Web browsers

Multiplatform(!) review: Opera Mobile 10 beta released!

I’ve thoroughly tested the brand new Opera Mobile 10 beta on all the supported mobile phone platforms (Windows Mobile Professional / Standard and Symbian S60). In general, apart from some problems, I liked what I saw – particularly on Symbian and the touchscreen version of Windows Mobile.

The browser is available for download HERE for both operating systems. For Windows Mobile, a unified download (for both subtypes) is provided.

1. Windows Mobile


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REVIEW: New Windows Mobile Web browser "Dorothy"

A new Web browser, Dorothy, has been announced slightly more than two months ago.

I’ve waited until now so that I can give the developers some time to enhance it so that I can recommend it. Unfortunately, the (today) current version, 0.2.2, still only has files dating back to August. (Compare this to the frequency (in general, at least one per month) of updates arriving to the now-extinct Iris, which was also based on WebKit.)

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Web browser BOLT 1.5 out; comparison published

The new, 1.5 version of Java-based Web browser BOLT has just been released.

Opera Mini forum user / Serola has published an extensive, great comparison between it, Opera Mini 4.2 and UCWEB 6.3 HERE.

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Another revolutionary multiplatform utility by me: add "find in page" support to most mobile web browsers!!!

I’ve long been complaining about the lack of any “find in page” functionality in most mobile Web browsers. Now that I’ve played a bit with JavaScript scriptlets, I can proudly present a working solution to this problem.

All you need to do is, independent of the Web browser you use, add the following favorite:


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Another major breakthrough from me: I've enabled copying from Opera Mini on ALL mobile platforms!!


As has been pointed out in all of my articles dedicated to the excellent, lightweight browser Opera Mini, in addition to the lack of italic characters, probably the biggest problem with it has always been the lack of support for copying text from a Web page.


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New wmDA version out – now, with built-in full YouTube Flash download capabilities

I’ve frequently posted reviews (last one HERE; if it doesn’t work, try THIS instead) of the ever-evolving of WinMobile Download Accelerator (wmDA) by Adisasta, an application greatly helping in downloading files off the Web.


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Yet another review & comparison update: Web browser Teashark

As with UCWEB (see my new review HERE), it was more than one and a half year ago that I’ve reviewed the (then) current version of the Java-based Web browser, Teashark. In order to be as up to date as possible, I deemed it necessary to properly test the current version in order to see whether it’s any good and how it compares to the alternative browsers.


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REVIEW & COMPARISON: Another Web browser, UCWEB: is it any good?

It was over one and a half year ago that I reviewed the Windows Mobile version of UCWEB, the (then) new, Chinese, multiplatform Web browser.

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New version of the brand new BOLT minibrowser out!

A new version, beta2 (build 0.94), of the BOLT web browser (see the comparison to Opera Mini 4.2 HERE) has just been released. If you’re already a BOLT user, it’ll automatically sense the availability of the new browser and invoke the system-level browser to download the new version; if you’re a new user, you can, as usual, download it from boltbrowser.com .

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Another fine hack from me: make SkyFire run on non-phone devices

Currently, SkyFire (see for example the roundup HERE for more info) isn't capable of running on non-phone devices: it doesn't even start. This means you can't run it on anything Windows Mobile not containing a phone: Dell Axims, pre-phone (or even current; for example, the 110 / 210 series) HP iPAQ's etc.

My hacks to the rescue!


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The battle of the two Web minibrowsers: Opera Mini vs. BOLT

I’ve already mentioned BOLT (essentially, a Java-based, enhanced version of the Windows Mobile-only Thunderhawk), which, with the version released at MWC, became pretty usable.


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MWC: Web Browser News (BOLT, Opera, Fennec, Iris, Skyfire, Flash)

Just like last year (see my previous year's article HERE), I have REALLY a lot to report on Web browsing, the just-announced stuff and so on.

Opera


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Just published: a browser roundup from the Microsoft folks

The MS folks have just published a review of Web browsers; see THIS.

(Incidentally, my most recent roundup has just been frontpaged by MSMobiles.)


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FULL ROUNDUP: Browsing the Web on Windows Mobile just like on iPhone, incl. IEM6 review

After purchasing an iPhone 3G, I immediately fell in love with Safari, its Web browser. Granted, it's somewhat less capable as the best, comparable Windows Mobile (WinMo for short) titles (no Flash, no page saving, no copy/paste, no Opera Link, no explicit text size settings, no caching etc.) and, from time to time, it crashes even with the last, 2.2 firmware version, but it's still much better usable and much faster than anything on Windows Mobile.


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Opera Mini + (W)VGA users, attention: a hacked, VGA-friendly Jbed version has been released!

