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K-Meleon review


A browser that looks and performs like the software of yesteryear. Only an option for those running equally aged hardware

Review Date: 12 Mar 2010

Reviewed By: Barry Collins

Price when reviewed: Free

Overall Rating
2 stars out of 6

Features & Design
2 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
2 stars out of 6

K-Meleon may have a cute animal icon, but it’s certainly not the most user-friendly browser we’ve ever come across. Right from the get-go, this old-fashioned browser will leave even experienced users bewildered – let alone the computing novices who may stumble across K-Meleon in the EU browser ballot.

The K-Meleon web browser uses the old Gecko 1.8 rendering engine

There’s no easy way to import your bookmarks from other browsers, for instance: you can manually point K-Meleon at Firefox’s bookmarks folder, but there’s a dire warning of data corruption if you happen to have Firefox open at the same time, which hardly inspires confidence. Just to add to the confusion, K-Meleon includes a link to Bookmark Add-ons, but this simply redirects to the Firefox Add-Ons homepage, which implores you to download Firefox if you try and install any of them.

That’s far from the only problem with this open-source browser. It offers tabbed browsing, but the tabs are bizarrely hidden away unless you manually rejig the toolbars. And because K-Meleon is running the Gecko 1.8 rendering engine – which Firefox ditched back in June 2008 with the release of Firefox 3 – websites such as Google Docs warn that support for your browser has come to an end because it’s too old. A new version of K-Meleon with the updated Gecko 1.9 engine is in the works.

The ageing rendering engine may explain why the browser feels a little sluggish in day-to-day use. Its JavaScript performance is also risible: it was at least twice as slow as any other browser using the SunSpider benchmark, rather undermining its claim to be “an extremely fast” web browser. On the plus side, an ACID 3 test score of 53 is respectable, it’s one of the most memory efficient browsers on test, and the 5.7MB installer wouldn’t trouble even those on dial-up connections, making it a decent choice for those on old or limited hardware.

If you are running K-Meleon on a decrepit PC then you’ll feel right at home, because the grey-heavy interface and old-fashioned icons remind us of browsers born in the Windows XP era.

The browser does have a few nice touches. The mouse gestures – which allow you to perform actions such as Back and Forward by holding down the right-click button and shuffling the mouse – work surprisingly well. And the one-click options to block adverts, cookies and Flash will please people who don’t want to be distracted while they browse. Indeed, with the adverts switched off, K-Meleon suddenly turns into a browsing gazelle.

But K-Meleon is both deliberately and desperately short of features. Even the few innovations that do make it into the browser are plain odd. Take the search button, for instance, that brings up a pop-up box to enter your Google search. Why not just link straight to the Google homepage, where features such as suggested searches and advanced search come into play? True, you can type a search term into the address bar and then press the search button to bring up Google results, but then Chrome lets you type search queries straight into the address bar.

If you want a lightweight browser that will run happily on pretty much any PC, you could do worse than K-Meleon. But in the modern browsing world, you could also do much, much better.

Author: Barry Collins

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User comments


Very unfair review of yours, probably beacause you used this browser for about 5 minutes and discovered mayby 1/3 of its features.
K-Meleon Extensions Site

By storm311 on 16 Mar 2010

Some things working differently does not mean they were not there!

But well, seeing how many ads you have on your site, it's not really surprising that you tell such blatant lies about a browser that can block them with a simple click, and in that state even "turns into a gazelle". But of course no one who's looking especially for speed will read that far after having seen the very one-sided stuff before. And that's even with the "slow" Gecko, the next version KM1.6 with Gecko 1.9 will fly, as first alpha tests are already showing.

And not very professional to check the interface of an unfamiliar program for no more than a few minutes, to insist that all functions had to work exactly the same way as known from the own daily program and then go and tell lies that it could not do this and that - when in reality it can do those things very well and even with lots of handy options! This makes me sick how people are lied at here, especially with that completely wrong "search" :-[ A casual user doing a quick test may think this after a 5min glance, but from a PRO who writes a verdict that tens of thousands people will blindly believe, one could expect at least that he's able to read a button TOOLTIP that pops up after 1-2 seconds, or bother to take a look at the FAQ, if such basic functions seem missing at a first glance!
Because in K-Meleon you do a search by typing the search string into the URL bar, or by highlighting some text in the current page, and THEN click the search button to go directly at the results! Or instead to RIGHT-CLICK the search-button to get the results of one of the other search engines from the appearing list! Or to click Multi-Search and get several at once! And that is just one example of more half-truths here.

So there may not be those really intuitive little arrows on buttons to pop up their options, but those options are still there, on many buttons, simply by right-clicking. Which is not that hard to discover if one can read, or at least if one claims to be a PRO. Actually users can put themselves all sorts of menus on any button they wish (on right-click), although _this_ admittedly needs a certain real effort. But seeing how many buttons *I* like to keep visible, I'm quite glad to save all that screen space of the arrows, especially on the tiny netbook.

