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Review of Lunascape

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While the Google Chrome browser has been garnering more interest as time goes by, Firefox remains the alternative browser of choice for most people so far and surprisingly, Internet Explorer, now into its eighth iteration, continues to grab the lion's share of the market even though it leaves much to be desired **cough** proper CSS3 implementation for example.

Also catching the attention of those not wanting to rely entirely on mainstream browsers, Opera 10, latest in a long line of browsers dedicated to web standards, is remarkably quick off the mark, sophisticated in design, and offers some unique features, not the least of which is a built-in web server allowing you to share your files directly with other Opera users.

The browser market doesn't stop there, though; Safari, once an Apple-only browser, is now also available for Windows and there are others out there which are based around the existing IE engine but add features of their own.

So, is the world really in need of yet another browser? Maybe, if it can offer a truly unique take on the browsing process or alternatively, find a way to offer the best of everything else in one place. And that's the idea behind the Lunascape browser, now into version 6, and a multi-million download in its native country of Japan.

Lunascape utilizes the three "engines" which drive the top browsers: the Gecko engine, which drives Firefox, the Trident engine, from Internet Explorer, and the Webkit engine which hides behind Chrome and Safari. It allows users to run all three engines at once, in different tabs, or to choose a particular engine for particular tasks, or to default to their engine of choice. It now incorporates extension technology so that Firefox and IE extensions can be run, and even imported automatically from Firefox if you have it on your system already.

The benchmarks suggest that Lunascape is a seriously quick browser, and the growing number of users, while small in world terms, nevertheless guarantees that there's enough interest to maintain this project and continue to develop it into the foreseeable future.

Whether it will prove that three engines in one offering three different sets of extensions in one will be overkill, remains to be seen; but from a web developer's point of view, being able to view a site in all three browser engines at once is certainly a big attraction. And while the browser is different, it's also designed to be sufficiently familiar for users of the others to feel comfortable with it from the start. I love being able to right-click on a tab and switch immediately from one engine to another, and being able to save settings so that a particular website will always open using the engine that presents it at its best. Also, the browser recognizes the different cookie sets from your existing ones, so that if you are logged into a site in Firefox but not logged in in IE, you can just switch to the Firefox engine and you'll be logged in with Lunascape as well.

I think there's always room for another browser if it can show some definite edge over the others; Chrome has done it for me so far not just in speed, but in style too; it's a seriously cool application, but it's still a work in progress and has some way to go before it can rival the maturity of Firefox. Opera is undeservedly the back runner in the field but can exceed Chrome's speed and has become a very sophisticated application; unfortunately it's seen as a geek's choice, with some reason. Lunascape is more conservative in looks than Chrome, but it's also fast and smart enough to get a fairly good score on the coolness table. It's nowhere nearly as pretty as Opera, but it's faster than Firefox on my system and looks better. I can't comment on IE because I never use it, so someone else will have to make that comparison for me.
I'll be playing with this one for a while yet, for sure, and unless it develops some nasty security issues and bugs from its IE roots, I can see it being at least equal to my other choices. Give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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