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Speed surfing with graphical Links

By Jeremy C. Reed

I've been using Links as my main web browser for a couple years now. When I need graphics or special features like cookie support, HTTPS, Javascript or HTTP basic authentication, I use Galeon.

When I last wrote about Links over two years ago, I said when I really need to see an image, I can view it in another window. I also wrote: "But I can't use Links as my main browser until I can access authenticated webpages, use cookies and the mailto: works."

Although I followed the Links mailing list for over a year, I never updated past the old 0.92 version since October 2000.

I've heard good things about the new links, so I installed Links 2.1pre2 built with --enable-graphics. (I used the NetBSD pkgsrc, but I modified it so it would save with different filename: links-gui.)

But when I first ran it from a rxvt terminal, nothing happened. So I killed it and then closed all my current Links' sessions. And then the new links-gui started when I tried again.

So it popped up with an empty black screen. I pressed the escape key, and the familiar Links' window popped up. (You can also click with the mouse on the top line.) The Setup menu under Associations and File extensions showed my currently setup configs. But, I see it had a new Setup pop-up for Javascript options with the choices for killing all scripts, enabling Javascript, amount of memory dedicated for Javascript, and more.

But I didn't see any graphics mode options. A quick look at the online help, it indicated a video options configuration which I didn't have. The manual page clearly said to use "-g" option to run Links in graphics mode. So I gave it a try.

A new 974 by 718 window popped up. (The previous Links was running within the X terminal.) The window was all dark gray, with a light gray line at top. That line had a "<-" at the far left. I clicked on that line and a menu appeared with drop-down choices. The video options (under the setup menu) dialog had some suggestions for display gamma and aspect ratios, dithering letters and images, and more. I just clicked cancel and kept it at the defaults.

So I decided to give it a try: a click on the "g" (for go) and typed in the URL for a local news site. Moments later the webpage appeared. The background color changed to white and all the text looked like it was anti-aliased. And it showed a few images. It looked good and simple. The tables appeared to have their correct table colors and everything seemed to be layed out correctly.

And the X title bar showed the HTML title for the webpage and the top light-gray line showed the URL on the right.

But it did have a big empty area in the middle. So I pressed "\" to view source and immediately the screen redrew and showed the source. I was able to scroll around by using arrow keys or scroll bars on the bottom and right side. I saw the code had a lot of Javascript, but wasn't sure from a quick look on what I was missing. Most likely, it was a big advertisement. (The "/" worked in the source mode to search for text too.)

I loaded that same page in Galeon and saw it had an image and some text within a table. So I went back to Links and saw that the image appeared there too -- it was in a lower place.

Links -g screenshot

I also saw a "[ Search ]" which I assumed to be a button with a line above it. So I clicked on that line and a text block cursor went on it. And the form worked.

In regular Links, you can press the left arrow to go to the previous webpage, but that only scrolls left in the graphical Links. And the right arrow scrolls right, and in normal text Links it follows a link. So I used the "<-" at the top to go back a page.

Also, at first it was hard to tell what text were hyperlinks. I just clicked on some text and it happened to be -- and took me to another page. (In another browser, the links were underlined.) When I moved the big window up a little, I saw that the bottom line showed the URL when you hover over a link. I went to and the hyperlinks were highlighted in the standard blue. But it never showed the commonly-used purple to show that a link was already followed.

When going to a webpage, it shows some details, like looking up host, requesting page, bytes transferring, etc.

Then I decided to give it a further test by visiting a secure website that I sometimes used for payment services. I was able to login, view some of my financial activity, and withdraw some money.

I did notice that it had the same feature as old Links -- it wouldn't automatically follow a refresh request, but would give you the link so you couldn't go to the desired page yourself.

Then I decided to see if had cookie support. That's when I realized I couldn't paste in some text that was highlighted in another text window. Then I saw that the website, ReferenceUSA, wouldn't remember me, so I guess cookies still don't work. But the source showed some cookie code and the ChangeLog indicate that cookies were supported. So I tried another cookie CGI I had for testing, but it didn't appear to work either.

So I clicked on the gray line at top, then Help, and then "Home Page" and I went to the main Links webpage. It had some onMouseOver effects that worked. These webpages didn't seem to indicate any cookies support either. (It's been a while since I've been on the mailing list, but I know cookies weren't supported back in December, but elinks and some other patches were available for cookies.)

I also I noticed that I wasn't able to select some text to copy-and-paste to another window. (With regular Links with mouse support, you have to press the shift key while highlighting.)

And I wasn't able to use a password-protected webpage. It said "Authorization Required", but no login prompt was displayed.

As with regular Links, you can right click on hyperlinks and images to open in other windows or to download.

I used the Javascript options to enable verbose warnings and then I noticed several webpages had bugs or Javascripting issues.

Also, this Links has bookmarks support. After I disregarded a few Javascript warnings, I pressed "s", then "a" (add) and then the enter key to add it as a bookmark. The "Bookmark manager" also allows you to edit, delete and move bookmarks. The bookmarks can be categorized by folders too. The new bookmarks format is saved in regular HTML. (The old style was a flat-list with title and URL delimited with a pipe.)

Links also has some cool features, like downloading files in the background, seeing how much memory or other resources are used, a cache that is shared between different Links sessions (be sure to reload the webpage if you want new webpage), mime-type handlers, and more. Even it has mailto: support.

Overall, Links with graphical support is great. It is said to support SVGAlib, Linux Framebuffer, OS/2 PMShell and the AtheOS GUI, so you don't need X if your system supports any of those graphical environments.

It just an hour of testing, I can see it is a lot faster than Galeon and renders faster than dillo too. (On my system, galeon, dillo, and the links-gui binaries are not statically built; my new Links is 2,634,540 bytes, the old links is 1,067,626 bytes, galeon is 927,420 bytes, and dillo 0.6.4 is only 909,039 bytes.)

I'll be sure to use it more -- especially when I figure out the hotkey for going back to the previous webpage and I am able to copy-and-paste.


Discuss this article below.

Great Review - Jeff Flowers
The hotkey for previous page... - emagius

Great Review
Jeff Flowers - August 05, 2002 15:02:44
Great review Jeremy.


The hotkey for previous page...
emagius - August 27, 2002 17:47:13
... is 'z'. The keyboard navigation of Links - graphical isn't nearly as good as the non-graphical version, but the team's working on it. If elinks and Links 2.x did a bit more code-sharing (and I'm not blaming them -- it's hard to port changes to and fro), we'd have a truly kick-@$$ all-purpose web browser. As it is, I need to alternate between Links 2.0 (for javascript (and graphics)) and elinks (for everything else, like authentication). When I need to go to a page that requires both javascript *and* authentication, I'm outta luck. Ouch.





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September 16, 2013 11:24:28

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