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GreenBrowser review

Verdict

Essentially Internet Explorer bashed with an ugly stick. Extra features like mouse gestures and a quick startup time can’t save it from the recycle bin

Review Date: 12 Mar 2010

Reviewed By: Tim Danton

Price when reviewed: Free

Overall Rating
2 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
2 stars out of 6

We were initially intrigued to see this web browser describe itself as “green”, but that intrigue soon dribbled away into bewilderment. In reality, the only green thing about GreenBrowser is its icon.

Perhaps that’s a little unfair. Make Safe, the Chinese software developer behind GreenBrowser, could point to the product’s modest memory requirements and the tiny download size – just 1.1MB – as being consistent with the green message. And this might be a cultural issue: green is a lucky colour in China, so it could be good fortune rather than environmentalism that the name refers to. Maybe.

One reason why GreenBrowser is such a small download is it doesn’t include its own rendering engine. As with Maxthon, the Chinese-made browser with which it shares many similarities, GreenBrowser is built around whichever version of Internet Explorer you have installed.

The small download doesn’t mean it lacks features. In fact, it’s packed with extras you may find useful compared to Internet Explorer 8. Primary among these is mouse gestures, as popularised by Firefox. For example, draw an L shape with your mouse (while holding down the right mouse button) and the tab you’re currently using will close. Hold the right mouse button down, drag it down and you’ll jump to the bottom of the page.

GreenBrowser PC Pro homepage

A number of plug-ins come pre-installed too, but frankly we had difficulty working out exactly what most of them did. Even after we installed the FindMusic plugin we were left none the wiser – its description of “Find Which Page Play Music” indicates it might highlight music-playing tabs, but we saw no sign of this in practice.

This lack of information and documentation is a problem that plagues GreenBrowser as a whole. The single-page Help file hasn’t been updated since 2006, during which time the program has been updated from version 4 to version 5, so it’s no surprise that some of the instructions don’t match what you see.

That might be defensible if GreenBrowser was easier to use, but to a typical user of Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox it will be confusing. For a start, the program doesn’t sit handily in the Windows taskbar when it’s minimised; instead, the small green “G” logo sits by default in the middle of your screen – you can drag it out of the way, but it’s counter-intuitive to go searching for the semi-transparent logo whenever you want to browse the web.

This program has other quirks too. Plugins are controlled via the “External Toolbar” drop-down list, found via the Tools menu. We eventually managed to make plugins active after playing around with the Set External Toolbar command, but it was a struggle. It’s a shame, as some of the plug-ins are quite powerful: Edit Page allows you to directly edit a page you’re viewing, which is a great aid for web developers.

We like a couple of other features too. The integrated ad blocker, while something we’re philosophically opposed to (PC Pro has to make money, you know), works extremely well. There’s also a Group feature, which lets you pre-select a host of websites and open them simultaneously: a Drinking My Morning Coffee group, for instance, could launch all the news sites you want to check as you settle into work.

Our final judgement, though, is based on one question: would we continue to use GreenBrowser over one of the big five browsers? The answer, despite those nice touches, is a simple no.

Author: Tim Danton

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