Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I Use Epiphany Instead of Firefox on Ubuntu

The title explains the premise, I've been using Epiphany for a couple of years and is one of the few changes I recommend making to Ubuntu (some of the others include finding something ... anything ... except, changing your photo import program from gphoto to f-spot-import, and using deluge instead of the anemic bittorrent client currently offered). Here are the reasons why:
  1. Epiphany is a Gnome application, so it fits into the Ubuntu desktop. If I were running Kubuntu, I would want to use Konqueror instead of Firefox. Epiphany is the official Gnome browser, in fact. The look is entirely consistent. Firefox does its best to copy the look and icons of the Gnome theme, but it still fails in important areas like UI consistency, menu placement, preferences, etc.
  2. Epiphany uses the same libraries as the rest of Gnome, lowering its memory footprint. Firefox is ultimately an XUL application. When I start Firefox, all those initial libraries need to load, meaning it's slow. Did anyone ever complain that FF was slow? Epiphany uses the Gnome and GTK libraries which have already been loaded by teh GNome desktop. It comes up almost instantaneously and reacts quickly. My memory is low. My memory use for an entire desktop, applets, music, and browsing with 10 tabs usually runs at about 300MB.
  3. Gnome is increasingly being built with this browser in mind. Integration. It was good (in some ways) for Windows' users. The next version of Gnome will see further integration of bookmarks (read Epiphany's bookmarks) into the desktop. Firefox, however, is seeing diminishing development on Linux. Firefox 3 will emphasize Windows and Mac.
  4. Epiphany and Firefox both use the same rendering engine so my pages turn out exactly the same.
  5. Epiphany has most of the same extensions as FF.
  6. It's Free software.
  7. Added Later : Epiphany doesn't do anything except browsing. RSS feeds are handled by the system's RSS reader. HTML source opens in the HTML reader. Very Unixy, that way. This helps keep the codebase cleaner and make it easier to squash bugs.
I wish Ubuntu would make Epiphany the default browser, but that will alienate many switchers who are used to FF on Windows.

Added Later : I have a video I made showing how much faster Epiphany is on my machine. After I made it, I realised that Epiphany had several extensions loaded while FF had none. That makes the difference even more amazing. I'll post the video this evening.

OK, so this took a lot longer than I planned. Both applications were loaded, closed, given a bit of time to flush, then loaded again. The time is for the second loading.


Anonymous said...

The lack of bookmarks in a sidebar, and live bookmarks is so far keeping me from switching.

Also on the annoying side, why would you import bookmarks but not support importing history / passwords??..


The thing that keeps me from using Epiphany is the lack of a search box that you can add different search engines to. Is that something that's available but isn't part of the default install?

I actually think that Ubuntu should stick with Firefox. I'm new to Linux. I needed to get a new computer and wasn't willing to pay for an iMac and definitely wasn't going to use Vista so I got a Dell box with Ubuntu. Having something familiar like Firefox really helped me (and the rest of my family) transition to Ubuntu -- even if it was purely psychological.


Epiphany's ability to add search enginges is far superior to Firefox's. When I want to crate one for a 5 Min Video (a tutorial site) search, I simply do a normal search in the browser, bookmark it, edit out the search term, replacing it with "%s" and choosing "Quick Search" as the topic.

When I want to search, I hit CTRL-L to focus the URI and start typing my search. The 5 Min Video search comes up (along with my history and bookmarks matching the term).

I wouldn't want to try to learn how to write my own FF search extension.

I agree with FF being comfortable for most switchers. I think that's the only selling point that Firefox has over Epiphany. It's certainly a big one. The Epiphany interface is really almost the same, though.f

Epiphany doesn't do live bookmarks because of its philosophy. It's very Unix that way. It browses. That's all.

RSS feeds are handled by whatever the default RSS reader is for the system (for me this is Liferea), and they are handled well.

When you want to view source for the HTML page, it doesn't open in the browser, it opens in the default HTML editor (for me this is the Gnome Text Editor).

That kind of makes sense, doesn't it? Those applications are likely to be a lot better at their job than Epiphany would be at it.

Regarding importing passwords ... I agree that's inconvenient, but probably a good choice WRT security. I'm not sure how passwords would be imported, anyway. I'm sure FF has some security measures in place.

As to history ... I don't know. I guess it could be an option. Let's make a feature request for that.

sbt said...

%s bookmarked search is the same in ff. i think it's called 'quicklink'? you can associate keyboard characters. eg,
g tutorial mycroft video
or draggable with addon function via xpis is the searchbar.

finally can choose to addon full featured search extensions. googlebarlite is good.

is epiphany restylable for compactness? admittedly ff and sm userchrome is cumbersome to style. though there are many themes. some are compact.
the desirability of menu 'consistency' (similarity) between browsers and oses is overrated imo.

so far, the biggest lack in distros i've tried (a little) is weak draggability (eg, from browser to text editor)

ff doesn't do feeds right, imo. afaik there's still no way to disable their partial "liveness", which is espec annoying at ff startup. yet (using sage xpi, which has been longtime best feed xpi), the feeds title list aren't already loaded. it's bizarre.


I'm not exactly sure what you're going for regarding compactness. If it's a theme, Epiphany uses the same theme you have for Gnome, so you could choose small icons and choose to have no text under the icons, I guess. Alternately, you could just get rid of all the toolbars.

Can you post a screenshot of what you mean by compact?

Anonymous said...

Epiphany does have some plugins that move tabs to the left (I tweaked it to be to the right since that makes more sense to me, plugins are written in python, firefox has a similar plugin called vertigo), thereby utilizing vertical space better.

Also, no search bar is needed, so that frees up space. There is another plugin to move the menus into a single compact button (firefox has a similar one). So basically your browser can be customized to be VERY compact. One problem is the plugin for just one menu isn't dragable, whereas the firefox plugin can be repositioned. Because the search bar is combined in the url bar, you save a ton of space without sacrificing features as you would if you removed the search bar from firefox.

I like epiphany's bookmarks the best. I just start typing and it searches my bookmarks, or bings up my search options all in one url bar. It's clean, simple and powerful at the same time.


I used Epiphany for several years instead of FF, but I've moved to FF3 because Epiphany is kind of in a transition period now and FF3 has solved my major issues like GTK integration and tagging, which I always liked in Epiphany.

I'll try to move back once Webkit is stable and integrated. Once that happens, I'll renew my push to make it the default browser in Ubuntu. ;)

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