Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Browsing the web with Min

Browsing the web with an OLPC XO laptop

Does the world need another web browser? To be honest, that’s not for me to say. While days when there were a large number of browser to choose from are over, there are folks out there still developing new ones.

One of those new-fangled browsers is Min. As its name suggests (well, suggests to me, anyway), Min is a minimalist browser. That doesn’t mean it’s deficient in any significant way.

But is Min worth a look? Let’s take a look at it and find out.

Getting going

Min is one of many applications written using a development framework called Electron (the same framework that birthed the Atom text editor). You can get installers for Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. You can also grab the source code from GitHub if you’re that way inclined.

Since I run Linux, I grabbed the .deb package and installed it using the Gdebi package manager. Once that was done, I fired up Min by pressing ALT+F2, typing min in the run application box, and pressing enter and was ready to go.

Min's main window

Min is billed as a smarter, faster web browser. It definitely is fast — at the risk of drawing the ire of denizens of certain places on the web, I’ll say that it starts faster than Firefox and Chrome on my burner laptop.

Browsing with Min is like browsing with Firefox or Chrome. Type a URL in the address bar, press Enter, and away you go.

Min’s features

While Min doesn’t pack everything that you’d find in browsers like Firefox or Chrome, it doesn’t do too badly.

Like any other modern browser, Min supports multiple tabs. It also has a feature called Tasks, which lets you group your group your open tabs. I haven’t used Tasks or found a use for it, to be honest.

Min’s default search engine is DuckDuckGo. I really like that touch, if only because DuckDuckGo is my search engine of choice. If DuckDuckGo isn’t your thing, you can set another search engine as the default in Min’s preferences.

Instead of using tools like AdBlock to filter out content that you don’t want, Min has a built-in ad blocker. It uses the the EasyList filters, which were originally created for AdBlock. You can also block scripts and images, and Min also has a built-in tracking blocker.

Like Firefox, Min has a reading mode called Reading List. Flipping the switch for that Reading List (well, clicking the icon) removes most of the cruft from a page so you can focus on the words you’re reading. Pages stay in the Reading List for 30 days.

Min in Reading List mode

Speaking of focus, also has a Focus Mode. That hides other tabs and prevents you from opening other tabs. So, if you’re working in a web application you’ll need to click a few times if you feel like procrastinating.

Of course, Min has a number of keyboard shortcuts which can make using it a lot faster. You can find a reference for those shortcuts on GitHub. Or, you can change a number of them in Min’s preferences.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Min can play videos on such sites as YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion. I also played sample tracks at music retailer 7Digital. I didn’t, however, try playing music on sites like Spotify or Last.fm (if only because I don’t have accounts with them).

Playing a video at Vimeo

What’s not there

The features that Min doesn’t pack are as noticeable as the ones it does. There doesn’t seem to be a way to bookmark sites. You either have to rely on Min’s search history to find your favourite links. Or, you’ll have to rely on a service like Pinboard for your bookmarks.

On top of that, Min doesn’t support plugins. That’s not a deal breaker for me — not having plugins is undoubtedly one of the reasons the browser starts and runs so quickly. I know a number of people who are … well, I wouldn’t go so far to say junkies but they really like their plugins. Min wouldn’t cut it for them.

Final thought

Min isn’t a bad browser. For me, though, it’s just not all that memorable. In fact, I’d forgotten that I’d installed an earlier version of Min on my burner laptop a few months ago.

If you want zippy browser that isn’t weighed down by all the features of so-called modern web browsers, then I suggest giving Min a serious look. If minimal isn’t the way you want to go with your browser, then you’ll be disappointed with Min.

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