Pale Moon Browser – a Review

I’ve been married to Mozilla Firefox (and Thunderbird) since I came to GNU/Linux full-time nearly 8 years ago.

I’ve tried other browsers: Epiphany, Midori, IceSkunk — er… I mean Weasel (in Debian), Konqueror (an old fav), etc. I never could get them to do the things that I wanted my browser to do. I used to heavily customize my FF, even using userChrome scripts to manipulate things under the hood. However, lately I’ve gotten FF pretty much just the way I want it. It’s not too bloated. It’s not to graphics intensive to display. It’s just right, in other words.

Unfortunately, sometime in the past few months, FF has developed some CPU cycle hogging tendencies that really are beginning to aggravate me. It usually happens when I first open the browser. Now I clear-all when closing my browser, so I’m starting it back up with minimal overhead. Still, for the first few minutes of operation each day, it gobbles CPU cycles to the point where it actually freezes up while trying to load two or three websites in tabs.

I’ve done all the usual: make sure extensions/plugins are all up-to-date, start in Safe Mode, start with a fresh profile, etc. FF still displays this annoying habit of jamming up CPU cycles when you first start it up. Oh, well… I almost suspect Adobe Flash, but can’t blame everything on them. ;) When this happened to me first thing this morning, it got me motivated to maybe find a browser alternative to FF for a while.

I already had Opera installed on my Slackware, so I updated it. I then installed Chromium (not Chrome, but close enough) from a SlackBuild from Alien Bob’s (Eric Hameleers) repository. You’ll be getting a substantial donation, Eric, if I can ever get my personal finances in order again. Anyway, I played around with both Opera and Chromium for a while. I’m just daunted by the amount of work involved to get them to do what my FF already does so well. It’s going to be tough to break away from FF, I thought…

Well, Fran (Li’l Bambi @ Scot’s Newsletter Forums) mentioned an alternative that I had heard of, but had forgotten all about up until I saw her posting today. She mentioned The Pale Moon Project. I immediately went over to their site to have a looksee. I was impressed with what I saw there. What really had me jumping for joy was the fact that Pale Moon would work with existing FF profiles. That would save me a lot of work when it comes to setting up. So, I figured I’d give it a try.

A screenie thumbnail of my Pale Moon browser

Since I’ve run Slackware as my primary operating system on all my machines for almost 8 years now, I knew that I’d probably have to compile this on my own from source code that I downloaded from the Pale Moon folks. Well, surprise! Their little tar.bz2 package actually has a minimal install script included. It worked like a champ in Slackware. No muss, no fuss. I had the browser installed in less than a minute. All I had to do after that was copy my default FF profile into the Pale Moon directory and change the profile.ini to point to it.

Whammo! I’m using Pale Moon right away. It opens the very first time looking and functioning 99.9% like my FF; Bookmarks, extensions, addons, plugins all working right off. Impressive! I’ve been using this browser all afternoon today. It hasn’t burped once. The only time I see any significant CPU usage is when scrolling on highly graphic intensive pages, like Bing Image Search or similar, but nowhere near the CPU usage that FF was displaying. It also seems to be a bit faster to respond, but that could just be my imagination.

Of course, I haven’t tested thoroughly, but after the few hours that I have been using Pale Moon, I’d have to say it’s a solid little app. I would definitely recommend it to folks who love their FF, but want something just a wee bit lighter. Pale Moon is based on FF 24.5 ESR, which is perfect for me because that’s exactly the version that Slackware 14.1 is using right now; 100% profile compatibility.

I like it. You might, too. Give it a shot. And if it turns out you do like it, click that little donation button on the Pale Moon website. $5 or so wont put you in the poor house. :)

Have fun…

~Eric

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22 Comments on “Pale Moon Browser – a Review”

  1. lilbambi says:

    That’s great Eric! Glad it worked out so well.

    I don’t know if there is a major difference between 24.x and 29.x in the profiles, but I would suggest backing up your bookmarks (.json) before doing anything. I do that often anyway. ;)

  2. Barnabyh says:

    Thanks for the tip, Eric. And for still having my little blog in your speed dial. There’ll be a minor update soon after all this inactivity :-).

  3. Scott says:

    Just a warning: I recently downloaded the 64-bit Pale Moon browser for my Windows 7 Pro 64-bit desktop and soon everything started going kaflooey. (That’s the technical term, right?) Pale Moon and FF started crashing. I tried doing malware/spyware scans, but the complete/full versions of those wouldn’t finish. I’d get error messages or they’d freeze up. Eventually, I wasn’t able to get the computer fully booted up (things froze right after the ‘windows starting’ screen). Not even in safe mode. Not being too computer literate when it comes to these things, all I can say is that with a lot of poking around and trial and error I was able to get booted up and do a complete (and I mean complete) removal of PM. Then with a successful and proper computer shut down and restart I was able to complete scans (nothing found) and resume web surfing, etc. using my FF 29.

    I know PM says that they only use stable release code in the 64-bit version, but they also warn of possible issues using this version. And I experienced some of that. So, be sure you really want/need the 64-bit version before installing it.

    • Hi Scott,

      I appreciate you warning everyone regarding your recent issues. However, to be fair to everyone, you must understand that without being able to duplicate your issues nor without an extensive autopsy of the event, it’s not really right to blame the application (Pale Moon) just because you had recently installed it. It could have been a coincidence. Something else may have bugged out in Windows.

      Software is written to be a one-size-fits-all thing, but that doesn’t guarantee success 100% of the time. Everyone’s systems are different in one respect or another; hardware being used, other software already installed, usage habits, etc. Any number of variables involved could have caused your issues, even a corrupted download of the Pale Moon installer.

