Element Browser – Gorgeous Webkit Based Browser with Tab Expose

Firefox has been getting a lot of attention for its new Tab Candy feature. Tab Candy is essentially Expose (the task-switcher included in Mac) for tabs. Pressing Ctrl+Space will make Firefox zoom out and display thumbnails of all open tabs. As you might expect, most of the blogosphere is going crazy about this feature. And to be honest, it is quite a brilliant feature. It certainly one-ups Opera’s vanilla tab switcher (although Opera might justifiably argue that visual tabs nullify the need for tab expose). However, Firefox is not the first browser to offer a thumbnail tab switcher. Internet Explorer 8 supports something called Quick Tabs, which looks a lot like Tab Candy. Go ahead and try it out. Open a couple of tabs and press Ctrl+Q to see it in action. Mac also had access to Tab Expose through Shiira and TabExposé add-on for Safari. However, Firefox’s implementation is definitely far superior. None of the other browsers support the advanced grouping features Firefox is touting.

Another browser which offers this feature is Element browser. Element Browser is a webkit based browser for Windows, Linux and Mac, which was hailed as being “Too classy for Windows operating system” by Software Informer.

Element-Browser-Expose

Element Browser is quite a bit larger than some of the other browsers, but it also packs in a lot more features than most of its competition. By default, Element browsers uses visual tabs (thumbnail tabs), however this can be disabled. The visual tabs, called shelves in Element browser, aren’t resizable like in Opera, but they support live website preview.

Element-Browser-Hub

It also includes a Web Applications dock that provides quick access to your favourite web apps. The New Tab page (called Start Hub) looks a lot like Chrome’s New Start Page. However, Element displays the most recently opened pages, instead of the most frequently used ones. You can also pin your favourite websites to the Hub and customise a few other aspects of its appearance.

Element-Browser-Windows-Live-Messenger

Element browser includes mouse gestures, bookmark synchronisation, hardware acceleration, private browsing and HTML5 video payback. Inbuilt parental protection, malware protection, social networking (Twitter) and instant messenger (Windows Live) integration are also present.

Being based on the Webkit engine, it is quite fast. Not as fast as Opera or Chrome, but definitely fast. The custom ElementKit JavaScript Interpreter appears to be quite solid. Here are the results from Sunspider benchmark:

Element-Browser-Sunspider-Speed-Benchmark

Element browser is also quite customisable. You can install extensions, accelerators, macros and widgets to extend Element browser’s capabilities. Of course, there aren’t a lot of add-ons to choose from.

As mentioned earlier, the user interface is striking. The skin is minimalist and modern. There are subtle animation effects that add to the charm. However, once you start using the browser everything sort of falls apart. The UI is gorgeous but horribly inconsistent and at times plain annoying. It doesn’t respond to back/forward mouse buttons, middle clicking on a tab as well as double clicking on the tab bar have no effect. Even worse, clicking on the Element browser’s menus or buttons makes the page lose focus. Some basic features like URL auto-completion (Ctrl+Enter) are missing, and the integrated Twitter app refused to log me in. Element browser is also resource intensive. I don’t mind the RAM consumption, since I have plenty. However, the high CPU usage could have been lower.

In the end, Element Browser is a promising project. The developers definitely have a lot of good ideas. However, the execution is severely flawed. The application gave the impression that it was a pre-alpha build, rather than a finished and polished product.

Download Element Browser (33.59 MB)
Version Reviewed: 5.0.0.1
License: Freeware
Operating System: Windows 7, Vista, XP

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8 Responses to Element Browser – Gorgeous Webkit Based Browser with Tab Expose

  1. SQL Training July 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    This webkit based Element Browser seems to be pretty Interesting. I am surely going to download it and use it out

  2. Saket July 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Wow, the UI is very cool. Liked the Start Hub with recently opened sites and a clock 😀
    Downloading it..

    • Pallab De July 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Best of luck. It looks great, but I found it to be totally unusable.

  3. Adam July 30, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Version 6 is out btw, I just tested it, and it seems to have fixed the issues that you have described.

    I agree with Pallab, it’s a worthy project and is surely worth the download, with a few more fixes and some more add-ons it could be up with the big ones.

    All in all it beats IE anyday.

  4. David July 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    OMG This browser is amazing!

    Do this:

    settings > tabs > rendering option > enable live preview!!!

    YouTube videos in the tabs are being updated live, and as im scrolling pages its moving in the tabs as well!

    I recommend this to any tech savy user out there!

  5. Shaunak August 7, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Off-topic, but was wondering if you have tried Epic yet (and have already used the clever phrase “Epic-Fail”) 😀

    • Pallab August 7, 2010 at 10:01 am #

      I did. And don’t shoot me for this, I loved it! Once you find a decent persona, it’s quite usable (mainly because it behaves identically to Fx). Being an Opera user, I am used to Panels and don’t mind them. And the panels actually offered a decent amount of very useful functionality.

      It’s nothing revolutionary, but it is something I think my dad would find really useful. I think that it is a good product for the Indian market.

      Here is my review: http://techie-buzz.com/browsers/epic-indian-web-browser.html

  6. used tires September 30, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    So this CTRL + Space feature will be available in the 4.0 version for Firefox? I just tried it out with my Firefox which is version 3.6.10 but the CTRL + Space does nothing for me :( Definitely looking forward to it though in 4.0 😀

    Till then,

    Jean

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