Maxthon Cloud Browser

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Maxthon Cloud Browser

Postby Yogi » 30 Mar 2013, 10:58

I'm about to recommend looking into something I'd never investigate myself a year ago. Cloud computing is a dubious adventure at its best in my opinion, but there are situations in which it makes sense. The Maxthon browser is specifically aimed at improving your experience in The Cloud, but as I have discovered recently, it has some other features that might make me seriously consider dumping Firefox into the same bin as Internet Explorer.

This review will begin with Maxthon's fortè, the Cloud. Basically they took a page from Google's Chrome play book and offer an account to all it's users. You are entitled to free storage out on their cloud and all the benefits of having a universal storage space that you can access from anywhere in the word on any computer. The assumption there is that the random computer also has Maxthon installed. Again, it's pretty much like the set up from Google, but I will admit that I have paid a minimal amount of attention to that aspect of the browser. There may be other benefits in the cloud that I have yet to discover. I'll report on them later, if I find them.

Along the bottom of every modern browser is a status bar. It can be turned on or off and display some marginally useful information. Generally the information is related to features that may or may not be enabled in the browser. Maxthon has five features available. The first feature is related to your network. You can display download and upload speeds, along with memory usage, and both your internal and public IP address. It's all a bit geeky, but some of us might find this information useful.

The next status button is the AdHunter which you can set up to block ads that annoy you. It can be done by simply clicking the nuisance ad and relegating it to the banned file. This is a great way to improve the speed at which your web pages load, but as some of you with similar add-ons in other browsers know, banning ads in some cases will disable the web site from being viewed. In the same vein, pop-up windows can also be set to display or not in the AdHunter settings.

Next is a button to display the browser in full screen, or not. You can also press F11 to do the same thing. This one is non-feature in my opinion, but it's nice to have the button in plain view.

Then there is the -/+ buttons to adjust the view size of your browser. In most other browsers you can do this by pressing ctrl and the + or the - signs. Here in Maxthon the zoom in and zoom out are in plain view and easy to access. No awkward combination of keys are needing to be pressed to adjust your view.

The last button on the status bar is the split screen feature. This one blew me away. Pressing this button will split the view vertically so that you can see one web page on the left and a different one on the right. For me as administrator this is a god-sent feature. My regular user can see nBF on the left while the admin does his thing on the right. No need for two browser sessions. It's all visible at once. I'm sure you can find other uses for this split screen, but this single feature is a big plus in my case.

Right Click the options bar and you will get the browser settings menu. It took me a while to discover this, but having access to the settings by a mere right click is one of the beauties of Maxthon. Learning what all those settings do is another story, but that is the case with most browsers. At least I don't have to go looking for them in an obscure menu list.

As is the case elsewhere, the top line(s) of the Maxthon browser can be customized. The choices are not exactly common or intuitive, but you have seen most of them before, I'm sure. The left side of the address box has the page back and page forward buttons, refresh, home, previous view, and favorites buttons. I was confused about that previous view button until I discovered it is not the same as the familiar refresh curled up arrows we are all familiar with. A left click will take you back to the previous pages you closed and a right click will give you a history of recent pages you have visited. This difference between left click and right click is common on the tool bar where each button has it's own set of options for the clicks. The advantage of the "previous" button is that you don't have to scroll through your history to go back to some site you viewed recently.

The next box is the address box. A plus sigh [+] ahead of the actual address lets you add it to your favorites. Then the usual URL information, followed by a box which you can click to switch proxy settings. I'm not sure why you would want to switch once you made your choice in the status bar, but if you did want multiple anonymous identities, this is the place you can switch. Again, up front and visible.

The next box is awesome and may or may not appear depending on what kind of web page you are viewing. It's a Mode box which is set to Reader Mode when visiting places such as neoBrainformation. I was reading a private message when I discovered the mode box and clicked on it. Immediately all extraneous information on the web page disappeared and left me with text only for all the content of that private message. I could adjust the background colors and the fonts to suit my fancy. A second click of the Reader Mode brought me back to the view with which you and I are familiar. Sure enough this Reader Mode appears on other web sites with text content. A simple click of the button blows away all the ads and extraneous formatting leaving you with something clear and easy to read. Well, if the split screen option doesn't tickle your fancy, this Reader Mode will.