      I’m running PM-64 in Linux, so I’m an orange while you’re an apple. Basically, we can’t compare experiences with Pale Moon. However, as stated above, others who read here may use PM in Windows. For them, I thank you again for telling us about your experiences with PM.

      Regards,

      ~Eric

  4. comhack says:

    Very cool review. I may have to check it out.

    Thanks

    • I’ve actually gone back to FF. However, that’s not because of any bad experiences with PM. I went back to FF to continue to troubleshoot the high CPU issues I’m having with that browser. I did develop the same issue with PM, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it’s a corrupt profile in FF (which I copied to use with PM).

      I’m reluctant to trash my profile and start a new one because of the extensive addons/customizations I have in it. It would be a pain in the arse to start from scratch. However, that being said, I may have to go that route anyway. This CPU hogging issue in FF is getting to the point that the application is useless for me.

  5. Sven says:

    Thanks for this article, Eric.

    D/L & installed the “PM4LINUX” version
    (32bit) Version: 24.5 –
    from the PaleMooon.ORG site.

    It runs great
    under UBUNTU 12.04 LTS.

    Q:
    ==
    I understand that Version: 24.6 is out.
    How do I update?
    Is it automatically updated
    under the PM4LINUX version?

    Thanks!
    SFer

    • Glad you liked PM, Sven.

      Here is a excerpt from the Pale Moon FAQ regarding updating:

      To update Pale Moon manually, simply download the installer of the new version and run it. No need to uninstall first! You can install the new version in the same location as the old one, and it will perform an upgrade.

      Have fun!

      ~Eric

      • Sven says:

        Thanks for the quick reply, Eric!

        Upgrade seems easy – just install latest version “in place” in Windows.
        I wonder if that holds true for the PM4Linux version, too…?

      • Yes, I believe it does. Just reinstall in Linux using new download and you should be all set. :)

  6. Sven says:

    Thanks Eric!

  7. rfc027 says:

    Palemoon turned kind of unstable in the last months. I am using it since 2012 but the releases from this year were kind of not so stable. Crashing too frequently. I am looking for another 64bit browser right now to avoid it

    • I’ve actually had a few crashes with Pale Moon, also. I found that every time I experienced a crash, it was Flash related. Adobe Flash needs to either be fixed or KILLED DEAD. I have crash issues in all my browsers from Flash, unfortunately. And sadly, there aren’t any feasible substitutes for it in GNU/Linux. :(

  8. […] on my first run, I was very pleased with it. V. T. Eric Layton’s first experience with Pale Moon more or less sums up my first experience: almost seamless, and it appeared to be […]

  9. Doug Alexander says:

    I have been using palemoon and run windows 7 64 bit. Have not had one problem with this browser and I recommend it. Fast, reliable and have not run into any issues except one noted above with flash? But that would be their problem not palemoons, also I have used palemoons tech support, within a couple hours have received an answer and a fix? Good browser and good people behind it? Just saying

  10. Asok Smith says:

    I want to thank all the folks who recommended Pale Moon. I’ve just been fed the f**h up with FF because of all of the memory leaks, etc. I’ve been running v16 forever because whenever I’ve tried to upgrade to newer versions, they’d all pretty much just crash after 30 minutes of heavy use, and not a single version of FF that I’ve ever used has ever fixed the memory leak problems. Not a single one.

    I actually installed a tiny batch file on quicklaunch so I could quickly kill FF at the point it’s consumed all of my RAM so I could then start over with “Restore Session” to automatically reload all of my previous tabs. After trying every “solution” to the leak problem, that’s the only one that ever did in any good for me. Apparently the arrogant tards at mozilla would rather tweak the UI to death rather than make a browser that actually works. They’re worse than even Microsoft because Microsoft has to listen to their customers sooner or later or go broke. Nonprofits can just drift along forever.

    At any rate, I just finished installing PM, including importing everything from FF with their little importer program, and everything went flawlessly, including all settings and the plethora of add-ons I use. The only difficulty was getting roboform attached, which I can’t live without. I did finally dumb around and got the roboform taskbar program to attach roboform to PM, which then worked flawlessly. It is, however, necessary for the roboform taskbar program to run all time for roboform to continue to work on PM, but this is a small price to pay to ditch FF forever.

    I’ve used PM for a week now, opening/closing/keeping hundreds of tabs, and I’ve been stunned at how much faster PM is than FF, as well as the VERY small memory footprint occupied by PM vs FF. Even after a week’s HEAVY utility, PM has not grown beyond 1 GB, and even better, when I close tabs, ALL of the RAM is given back.

    Basically, PM is what FF ought to be, and even better, the genius behind Pale Moon, Mark Straver, has committed to keeping the PM UI fundamentally unmolested. I’ll be installing PM instead of FF on all of my client’s computers in the future as well!

    • Wow! Another happy customer. :)

      Seriously, though…

      You’re right on there, Asok, when you talk about FF’s horrendous use, abuse, and mishandling of resources. I was beginning to think I was the only one having these issues. I haven’t been too happy with FF for a while. It’s a shame. I was a big Mozilla fan for many years.

      Unfortunately, Pale Moon, while much improved, also started exhibiting some of the more annoying FF behaviors – Flash related crashing (not PM’s fault, of course), heavy RAM usage, reluctance to release RAM even after tabs closed, etc. I’m not sure why this happened on my system (Slackware Linux 64), but I don’t really think it was a PM issue. For that reason, I still recommend PM to folks trying to find a decent alternative to FF.

      For now, I’m using Chromium. So far, all is well. It did take some work to get it to do the things my FF used to do, though. I’ve managed. So far there has been no Flash crashes, no RAM/CPU hogging, etc. Ahhhhh…. bliss.


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