Times are changing in the browser world. Microsoft, after some arm-twisting from the EU, now offers Windows users a selection of default web browsers via a ballot screen. Internet Explorer is no longer foisted upon new PC users with no choice in the matter. Our mother-in-law’s laptop arrived last week, and she opted to install Google Chrome, the browser fast picking up pace on Firefox as the main alternative to IE. A tech-savvy choice that surprised us, until we found out she actually installed it because she thought she was installing Google, which she needed to search the Internet. Bless.
Anyway, she has stuck with Chrome, and many people are picking alternatives to IE for many different reasons, security being an often-stated one. And naturally, more and more alternative browsers are emerging, such as this effort from Jawoco. Xtravo Explorer boasts various security features, along with a compact and streamlined nature. It has a user base of over four million, according to Jawoco.
We took a gander at the latest version 3.5, and indeed it is compact, occupying only 2MB on your hard disk and installing in a second flat. However, Xtravo isn’t particularly quick to start up; in fact, we found it slightly sluggish. It does load web pages up quite swiftly, although it wasn’t noticeably quicker than our main browser, Firefox.
We tested Xtravo Explorer on two different systems, one running Windows XP, and the other Vista 64-bit. On the latter we hit a slight snag, which was that Xtravo automatically installs the 32-bit or 64-bit version of itself from a self-extracting EXE depending on your operating system. This means that on a 64-bit system, Flash won’t work in the browser, as Adobe doesn’t support playback in 64-bit browsers.
Because you can’t force a 32-bit install, you’re a bit stuck when it comes to running Flash sites. As an extra slight annoyance, 64-bit Windows produces an error message every time you close Xtravo, pointing out the fact that it requires Flash.ocx. Maybe Jawoco will consider giving users the option of a 32-bit install on a 64-bit system during setup, or indeed Adobe will sort its act out regarding 64-bit Flash in the near future. Until then, Xtravo is far from ideal for those on 64-bit Windows.
The interface is clean if a little sparse looking, although the idea is the small top menu bar means that the websites themselves get more display space. Xtravo operates pretty much as you’d expect with any modern tabbed browser, apart from the slight oddity – or bug – that to open a new tab via right clicking, you have to select Open in New Window (the tab option is greyed out).
By default, the company’s own Jawoco.com search engine is used by Xtravo, but that’s easily changed to any major search engine under the search settings in the browser options. Also under options, Xtravo’s pop-up blocker can be turned on, and the browser comes with a built-in phishing filter, too. Security levels are further reinforced by a content advisor.
The content advisor groups sites into various restricted categories, such as gambling, depictions of weapon use or violence, pornography and so on. A slider lets the user specify whether unrestricted access is allowed, or such content is fully blocked. That’s the theory, anyway, although we were able to visit a number of dodgy sites even with the slider moved to the fully blocked position.
Xtravo is also missing some basic bits and pieces we’re used to, such as the ability to save multiple tabs upon quitting. On the plus side, it does offer some interesting additions for the developer, including a code inspector facility that lets you snoop through a page’s HTML with a single click. There’s also an image sniffer tool, which trawls through a web page and automatically saves out all the images to a folder (and in a format) of your choice. A handy option to have.
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