Pete Roythorne gets to grips with choosing the right web browser

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Internet access is something that many of us take for granted. And it's the same with the software used to view web pages. Most of us just assume that we're bound in to using the web browser that comes with our computer - but that's not the case. Briefly, a web browser is the program that allows you to see and interact with text, images, and other information located on a web page. All web browsers are based around a layout engine - this takes web content and formatting information and displays it on screen - the most popular of which are Trident (used by Internet Explorer) and Gecko (used by Firefox). While around 63 per cent of us use Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), 25 per cent use Firefox, with the remainder being made up of other browsers such as Netscape and Opera.

Here is a rundown of the most popular ones: Internet Explorer - Microsoft's browser is currently the industry standard, and it offers a good range of features. Sadly, it's a target for viruses, hackers and legitimate commercial developers of spyware (software that tracks your web usage and then targets you with pop-up adverts). PC only as Microsoft suspended development of its Mac version.

Firefox - this is slowly chipping away at Microsoft and is widely rated to be the best browser on the market. There's much to like about it, not least it's virtual immunity to spyware. Available for Mac and PC.

K-Meleon - one for the home enthusiast. This a stripped down, efficient and very fast web browser that is based on the Gecko layout engine. It gives you easy access to its internal workings for easy customisation and has a wide range of privacy options. For PC only.

Netscape - looks much like Firefox. The latest version can render pages either with the Gecko or Trident layout engines, which means there's no web page you won't be able to view. For Mac and PC.

Opera - one of the few commercial products. It's a solid application with a strong fan base. Light on computer memory, but doesn't display all pages that well. For Mac and PC.

Most of us use IE because it comes with Windows, but that doesn't mean you don't have a choice. Take a look at the sites below and simply download the one you want - it's as easy as that.

Firefox www.mozilla.orgproductsfirefox

Internet Explorer www.microsoft.comwindowsiedefault.mspx

K-Meleon kmeleon.sourceforge.net

Netscape Browser browser.netscape.com Opera www.opera.com

Safari www.apple.comsafari

Layout engines explained en.wikipedia.orgwikiLayout_engine

A history of web browsers en.wikipedia.orgwikiWeb_browsers

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