The Little Joys of Text Browsers

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Cat lying on its back, apparently overweight

A Visually Complex Website

Modern browsers are gigantic affairs, designed to manage the remarkable variety of content available online, but also designed to do many more things, using a wide diversity of add-ons, scripting systems, plugins, revenue enhancement tools, and so on, ad infinitum. Now that wide bandwidth is more the rule than the exception, this makes some sense. But text-only browsers have been around for a quarter century (see Lynx, the oldest still being used), and they continue to be useful even in our ecosystem of browser behemoths.

I saw an item discussing the release of an up-to-date version of the WebbIE Web Browser 4, from the UK , and the notice reminded me of all the small niceties of using a web browser that only focuses on the text:

  • The browser runs very fast, even on slow connections.
  • You don’t have to worry about malware or popups carried in graphic content.
  • It’s really easy to print the text without having to also print every single graphic chunk that the content creator or the advertiser thought was Very Important for you to see. This is especially useful if you want to use a PDF converter print driver so that you can share the text without carrying along all the graphics.
  • The Webbie Browser works with free screen readers like NVDA and Thunder (a webbie application screen reader. See the overview and link at the end of the post).
  • You can do a basic access test on any website simply be comparing what you get in Webbie, and what’s on the screen. Such a test won’t cover all access issues, but it does give you some direct insight into what people who need to use text as the core of their web access are getting from the site.

If you have another good use for a text browser, put it in the comments to this post!

Webbie has a variety of other applications that are text focused and well-maintained. They include the WebbIE Web Browser, PDF Reader, RSS News Reader, Clock, Calendar, Podcatcher, BBC iPlayer Radio and TV programs, and BBC Live Radio. The apps require Net Client version 4, included with the installer.

You can get all of them at