(Technical note: as of 01/02/2009 2:57 AM CET, the images in the article and the mirrored download aren’t accessible. Hope they’ll become available in about 10 hours. That is, make sure you check back in 10-15 hours if you’d really want to see them. Sorry for the inconvenience - my database back-end has been having problems and the CS people have been away.)

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REVIEW: a new iPhone-alike Web browser, Touch Browser

Web browsing is one of the major application areas of portable devices – no wonder the iPhone is also Web-centric with its excellent Safari browser.

The “accelerated†scrolling mode of Safari is widely copied in the Windows Mobile world. The latest title to support this kind of screen dragging mode is Touch Browser by Makayama available for purchase and, now, trial download HERE (manual HERE).

It’s an external wrapper to Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM), just like Webby and unlike traditional IEM plug-ins like Spb Pocket Plus, PIEPlus and MultiIE. This also means it has some of the inherent problems common to all these solutions; more on this later.

OK, enough talk, let’s get straight to the facts: frankly, as of version 1.0.2, I’m not at all satisfied with this app. Currently, there are far better alternatives. Why? Let’s take a detailed look. (Note that this list is pretty much terse. If you don’t understand it, make sure you read my other Web browser reviews and Bibles; in them, I’ve thoroughly elaborated on all the issues I’ve referred to in this review.)

  • The keyboard is either vowels on top or numbers – there’s no QWERTY layout, unlike on the iPhone or with, say, Spb Full Screen Keyboard. This itself makes URL input very hard – iPhone’s QWERTY inputting is just far better and, if you’re (as most people) used to QWERTY, faster. Screenshots showing this: Landscape 1 2, Portrait 1 2. System-level auto-completion works in URL input mode (see THIS), but there’s no address completion (based on the history / the favorites) the like in Opera Mini 4.1 or all versions of Opera Mobile. Also note that it’s impossible to enter symbols like ~, ? and & - this is a MAJOR problem too! All you can do is assigning a hardware button to <Input Panel> and use it to quickly bring up the keyboard and enter anything on it, unrestricted.
  • It’s in no way possible to access the standard menu. Fortunately, it’s possible to access favorites via the context menu and the usual PIE / IEM context menu items, including for example Save Image for images, are all accessible. The lack of menu access results in, say, the inability to switch between low and hi-res modes on VGA Pocket PC’s on the fly. What is worse, it’s not possible to access the three (One Column / Fit to Screen / Desktop) different rendering modes in View, should you want to switch between them on-the-fly. Yeah, sure, TB does have an entire button for one-column view, so, the problem is mitigated to some degree. Nevertheless, the default mode seems to be the desktop (!!!) view, which is, in most cases, completely useless and to-be-avoided. That is, you’ll end up having to switch to the one-column view, which, with some kinds of content (for example, charts) results in a huge decrease in readability (in general, the “Fit to screen†mode, which isn’t supported by Touch Browser, is the best of the three modes).
  • Speaking of the (W)VGA hi-res mode switch introduced in WM5 AKU 3.5, independent of its state, documents will ALWAYS be rendered in low-res. This is not what you may want to prefer if you have a hi-res device and want to take advantage of the resolution to fit as much data into the screen as possible.
  • The Settings menu has been hastily designed for Portrait devices and needs scrolling in Landscape – (this is, of course, a minor issue, compared to the major problems of the app)
  • No tabs or other enhancements; the only enhancement is the one-column mode, which doesn’t add much to WM2003SE+ devices (it was in WM2003SE that One Column mode was introduced). Compare this to the tab support of Spb Pocket Plus
  • No way to switch to text copy/paste mode – VERY bad!
  • No hotkey support at all – all you have is the D-pad (and, of course, the on-screen menu) for shortcuts
  • Dynamic scrolling is just far less spectacular and far slower than with Spb– mostly because of the slow CF-based engine
  • The D-pad can’t be used for scrolling and the Action button to select links – it’s strictly for bringing up / hiding the menu (up/down), navigating to the previous/next page (left/right) and showing the actual position of the viewport in the page (Action). The latter (displaying the actual position with scrollbar-alikes) doesn’t let for scrollbar-based scrolling and is far-far inferior to, say, Opera Mini 4’s or NetFront’s minimap / page overview solution. That is, there’s absolutely NO way of scrolling the page without using the touchscreen, only via the buttons. This is a REAL disadvantage compared to ALL other browsers or PIE plug-ins, where you can not only use the D-pad for scrolling, but you can also configure how scrolling should be done (link / line / page-based scrolling) or, in cases, can even use other hardware buttons for scrolling. Touch Browser doesn’t allow for the latter (that is, assigning scroll or page down functionality to hardware buttons as is explained in the Button Enhancer Bible.) It isn’t compliant with SmartSKey either, configured to page scrolling using the volume slider – unlike with most other Web browsers (or plug-ins).
  • Sometimes it just crashes – for example, when just entering http://www..com or the random URL given in the system input panel tip above. The latter can only be helped with the phone buttons. Also, upon exiting the app with the X icon, it always throws exceptions (like THIS and THIS). This certainly shows it needs some HEAVY, additional debugging.
  • Absolutely no feedback on the state of loading pages – unlike with the underlying IEM.

