ish megabytes of RAM). Firefox pegged the processor just by being open, but Chromium didn't.
  • Don't know if this is still true, but as recently as v9 some websites would have problems with Opera's Javascript implementation.

  • Enjoy! :)
  • Firefox 4, built in bartab [zpao.com]. When you set browser.sessionstore.max_concurrent_tabs=0 , only tabs you click on get loaded.

    If that's not good enough for you, get the same setup on lubuntu or similar lightweight Linux, or just go buy some more RAM [crucial.com] and install it yourself. Should be $30-60 for 2 1-gig sticks depending on the type needed. If that's too much to expense or pay out of pocket, can't you help much.

  • There are only a few major browsers. IE (7 and 8), Firefox (3, since you've tried 4), Safari, Chrome, and Opera. Each have their pros and cons with regard to speed, features, etc. How these get weighted depend on what your preferences are and which sites you visit.

    There are two browser hogs of resources: flash and javascript. If you can, get rid of flash altogether. If you can't, at least use a browser/plugin/etc that allows you to "click to play" flash. That'll do more than any browser switch.

    Use eac

  • Netfront. Its massively underrated.
  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @02:32PM (#35986152)
    ... or install Windows 98 and use IE6 SP1 [microsoft.com]
  • Is your computer 10 years old because the CEO is a tightwad or is it because your company has to wait 6 years for FDA approval that your computer won't adversely affect food preparation? I can guarantee it doesn't take your IT dept 10 years to buy you a new computer.
  • Seriously. Chrome is too resource intensive for you? I'm not sure you're gonna find a better option. Maybe (*maybe*) Lynx will work for you.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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