Anyway, just because some things work differently in different programs does not mean they were not there, so at least you should correct those misleading lies on the missing search functions and replace that dull screenshot with one that shows the real search options, on the button itself or the several tabs just for search configuration in the Preferences :-/

By storm311 on 16 Mar 2010

Thanks for the feedback

I've added an extra passage on the search button, although I'd argue that system isn't as friendly as Google Chrome, where you simply enter the search terms into the address bar and press enter.

The screenshot isn't misleading. It's what appears when you press the search button. In my view, it would be much simpler if that button linked straight through to Google if no search terms are entered. Otherwise, it's just another needless step in the process.


Barry Collins

By Barry_Collins on 16 Mar 2010


for updating a little ;-)

I must take back one thing - the search function is "only" explained in the tooltip, not in FAQ, oops...! Sorry for that little mistake, should have verified first, so my apologies and would like to take back half of the harshness in my comment above ;-)

>> isn't as friendly as Google Chrome, where you simply
>> enter the search terms into the address bar and press enter.

Actually that is exactly what I do all the time in KM! In Preferences > Finding website, there's an option at the bottom that enables the search by hitting Enter (or Go), if the search term isn't found as an URL. If the term is two or more words and a blank between, that goes to google results right away, and only if searching for single words that may exist as URL, I sometimes use that dull search box. For the options I use rather use my search engines list, to either send to image search or text search etc.

But it's really mostly the 'Help' (or rather lack thereof!) that I consider the one big problem in that browser. There may be lots of easy functions, just not always obvious for new users, so they just aren't aware of it! :-(

By the way if it's okay let me add some tips regarding Favorites etc., not really article-related but perhaps useful for a few readers:
Favorites are automatically 'shared' with IE, not imported. Which works great except that the Add-function is kinda lousy, so greatly recommended to use one of the extensions for adding new ones. With a 'not obvious' trick one could also use a different favorites path than IE, e.g. for a portable browser.
But Hookmarks and Hotlist options are more obvious ;-) they contain a field for the path. So they can either be independant, e.g.'imported' by copying that file, or also 'shared' with other browsers. Just depending from the path the user chooses. Only for 'sharing' that warning applies of course. And bookmarks/Hotlist can also have 'nicks', and when typing the nick into the adress bar they are opended.

By storm311 on 17 Mar 2010

K-Meleon? "software of yesteryear"?

Apparently "PC PRO"(?) and this reviewer themselves are [stuck] in "yesteryear". Apparently "PC PRO”(?) and the reviewer didn't even bother to do much of their homework on the subject. Try reviewing the entire browser and it's vast array of customization options, preferences and versatility before running at the mouth so the truth comes out before the foot goes in.

Peace, out.

By Charlie on 17 Mar 2010

Good point storm311

"the next version KM1.6" just in alpha testing and on just a discount dialup connection tends to blow others right out of the water when it comes to rendering speed.

By Charlie on 17 Mar 2010

No bling, just function...

Having tried most of the browsers at regular intervals, the portable version K-Meleon is my day-to-day choice.

As its portable, I don't have to install to and modify on each machine I use it on, but just drag and drop my custom set-up.

I completely fail to understand the reviewer's remarks on tabs being "bizarrely hidden". They just work.

You don't have to import bookmarks - enable the relevant plug-ins (not very difficult to find under preferences) and you can access IE's favorites and Opera's Hotlist, as well as Firefox's bookmarks tho being refered to as Netscape might confuse!

Is "grey" bad? It's easy on the eyes when you're working in front of a browser much of the day, certainly easier than the garish themes that were offered and turned off when Firefox updated to 3.6 the other day.

Final point. We're not all running Quad core powerhouses with oodles of RAM. My perfectly respectable 1 year old Netbook, my equally proficient year old Nettop are hardly "decrepit" but functional, nearly new PCs, and K-Meleon suits them perfectly.

By survivalskills on 18 Mar 2010

RE: Is "grey" bad? "powerhouses with oodles of RAM"

Color schemes for browsers can be easily modified in Display Properties > Appearances > Advanced. Works for IE, KM and probably other browsers as well.

KM's work well on my 4+year old cheap Machines which had only 2GB of mem most of which I never even used. KM's would probably work just as well on my 10year old Gateway 800MHz with only 384 MB of mem but just isn't necessary as I don't need it for the Internet.

By Charlie on 18 Mar 2010

Skins and Toolbar backgrounds - easy!

Regarding the gray toolbar background (or isn't that a OS setting??), it can very easily be exchanged with any image one likes. And that's not even hard to realize, just a look into the skin folder and noticing the "back.bmp" in it made me aware of that, way back when I first started using K-Meleon.
Take any graphics, photo, color gradient or whatever, save it as "back.bmp" into the current skin folder and restart. This will show up in the toolbars on the top of the windows.

And of course there are also custom skins for download! Changing skin optics is really the most easy part, not only the background but also the icons are simple bmp-files in the skin folders.They can easily be modified by every user, even if he knows no image program other than MS Paint.

By storm311 on 19 Mar 2010

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