Monday, January 03, 2005

Epiphany - intuitive grasp of reality

http://www.gnome.org/projects/epiphany/
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(EDIT: I added some info to this post after I got some feedback. Scroll down to the end to read it)

Epiphany ("intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking") is the default browser for Gnome desktops and what better name to have for this great piece of software. It uses gecko - the mozilla render-engine - to draw websites so it's able to view any website Mozilla has no problems with. Epiphany is not a browser like the other ones available as it's really simplistic but still very usable and enjoyable. It has all the features you expect from a modern browser; bookmarks, tabs, popup-clocking, zooming, costumisable toolbars etc. and it is really well integrated with Gnome too; it uses GTK, you can drag 'n drop from/to epiphany in Gnome, it downloads default to the Gnome downloads directory, to view a page's source-code (press Ctrl-U or select View > Page Source) it opens gedit - the gnome text-editor etc.
I think a lot gnome-users don't know the power of Epiphany and thus use another browser, I hope to convice them with this article because epiphany earns more respect then it gets :).
Something very specific about epiphany is it's bookmarks-system. Most browsers store bookmarks like files in directories where you can create subdirectories to order 'm. Epiphany uses a kind of "virtual folders". You can create "topics" and when you add a bookmark you can pick some topics where it belongs to, this way 1 bookmark can belong to 1 or more topic(s). When you want to open a bookmark, you can open the bookmarks menu and click on the title, or just start typing the title of the bookmark in the location bar and - as you type - you can pick the bookmark fromthe dropdown menu. When you start typing the name of a topic in the locationbar, all the bookmarks of that topic will be showed in the dropdown-menu. Ain't this great ?
The behaviour of the tabs in epiphany is nice too. Press Ctrl-T or click on a button on the toolbar you added to add a new tab, press Ctrl-W or click on the little cross on the tab (I like this behaviour much more then the one in e.g. Mozilla Firefox where the cross is not on the tab but on the right side of the tabs-bar) to close a tab, press Alt-[number] to go to the [number]st tab, Ctrl-PageUp and Ctrl-PageDown to scroll through the tabs, or scroll to the tabs with the arrow-keys after selecting a tab by clicking it. You can also drag tabs to other windows or just out of the window to create a new window with the contents of that tab. The hotkeys for these actions can be found in the Tabs-menu!

Epiphany screenshot:

Click the image to open the Epiphany homepage.

Also the mousewheel can be used very intuitive for several tasks, like Alt+scrollwheel to scroll in the browser-history, scrollling above the zoombutton on the toolbar (add this via Edit > Toolbars) or with the Shift button held down makes you zoom in/out on the viewed webpage and Ctrl+scrollwheel makes you scroll per page (like using PageUp/PageDown). [EDIT: Reinout (cfr. last paragraph) told me I forgot to mention the fact that Epiphany scrolls through the tabs when your mousepointer is on a tab, nice example of intuitivity! Thank you!]
Another feature you find in other modern browsers is the type-ahead search. When you want to search something on a website, click in the background of the website and start typing what you're searching for. Epiphany will search-as-you type and select the typed words if it finds them. To jump to the next result, press Ctrl-G, Shift-Ctrl-G to go back to the previous result. This is only for links to other websites. If you want to search this way for the whole text of the website, press '/' first.
A very innovative thing in Epiphany is it's popup-blocker. It doesn't have a heavy interface (only one option in a menu) but it Just Works ! When you don't want popup-windows for a website, block 'm with View > Popup Windows and epiphany will remember this setting again when you visit this website in the future. Nothing more, nothing less and it rocks!
Epiphany also has a build in websearch function (via Google by default*). To search for something on the web, just type the searchwords in the location bar and press enter; if it's not a url it will be searched for on Google*.
Epiphany's also great at remebering passwords. When you enter a password in a form it asks you if it has to save it again. When you save a password, the next time you visit that site it will already be filled in so you only have to click on the confirmation / ok / login - button. To delete this information, go to Edit > Personal Data. Also if you have fill in a lot of forms on a webpage, epiphany will ask to remember them for a next time you visit that website. Isn't this just great ?

Happy Epiphany'ing ! :D

By the way: did I tell you how to change your default browser settings on gnome to epiphany ? Load Applications > Desktop Preferences > Advanced > Preferred Applications and just select epiphany on the first tab.

EDIT: The first comment on this post made me point out I forgot to mention the Epiphany Extensions. Epiphany has a great plugin system and those plugins are called "extensions". They are different from Firefox's extensions, so you can't use those with Epiphany. There exist some nice Extensions for Epiphany though, like mouse-gestures, a sidebar, more options on tabs etc. I also heard from Reinout van Schouwen an addblocker and tab-coloring (to show the state like 'unread' and 'loaded' the same way gaim does it for 'is typing' and 'unread' ) extension will be available soon. The future is bright :).