Verdict

While I pretty much liked Makayama’s past Windows Mobile-related software titles, all I can say is you’d better stay away from this title for the time being – that is, before it undergoes a real facelift and enhancement. It’s just worse than the alternatives. If you do need iPhone-like accelerated (!) scrolling, go for any of the newer browsers: Opera Mobile 9.x, NetFront 3.5 or, if you plan to stick with IEM, Spb Pocket Plus 4. If all you want to have is screen-based dragging (without the nice “accelerationâ€), then, other, even older browsers will do: NetFront 3.3/3.4, Opera Mobile 8.6x, Thunderhawk, Opera Mini (all versions) or the two traditional IEM plug-ins: PIEPlus and MultiIE. Technically, these browsers are ALL far superior – far more reliable, far more feature-packed, easier-to-use (buttons, fast scrolling, minimap etc.) and, with some of them (Opera Mini, for example) even free.

Also, this browser (as with Webby) certainly shows Compact Framework is just unsuitable for writing fast-scrolling apps. Use native C++ for implementing applications that rely on quick (!) graphics.

Knowing the Makayama folks are pretty adept and knowledgeable people, I really hope they do improve this browser and that, once, Touch Browser will become a decent alternative to screen-dragging solutions. For the time being, I don’t recommend it, however.


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Final version of Opera Mini 4.1 out and Finnish mag Tietokone publishes desktop browser speed comparison

The final version of Opera Mini 4.1, one of the best Web browsers available, has just been released; see THIS for more info. I’ll post a detailed multiplatform review in some days, after having used it for some time on all my three mobile operating systems. Finnish computer mag Tietokone has just published a summary of their desktop browser speed test published in their (offline) papermag.

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TUTORIAL: Make Opera Mini (4.1) your default system browser!

In my last (and, now, heavily outdated) article on making Opera Mini 4 be invoked on by just clicking a URL, I’ve already elaborated on the advantages of doing this (and, actually, the advantages of Opera Mini 4 itself). Please do read it if you want to know why making use of direct invocation can be really advantageous. Because there’s a lot of news worth reporting on (and I’ve been asked by Serola to join the Opera Mini Fan Blog as the first blogger, because of which I've decided to update this really important tutorial) and the original article didn’t elaborate on other mobile platforms like Symbian and BlackBerry, I’ve decided to devote an entirely new article to this question. 1.1 badbob101’s StartOperaMini (the download is at the bottom of the first post; as of 05/12/2008, 09b is the latest version, which you'll want to go for.) I recommend this solution the most because it’s really-really easy to install and maintain and it’s much more flexible than, say, superdave’s, otherwise, in some respects cleaner and faster solution. All you need to do is, in order to set it up, downloading and installing the free MortScript (just copy the MortScript-4.1-PPC.cab file from the cab subdirectory of the ZIP file to your handset and tap it there) and, then, just copying StartOperaMini.mscr anywhere (including a storage card) on your handset and, as with MortScript, clicking it from File Explorer. It’ll automatically find the current location of Jbed, the index of Opera Mini and set up everything just fine. Unlike with the early solution, absolutely no manual setup is needed.

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An updated list of mobile User-Agents

In several of my articles, Bibles, W3C presentations etc., I’ve explained what HTTP User-Agents are, what they can be used for if you’re a webmaster etc. As my previous articles (see THIS, THIS and THIS, in addition to the W3C presentation and the two Web Browsing Bibles HERE and HERE) on the subject got a bit outdated with the latest browsers and firmware versions out there, I’ve re-checked the User-Agents. This time, I also provide you with all the other headers, should you want to correctly identify the mobile browser even if it’s User-Agent spoofed (that is, it’s trying to hide its identity). Note that I don’t explain what this info is used for – I’ve already done this several times in the above-linked articles, read them first if you need more info on the usage of all this info. Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM) WM6.0 Classic (HP iPAQ 210, official ROM): Accept: */* Accept-Language: en-us UA-OS: Windows CE (Pocket PC) - Version 5.2 UA-color: color16 UA-Voice: FALSE UA-pixels: 480x640 UA-CPU: ARM Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; IEMobile 7.7) Connection: Keep-Alive

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My W3C speech on Web browsing + a full explanation - 2

CONTINUED FROM HERE



Now that we’ve reviewed the browsers’ approach to rendering pages / textual page content originally designed for at least 800-wide screens on 176…640-wide screens, let’s turn our attention to other questions like (easily) controlling the browsers – for example, scrolling pages using hardware buttons.

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