I doubt people would be shocked to know my primary browser is Firefox. The browser offers many features that I've come to rely on that are missing in Internet Explorer 6.0. Unfortunately, some sites don't render well in other web browsers. As example, I can't use Microsoft's Outlook Web Access with Firefox. I've heard from other readers who have had similar issues viewing intranets or custom sites.
What readers may not realize is there are browsers based on Microsoft Internet Explorer. These are sometimes called "IE shell browsers" or "Internet Explorer shells" since they require IE to operate. These browsers use the IE engine and add enhancements. This is the case with Maxthon as they added features such as mouse gestures, ad hunter, privacy protection and skins for starters.
Internet Explorer Compatibility
One of my requirements for using an IE alternative was it had to work with my essential websites. At the top of my list were OWA (Outlook Web Access) and a client application that uses ActiveX controls. In each area, Maxthon worked flawlessly and perhaps a little faster.
I also tested the web browser with account websites such as my bank, credit card company, phone company and the Microsoft Windows Update site. All websites performed without a hitch. I was also pleased that my IE bookmarks and links were recognized.
Maxthon's Tabbed Browsing
Once Firefox introduced me to tabbed browsing, I was hooked. I now look for this feature in any browser I test. In the screen below, I have my tabs at the top but there are a series of options that allow you to change the placement, width, appearance and so on. About the only item you can't customize with Maxthon is the font. You can even lock and password protect tabs.
Groups and URL Aliases
The other feature I appreciate about Firefox is the ability to open a set of pages. Again, Maxthon was equal to the task. You can easily open groups or create one from open browser tabs. As you can see from the screen, I have a group called "daily" which is how I start my morning. I grab my coffee and read the sites contained in this group.
The program also supports URL aliases for web pages, which we find to be fast way to access sites. Aliases work very well for me as I often think of a site in terms of what I want to do. For example, we have a staging server with a URL longer than our forearm that I never remember. However, I can remember its alias of "test site". Another option is I could assign the site a shortcut key such as F6.
I'm not a fan of browser sidebars as most take too much room or are a distraction. I prefer to use the whole screen. Maxthon offers a different approach with an Explorer bar that I like. It allows me to auto hide the bar or reduce it to a small column.
Each of the icons represents a function or plug-in. These icons include the typical ones such as Search, Favorites and History. However, Maxthon adds Folders (My Documents), Resources and RSS. These additions are useful as they provide alternative and sometimes faster access to utilities that can test your connection speed, scan your system for viruses and so on.
The Explorer bar also includes a RSS Reader. Although we liked that the browser identified RSS feeds the way Firefox can, we were less thrilled with the default reader. We did note a number of RSS plug-ins listed at the Maxthon Plugins website that we'll check out.
As you may have guessed from the reference above, Maxthon has many plug-ins. The number is over 400 and looks like there is an active developer community that routinely adds to the list. These include both sidebar plug-ins and toolbar plug-ins. Some of these are included in the installation such as Siber Systems RoboForm. Besides the plug-ins designed for Maxthon, chances are you can use your Internet Explorer plug-ins such as IE Spell.
Making the Maxthon Switch
After my evaluation, I felt confident that Maxthon is a browser to keep. It could easily handle my browsing needs while providing many more features and customization options than Internet Explorer.
This robustness does highlight a weakness. We wished the product offered more help or tutorials. Although there is an active community and forum, the array of help options isn't as good. Even so, we would encourage you to try the program. You'll be amazed at how just a few of Maxthon's features can enhance your browsing experience.
- Cost: Free (donations accepted)
- URL: http://www.maxthon.com/
- Version Reviewed 1.2.5
- Requirements: Windows 2000 /XP/ Vista; Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 13:56)