Browse the Web with Min

(Note: This post started life, in a different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

In the early days of the web, a hundred browsers bloomed. Well, figuratively at least. Back then, there were more than a few of web browsers, but eventually that number was whittled down. Today, we're left with the Big Three and a (very) small handful of other web browsers.

Does the world need another web browser? I'm not the one to decide that. But some people think there is room for alternatives to Firefox, Chrome, and that other browser.

One of those alternatives is Min. As its name suggests (suggests to me, anyway), Min is a minimalist browser. That doesn't mean it's deficient in any significant way. Being open source, under an Apache 2.0 license, of course piques my interest in Min.

Let's take a look at Min and see what it can do.

Installing the Software

Min is one of many applications written using a development framework called Electron. (It's the same framework that brought us the Atom text editor. You can get installers for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. You can also grab the source code from GitHub and compile it that's that kind of thing you do.

I run elementaryOS Linux, and Min isn't in the elementary AppCenter. Not being very technically inclined, compiling the browser isn't an option for me. However, using a utility called Eddy, I was able to install the .deb package.

Getting Going

Once that was done, I fired up Min by pressing Alt+F2, typing min into Kupfer, and pressing Enter. From there, I was ready to go.

Min is billed as a smarter, faster web browser. It definitely is fast — at the risk of drawing the inevitable ire of denizens of certain places on the web, I'll say that it starts faster than other browsers on the two laptops with which I tried it.

Browsing with Min is like browsing with your favourite web browser. Type a URL in the address bar, press Enter, and away you go.

Browsing with Min

Min's Features

While Min doesn't pack everything you'd find in browsers like Firefox or Chrome, it doesn't do too badly.

Like any other browser these days, Min supports multiple tabs. It also has a feature called Tasks, which lets you organize your open tabs à la the Tab Groups feature in Chrome. And you can create private tabs which don't save your browsing history.

Search Engines and Preferences

Min's default search engine is DuckDuckGo. I really like that touch because DuckDuckGo is my search engines of choice. If DuckDuckGo isn't your thing, you can set another search engine as the default in Min's preferences.

Speaking of preferences, you can access them by pressing CTRL+, on your keyboard.

Min's preferences

Min also has a built-in ad blocker. It uses the EasyList and EasyPrivacy filters, which were created for the AdBlock browser extension. You can block scripts and images, and Min also has a built-in tracking blocker.

!bangs

If you're familiar with DuckDuckGo, you might be familiar with teh concept !bangs. Those are shortcuts, prefixed with an exclamation point, that quickly take you to search results on other sites.

Min also has !bangs that access functions in the browser — for example, to clear your browsing history or to take a screenshot of the current tab.

Bookmarks

When I first looked at Min a few years ago, I couldn't find a way to bookmark sites. I either had to rely on Min's search history to find my favorite links, or on a bookmarking service. That's changed. You can pull up a list of bookmarks by pressing CTRL+B or by typing !bookmarks.

Bookmarks in Min

If you have bookmarks in an HTML file that you exported from another browser, you can use the !importbookmarks !bang to pull them into Min.

Viewing Modes

Like Firefox, Min has a reading mode called Reading List. Clicking the Reading List icon on the left side of the address bar removes most of the cruft from a page so you can focus on the what you're reading.

Reading List mode in Min

Speaking of focus, Min also has a Focus Mode that hides and prevents you from opening other tabs. Enable that by click on the menu icon in the top-left corner of the window, then selecting View > Focus Mode. You disable the mode in the same way.

Other Features

Min has a number of keyboard shortcuts that can make using it a lot faster. You can find a reference for those shortcuts on GitHub. You can also change a number of them in Min's preferences, as well as add custom !bangs.

Min also works with a couple of password managers — Bitwarden and 1Password. You'll need to connect them to the browser using a command line tool.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Min can play videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and similar sites. I also played sample tracks at music retailer 7Digital. I didn't try playing music on popular sites like Spotify or Last.fm (because I don't have accounts with them).

What's Not There

Min doesn't support plugins. That's not a deal breaker for me—not having plugins is undoubtedly one of the reasons the browser starts and runs so quickly. I know a number of people who are ... well, I wouldn't go so far to say junkies, but they really like their plugins. Min probably wouldn't cut it for them.

Final Thoughts

Min isn't a bad browser. In fact, it's quite good. Min is light and fast enough to appeal to the minimalists out there. That said, it lacks features that some hardcore web browser users clamour for.

If you want a zippy browser that isn't weighed down by all the features of so-called modern web browsers, I suggest giving Min a serious look.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #desktop #web