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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