Skip to main content

An Epiphany

Posted by eitan on December 14, 2005 at 9:48 AM PST

Everyone stands behind their favorite web browsers.
Firefox definitely appears to be at the forefront.
But then you come across people who prefer Camino,
for example, which is a web browser that uses the
Gecko layout engine but taylors its user interface
to fit the MacOSX mold, so to speak. Camino
indeed is pretty cool and pretty fast. If you run
macosx, you should definitely check out Camino.

In a similar vein, I recently (maybe two-three months
ago) came across Epiphany..and i'm in love.

Epiphany is to Gnome what Camino is to MacOSX: a web
browser that uses Gecko but its UI uses the Gnome and
GTK APIs for a user interface. Epiphany was designed to
fit in on a Gnome desktop. Indeed, it is the endorsed
web browser for Gnome.

But that's not the reason I so love Epiphany. Epiphany's
philosophy appears to be along the lines of stay out
of the user's way
and less is more.

So, beside the fact that Epiphany has the following
favorable traits:

  1. it just works
  2. it has a simple, minimal menu structure
  3. it supports tabbed browsing
  4. it highlights bits of strings on a page when doing
    incremental find's

the feature that really speaks to me is the design of its
bookmark system and the way in which you can customize
the browser with actions for URL handling without having
to write any code.

This is subtle but a most wonderful feature. Allow me
to illustrate.

When you launch Epiphany, you won't find two text fields
at the top edge of the window: one for the URL address
and another for doing the Google search. Instead you'll
find a single text field where the URL address is entered.

How then does one perform a Google search without having to
first visit google.com? By writing a plugin. Here's how:

  1. visit google.com
  2. enter a search string, for example: testing
  3. bookmark the search results:
    name the bookmark "Google this"

  4. edit the bookmark: in the url string, replace
    the word "testing" with "%s". You've just parametrized
    the URL. save the bookmark.

Now, open a new browser window and type "java" in the
URL field. You'll notice that a pull down menu will appear
containing the option "Google this." Selecting
that option will automatically visit the google search
URL, replacing that "%s" in that bookmarked url with
the search string you entered in the url field.
It's a dynamic bookmark.

How wonderful! In my browser, I've configured four such
dynamic bookmarks: google search, wikipedia search,
dictionary search, and ashkelon search. So now when
I'm coding I can just type in the url field: "String*"
and select the 'ashkelon search' option from the
Epiphany context menu, et voila: i get my ashkelon
(javadoc) search results.

In addition to this cool search feature, if you type a substring
of the name of a bookmark in that magic url field, that bookmark
will show up in the context menu as well.

If you do use Gnome, I highly encourage you to give Epiphany
a try. It's a stable and robust browser. But just as importantly
it's well-designed. If you don't use Gnome but would like to
give it a whirl, I strongly recommend the ubuntu distribution.
Last note: Epiphany also works on KDE.

Related Topics >>