But wait. There's more. When you go over to Gobbledygook you will learn that it is a syndicated web site that can be viewed in any news aggregater. This allows you to see what's happening on our sister site without actually being there. Maxthon detects the fact that the site is syndicated and offers you all the different views (feeds) we have available for that site. If you select the Forum - Gobbledygook feed, all the posts from that forum are displayed in a timeline, just like the old time AIH or Brainfuse web sites some of us grew up in. Or, more relevant to this century, it looks a LOT like the Facebook timeline without all the inane additions. So if you visit syndicated web sites at all, this is an awesome feature built in to Maxthon.

There are a number of tools you can add or remove after address box. Magic Fill gives you the option of entering previously saved log-in and password information. Filling in forms with standard information (such as your credit card number) can also be done magically. Being the paranoid guy I am, I turned off all of that, but it's available should you like it.

I also kept the Resource Sniffer tool visible. This is pure geek and of no interest to the common web browser user. This button allows you to see where all the information on the web page is coming from. The beauty of this is that it's built right into the browser. No plug-ins or add-ons necessary.

The last tool I kept on the bar is the most awesome of all. It's called Snap and takes a screen shot of your choice. The whole screen can be saved or just pieces you block off. This is cool because it's part of the browser and not a program hidden in your system menu somewhere. But wait ... not only can you snap a shot of the screen, you can add arrows, text, shapes, balloons, and a bunch more things that often have to be Photoshopped in after you save the screen. I am totally impressed with this capability of Maxthon.

Other tools you can add to the bar include the Translate button. No need for Google Translate any more. Just highlight what you want translated, or do the whole page. It's a one button click affair. And there is also a Night Mode button. This takes the default light background skin and turns it into something gray. You will like this if you browse in a dimly lit room because the light from the screen will not blind you.

On the left side of the browser is a panel with useful goodies much like I've seen in the Opera browser. There is the log-in to your Cloud account and a handy dandy note pad you can use to send post-it type messages to your cloud storage. Your favorites (bookmarks) are there as is a download manager and a feed reader. You don't need a third party aggrigater to read those syndicated news feeds. It's all built in. Like the status and the tool bars, the side panel can be customized or made to disappear.

Maxthon Cloud Browser is not a pretty piece of art. It's simple and fast and thus plain. Some folks would see this as an advantage. It's appearance is purely a personal preference kind of thing.

The upper right corner of every window we have seen in our life (unless you use Linux) has three familiar little boxes. An underline, a box, and an X. We all know what those things do, and they do the same in Maxthon. However, they are not intuitively obvious. These three familiar friends are squished down and made nearly invisible until you hover over them with your mouse. Then they work as normal. It's a small irritation, but one you have to think about when you need it.

Like Google Chrome Maxthon does not open web page links in a new window. Unlike Google Chrome, there is no way to change that behavior, or at least I have not found a way to change it. If you want a web page in a window of it's own, and not in a new tab, you have to start another session of the browser and open the second page up in there. They make this easy enough to do from a drop down menu on the right side of the address bar, but it's not convenient or consistent with being a fast browser.

When you start Maxthon for the first time, your bookmarks (favorites) are magically pre-loaded. I'm not entirely sure where they get them from, but I'm guessing it's from the Windows Operating System library where your Internet Explorer favorites are stored. This is cool if you use IE, but I don't. Thus the favorites that were preloaded were not the ones I generally use. I had to delete the ones supplied, but it was easy to import the right ones from the correct browser. It would have been nice to have that choice at the time of installation.

Need help? Well, they do have a web site for that purpose, not a help menu that I could find. The web site, and the browser I would suppose, are maintained by people whose native language is Chinese or some other Asian dialect. All the help is in a forum format and many of the examples use Chinese picture-grams to explain things. Fortunately I have not yet needed a lot of help. Trial and error has taught me a lot. But if anything is lacking from the Maxthon people, it's instructions on how to use their marvelous product.

Overall I give the Maxthon Cloud Browser a 4.5 out of 5. It has a plethora of built in features that are nothing less than awesome. Finding them and figuring out how to use them could be a chore which is why they don't have a perfect rating in my view. Otherwise it's a clean and fast browser that takes full advantage of Cloud Computing. And, you don't have to use the cloud to benefit from using this browser.

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