EDIT: I've got a lot of feedback on this post via the comments on Footnotes, the comments on this blog, an email and some forums where this blog was mentioned. Some people asked why they should choose Epiphany over Firefox. Well, I found something in the epiphany-wiki that might help you making a choice.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous knowledgely replied ...

Having the equivalent of addblock for epiphany will make me switch to it!

4:38 PM, January 03, 2005  
Blogger Karel Demeyer knowledgely replied ...

I just had a talk with a translator who said an add-blocker is (is will be ?) available as an Extension. I forgot to mention the great Epiphany Extensions, I'll do it in an edit or a new post.
Thanks for your comment!

4:43 PM, January 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous knowledgely replied ...

Hi ... I found your blog from its mention on Gnome Footnotes and am very much looking forward to your posts. Regarding Epiphany, I am in a situation probably many Gnome users are in: I have recently switched from using Windows mostly to using Linux (Debian, in my case) mostly. Given how much unfamiliar software there is to learn and play with, a certain amount of familiarity is comforting and so I tend toward x-platform apps I already know well from Windows, such as Mozilla Firefox. I hadn't really considered checking out Epiphany until I read your article. While informative, I wish you could take some time one day to explain why a Firefox user might want to switch. I know it is all subjective, but it would be interesting. It seems to me that Firefox has a lot of momentum right now, and I guess I'd be worried about missing out if I did switch.

2:05 AM, January 04, 2005  
Blogger Karel Demeyer knowledgely replied ...

I'll edit thepost a second time to add a link for it as there's a nice page explaining why epiphany is a better choice _for Gnome users_.
Thanks for you comment!

1:27 PM, January 04, 2005  
Blogger Ed Crypt knowledgely replied ...

I steel does'nt undestand the way it organize the tabs...

4:15 PM, January 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous knowledgely replied ...

Last time I tried Epiphany, it didn't allow me to have tree-sorted bookmarks (and if You have _lots_ of bookmarks You just cannot live without it). It just sucks. :((((

4:56 PM, January 05, 2005  
Blogger Karel Demeyer knowledgely replied ...

I have a lot of bookmarks and the only thing that annoys me is that it sometimes lags a bit when clicking on the menu before it shows, but Ican live with it. One of the next epiphany's will have subcategories, I think someonesaid me, would be nice to have :D. But I can work withit now ;).

5:34 PM, January 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous knowledgely replied ...

I gave this blog a chance, I tried everything you mentioned here and actually, I did learn some things I didn't know, but they apply to all Mozilla browsers, not just Epiphany.

I HATE Epiphany. If you're unimpressed by the lack of features options in Epiphany, try Galeon. I'm completely disgusted with Gnome for choosing Epiphany as the default browser, and if Galeon starts to fall behind because of it, then I'll use Firefox. Galeon has been doing all of this and more since before Epiphany, before Firefox, and that Epiphany gets any recognition when it's just a less-featured rip off of Galeon infuriates me to no end. I'm not a Galeon developer. Just a long time user and admirer.

Otherwise I enjoy the blog, thanks for the tips! :)

5:46 PM, January 05, 2005  
Blogger Karel Demeyer knowledgely replied ...

I don't think all the tricks apply to galeon and other mozilla-based browsers. I also think galeon e.g. is a great browser, but I guess epiphany was chosen as it's simpler and it follows the Gnome HIG. And I'm sure the HIG is a great thing. If you use e.g. KDE, all apps are different in where they place there menu-items etc. it makes you have to learn every app appart instead of if you use gnome, all apps behave the same way.

8:16 PM, January 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous knowledgely replied ...

All the things I took from it were universal Mozilla things, not everything that you said was, sorry to be confusing.

And you're exactly right, that's why Epiphany was chosen. But the 1.3x branch of Galeon is simple and HIG compliant, or dang close, I can't say for 100%. While Epiphany is just TOO simple, well not even, it's not that it's any easier to use, it's just... lacking. That's my opinion.

Doesn't really need to be debated, to each his own, but I just wanted to let it be said that if you find Epiphany to be a bit lacking, like I do, check out Galeon.

That's all. Take care.

8:44 PM, January 05, 2005  
Blogger Karel Demeyer knowledgely replied ...

I like you have an other opinion about it and you share it. I understand why some people prefer galeon above epiphany :). I just like epiphany. It's great you commented on this as now the readers of my blog who read the comments too will also know about an alternative if they _don't_ like it ;).

8:55 PM, January 05, 2005  

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