Article from Issue 206/2018

Graham looks at qutebrowser 1.0, Min, Storyboarder, BorgBackup 1.1, Argentum Age, and much more!

Minimal browser

qutebrowser 1.0

Since starting to use qutebrowser some time ago, it's done nothing less than change the way I think about Linux and user interface design. The minimal, shortcut-driven approach it uses for everything, based on Vim key bindings that many of us are already familiar with, saves you time and mental energy; it helps you navigate the web quickly, removes distractions, and feels amazingly intuitive. Even with only a few Vim commands committed to memory, it's enough to launch new tabs, yank URLs, open hints for links across a page, and save bookmarks. Chromium and Firefox plugins do similar things, but qutebrowser beats these with its level of integration, and also because the entire application is so lightweight. If you've yet to use it, the release of version 1.0 is the best excuse yet to brush up on your Vim skills.

After two successful crowdfunding campaigns to fund development, qutebrowser 1.0 is the rationalization of everything that's gone into development up to this point, and in particular, the re-implementation of its considerable configuration framework. Unfortunately, this means you can't migrate your own settings automatically as you update from an older version. This is important because one of qutebrowser's strengths is that almost anything can be reconfigured through the use of the :set command and quickly stored with the :save command. However, bookmarks and browsing history are retained from the old version, and a new diff view will show you the differences between your old pre 1.0 configuration and the new one. This makes it relatively easy to copy your old settings over to the new format, and the new configuration file is much easier to edit and create yourself than the old one.

The other major addition for the 1.0 release, besides the dozens of small fixes that help to make it much more stable, is that QtWebEngine is now the default back-end rendering engine. This means sites like Facebook, GitHub, Gmail, TweetDeck, and Google Docs will work without complaining, and very few sites are now incompatible. Also included is the spell checking that comes with the QtWebEngine, although you'll need to run a Python setup script first to download your required dictionaries and run a configuration command. Afterward, spelling errors will be highlighted just as they are in Chromium, an essential feature for terrible spellers – whether you're firing off a tweet or writing an email – and something you don't realize you rely on until it's missing. Alongside these changes, there are lots of new configuration options to play with and an entirely updated history database, which can now store your entire browsing history or, optionally, a specific number of entries or none at all. And that's the brilliant thing about qutebrowser; not only is it powered by Vim shortcuts (by default) and light on system resources, but it can be reconfigured very easily to perform almost any function you need a browser to perform. The only exception is a plugins interface, which will hopefully come with the next major update.


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