Links2 Web Browser

created Mar 10, 2020

On my Linux laptop, I use the Firefox web browser for the unfortunately complex and bloated "modern" web. I have Firefox's built-in security and privacy features cranked up for maximum "protection". That alone shows what a crap-pile the modern web has become. I also rely on a few web browser extensions, including uMatrix, Privacy Badger, and Quick JavaScript Switcher.

My second favorite web browser has become Links2. Occasionally, I used Links2 on my old Linux desktop, but now, I use Links2 to READ web pages every day. Links2 shows how fast the web can be. Links2 does not support CSS. It supports HTML through version 4.0 or 4.1. It does not support JavaScript.

Links2 provides the user with the option to make some typographical changes, such as background color, text color, margin spacing, etc. Nearly every website looks the same within Links2, and that's fine with me because I'm mainly interested in the content and not the web publishers' aesthetics.

Links2, however, will display websites' chosen displays IF the sites use 1990s era web design techniques that include tables and HTML attributes attached to HTML tags.

The Links and Links2 website exists at:

http://links.twibright.com

That website display the same within Firefox and the Links2 web browser. Links2 is the graphical version of the text-based version, called Links.

The reason that the site appears the same within a so-called modern web browser and a limited graphical web browser is because the site uses HTML and style commands like this:

<body bgcolor="#137554" text="#71c4a7" link="#ffffff" vlink="#000000">

<table width=100% border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0><tr bgcolor="#71c4a7">

That bring back memories from how I created web pages in the 1990s.

Since at least the mid-aughts, we have used CSS to style pages. Some websites, however, use massive amounts of CSS to style web pages, which is whacked in my opinion, especially for Web of Documents type of websites.

If CSS for a Web of Documents website needs to be "compiled", then in my opinion, that site is over-engineered.

Regarding Links2, lame-ass websites, such as the toledoblade.com, that use JavaScript to display text will fail within Links2. It's text. Why would a NEWSPAPER that has focused on text since the 1800s require web READERS in 2020 to execute programming code to display ... TEXT?

When Tim Berners-Lee and friends at CERN created the first graphical web browser back around 1990, text content displayed without the need to transmit and execute programming code on local computers. The installed web browser performed the job of displaying text and links. The problem of displaying text over the web was SOLVED about 30 years ago, approximately three years before JavaScript was invented.

The Blade has proven that it IS possible to go backwards, devolve, and make things worse, and then claim that it's innovation. And some people in the media world are shocked that local newspapers are fading away.

Most of the sites that I READ can be read within the Links2 web browser. It would be interesting to see if it's possible to modify the Links2 source code to expand the typographical choices. For some reason, the Links2 developers chose not to underline web links, and no option exists to display links with an underline.

In the header and footer areas of a website, I'm fine with links not being underlined, because the text is more menu-based nouns and verbs, meaning clickable by default. I only display title text on my homepage and succeeding pages, which, hopefully, implies clickable content.

But within an article page where links are mixed within plain content, then I want the links to be as obvious as possible, and that means underlining the links, and making the non-visited and visited link colors contrast well with the plain text content.

This is an old post about the Links2 web browser from 2007 with most of the info still applicable today.

http://www.aboutlinux.info/2007/02/links2-cross-platform-console-based-web.html

On my computer, I used the following command to install Links2:

sudo apt install links2

On my old Linux computer, I had to launch Links2 from the command line by doing: links2 -g. But on my new Linux computer, the Links2 app appears on the apps screen, and I launch it like any other app by clicking the app's icon.

Links2 supports opening links in new windows and creating new windows. It supports other basic functionality, such as searching within a web page and viewing the web page's source code.

Links2 can display images, and it supports the mouse, but keyboard commands can be used too.

From the above 2007 article:

Some of the shortcuts I found really convenient are as follows :

  • '\' - toggle between viewing the web page and its source code.
  • '/' - used to search for a word or term in the website that is displayed.
  • [Esc] key - Shows a menu at the top of the browser from which you can also make choices.
  • '=' - Provides further information about the web page such as its size, the web server serving the web page and its url.
  • '|' - Pipe displays the header information.
  • '<- ' - left arrow will take you to the previous view. '->' - right arrow will take you forward to the latest view.
  • [Page up] and [Page down] - these keys can be used to navigate through the web page one page at a time. But you can also use [Space bar] and 'b' key combination for the same.
  • 'g' - will pop-up a dialog box where you can enter the url of the website you want to view. To open this dialog box with the url of the current page already entered, press 'G'.
  • Move the mouse pointer over an image and press 'i' to see only the image.

And like the venerable text-based Lynx web browser, Links2 can work from the command line and fetch a webpage and parse out all the HTML and show only the plain text content.

Example:

links2 -dump http://sawv.org/2020/03/10/links2-web-browser.html > page.txt

I like the plain text format of the links2 -dump command better than the plain text format, produced by the lynx2 --dump command. But Lynx does something that I like.

Within the plain text output produced by the lynx --dump command, Lynx also includes all of the links that existed in the original HTML page by foot-noting where the links occurred within the plain text output and displaying the links at the bottom of the plain text output. That's a nice feature that I wish Links2 supported.


I created a new template for my web-based static site generator CMS. The template and the markup for this post uses some of those 1990s HTML attributes, attached to the body, table, and font tags. Much or all of that usage is no longer supported in HTML5, but that's okay because Links2 does not support HTML5. I still used Markdown, however, to format this post.

http://sawv.org/2020/03/10/links2-web-browser.txt

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