Lunascape5 Genesis (Alpha Release) CodeUnit 02 DEC 2008

Lunascape5 AlphaOoh, now here’s an interesting web browser to play with for all you power users out there. Lunascape5 Genesis (Alpha Release) has just been released and it is the brainchild of Japanese software wunderkind Hidekazu Kondo and his team at Lunascape.Inc. The browser is hailed as the world’s first hybrid browser, essentially allowing you to render the Internet with the browser engine of your choice!

Now as a web developer myself, the idea of having a single browser to replace at least three different browsers on my system is a great one, and I literally jumped to the download page after learning about this system through the ever watchful Merkaba. Now the Lunascape installer weighs in at a respectable 8.6 MB download size, but be warned, the installer itself still needs to pull down the Gecko and WebKit rendering engines should you wish to make use of them, adding a 12 MB + 8.3 MB download footprint respectively. (Funnily enough, one of Lunascape’s system requirements is that you at least have Internet Explorer 6 already installed on your system. I assume this has something to do with licensing issues perhaps?)

So why use Lunascape?

Well, most of us have a Internet browser that we choose as our browser of choice. For instance, mine is Google’s newly released Chrome, but admittedly I have to always keep I.E. at hand simply for the fact that Chrome is unable to correctly render quite a large number of my frequently used websites. And this is exactly where Lunascape steps in to simplify things. Literally with the click of a mouse button you can switch the rendering engine used for any particular page between Internet Explorer’s Trident engine, Firefox’s Gecko engine and Safari and Chrome’s WebKit engine, thus giving you perfect control between browser speed and rendering capabilities depending on what website you are currently viewing.

Now for the majority of users, this may not mean all that much, but for power users like myself, this is a pretty damn big deal. Other than that, Lunascape comes with all the normal bells and whistles attached to the new generation of browsers, things like tabbed browsing, tab-limited crash protection, multi-search bars, form auto-saver and RSS and Podcast feed subscriptions. On top of this, it also come ready for fully customizable skins, a feature it likes to call ‘Mouse Gestures’ used in controlling browser action and a security management system that allows you great freedom in enabling and disabling various features like ActiveX and Javascript, essentially providing you with the power to customise your own security level on the fly. It also has a nifty little ticker bar as well as a little popup window that sporadically appears showing you the latest news items harvested from whatever newsfeeds you might be subscribed to. Oh, and it claims to come with a ‘Smart Favourites’ manager that simplifies your favourites process for you as well.

And plug-ins?

Well, like a good browser should be doing, Lunascape is capable of running most Internet Explorer add-ons and Firefox plug-ins, as well as being able to handle its own special Lunascape format plug-ins.

Now the first comment I must make when running the browser for the first time is “Wow”, now this is customisable. The entire interface comes across more like a Visual Studio IDE than a web browser and for someone who loves tinkering around and customising their applications, Lunascape is like a dream come true. So many dockable windows, menus and option buttons, but damn it, still instantly graspable and pretty simple to operate. The browser is pretty quick as well, claiming to execute Javascript even faster than Chrome, but seeing as this comes from the official website, I’d rather wait for someone to run more comprehensive tests before fully backing their word just yet.

One thing you must note though is that this is an alpha release. This means that the program is a little buggy and does tend to fall over every now and then, but so far I’ve found this to be more the exception to the rule than anything else. Put it this way. If this is the type of release these guys can manage for an alpha, then I certainly can’t wait for the beta.

So in summary, Lunascape is the perfect developer Internet browser. It is perhaps not suited to casual computer users and people who don’t know all that much about web browsing, but for the rest of us this is a VERY capable contender and you really should give it a spin. Yeah, it feels like you are kind of cheating just that little bit, seeing as Lunascape is just stealing everyone else’s rendering engines, but by adding all that extra functionality on top of the web browsing element, Lunascape stands out as a good contender in the ever increasing entrants to the world wide browser war.

So watch out for future releases. I know I certainly will be!

(Oh, just remembered that I did in fact forget to mention that Lunascape is currently a Windows only release. So all you Linux-rules-everything-else-sucks guys will need to look elsewhere I’m afraid.)

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.