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What's the best alternative web browser: don't stick with Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer

We test out six web browsers you've (probably) never heard of

Comodo IceDragon

IE, Chrome and Firefox dominate the web browser market, but there are some great alternatives and you don’t need to switch from your favourite

See all software reviews.

Which web browser do you use? Are you a fan of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox? Perhaps you simply use the one that comes bundled with Windows: Internet Explorer is still one of the most used web browsers on the internet.

There are many alternative browsers available, and we're not talking about Safari and Opera. Some of them are very good too. What you may not know is that these alternatives are actually based on your favourite web browser. You can have all the performance and features of Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer, but with a whole bunch of extra functions and tools too.

Chrome itself is based on the free, open source Chromium project. The rendering engine, which is the code that is responsible for displaying web pages in the browser window, is based on the open source WebKit. Anyone, then, can take the WebKit rendering engine and add their own menus, functions and features. The end result is a browser that has almost the same performance and HTML5 compatibility as Chrome because the rendering engine is identical, but with a brand new set of features. It's a bit like skinning an app, which replaces the stock window graphics, toolbar and menus with alternatives.

Mozilla, the Firefox developer, also makes its rendering engine available to anyone that wants to use it. Programmers have taken the Firefox engine, called Gecko, and wrapped it in their own window controls, toolbars and menus. They have added a range of cool features and released the result as an alternative browser. If you like Firefox then an alternative browser based on the same rendering engine can give you all of Firefox’s features plus a whole lot more.

The same is true of Internet Explorer. Microsoft’s browser uses the Trident rendering engine. Every version of Windows has Internet Explorer built in and programmers can use it within their own applications. IE or Trident-based alternative browsers do have a drawback though: they're limited to whatever version of the engine is installed in Windows. If you have IE8 installed then alternative browsers use the IE8 engine, but if you have IE9 or IE10 then they will use that. If you want to use an IE-based alternative browser, make sure you upgrade to the latest version of IE first.

A common complaint from web users is that a particular site no longer works in their browser. The simple solution is to use a different browser. After all, they are free. A couple of alternative browsers have all three rendering engines and you can switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox to Chrome by clicking a button. If a site doesn’t work, you just swap engines and reload the page.

With these alternative browsers you can have your cake and eat it. You can switch to a full-featured browser, yet continue to use your favourite, whether it is from Microsoft, Mozilla or Google.

Maxthon Cloud browser

Which is the best alternative web browser?

Click these links to read the reviews:

Avant Force Avan Browser 2013

Comodo IceDragon 20.0

Flashpeak Slimboat 1.1.29

Lunascape 6.8.3

Maxthon Cloud 4.05

Torch Media Torch Browser 23.4

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