Product Review: K-meleon 0.6

In short: A bare-bones Web browser that's tantalizingly close to becoming my primary browser.

What is K-meleon?

K-meleon is an open source, bare-bones Web browser for Windows. It is based on Gecko, the HTML rendering engine underlying Mozilla, Netscape 6, and Galeon. K-meleon supports W3C standards such as Cascading Style Sheets and the PNG image format.

K-meleon's philosophy seems be "if a feature doesn't help display Web pages, leave it out". That is on balance a wise decision, as the following analysis of K-meleon 0.6 will reveal.


  • CSS support without Javascript. This was what made me give K-meleon a try; unlike Netscape and Internet Explorer, K-meleon renders CSS when Javascript is disabled. This makes it appealing as a testbed for CSS experimentation.

  • Simplicity. K-meleon is a Web browser and nothing more. It's not an HTML editor or mail client, doesn't browse Usenet news, or allow the user to send instant messages. Unlike recent bloated browsers, K-meleon has no Shop button. It doesn't try to be a portal. All it does is retrieve and display Web pages.

  • Customizable interface. K-meleon's interface is simple to begin with, and modifying it isn't difficult. Its menus and accelerator keys can be changed easily by modifying text files, available via Edit/Preferences. The main menu, toolbar, and URL bar can be dragged to new positions.


  • Poor bookmark management. K-meleon can import Netscape bookmarks or IE favorites, but that's about it. Bookmarks can be added, organized, and removed, but these features are rudimentary. In particular, K-meleon's bookmark editor doesn't allow for the creation of folders or separators. Changes to bookmarks sometimes are not reflected in the Bookmark menu until after the program is restarted. Even worse, sometimes changes to bookmarks are silently ignored.

    Note: I had to manually add the shared library msvcp60.dll to my OS directory for bookmarks to work at all.

  • Flakiness finding Web pages. K-meleon still has some bugs in its handling of URLs and the cache. Sometimes it reports that it cannot find pages that other browsers handle correctly. (I've experienced this problem with Google.) This problem is acute with URLs for CGI scripts; whether a given CGI script will be invoked is a crap shoot.

  • Cache confusion. It's not unknown for K-meleon to respond to a URL with a completely different page. The page that is returned will be one from the cache. At this point K-meleon is so confused that clearing the memory and disk caches doesn't work; the only way to load the page you want is to restart the program.

    It appears that the problem is that K-meleon is sending a page request to the last domain visited, not the domain specified in the URL.

  • Incomplete CSS implementation. For example, in a page with an element with fixed position, links from that element to a named anchor on the same page do not work. (Here's a demonstration of this problem.)

    The source of this problem is the underlying Gecko rendering engine, not the K-meleon team.

  • Many standard features are incomplete or not implemented. The list of things K-meleon doesn't do is long. You can't set default colors or type size via Edit/Preferences , which makes this browser a poor choice for people with poor sight. Visited links aren't distinguished from unvisited links (unless you hack K-meleon manually). I don't purchase things on the Web, so I can't say whether K-meleon 0.6 includes site certificates, though I suspect it does not. If you like complete control over your browser, this version of K-meleon might not be for you.

    Actually, some settings such as fonts & colors can be changed by manually mucking about with configuration files, but they should be configurable through the program.


Despite its disadvantages, I quite like K-meleon. When the bookmark management is improved and the cache/URL bugs are fixed, K-meleon will become my primary browser. I already use it about half the time; I'm looking forward to the day when I can uninstall my current browser, Netscape 3.04.

Kudos to the K-meleon team for taking the road less traveled: creating good, simple software.


Later versions of K-meleon have shown significant improvement. In 2002, version 0.7 became my primary Web browser.

Last updated 26 May 2002
All contents ©2002 Mark L. Irons