One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Mutineer's Tech Tips: Browsers, Part 2: Maxthon

In this mobile era of browsing, you need a suite of browsers. It's not enough to work well on the device in front of you. It needs to communicate and interact with the browsers on your other devices. Yesterday I wrote about a browser suite that has great functionality but poor connectivity. This article is about a browser with amazing connectivity but poor design:

The best thing about Maxthon is its amazing interoperability. Maxthon is a Chinese company that only in the last 5 years or so began offering web browsers in the Western market. They are way down the list in terms of market share, but they are on the cutting edge of browser technology.
To access most of these cutting-edge features, you need to create a free “Maxthon Passport” account. You are prompted to do this when you download the browser. I’m a big believer in cloud computing, whether it be DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive or the endless list available out there. I understand the security risks, but I guess I prefer the convenience of the cloud over the fear of exposing my resume, Sunday School lessons and pictures of my dog and random stuff I find funny to Uncle Sam.
Maxthon offers the capability for two active pages open at one time on your computer.

With the account set up, you can do all sorts of cool things. Lots of browsers, including Firefox and Chrome, allow you to share your browser history from one platform to another or open your last open tab from one to another. Maxthon is light years beyond that. It offers what it calls “Cloud Push,” which allows you to push the web page from one browser to another. It opens automatically on a different device with a linked Maxthon account. Just a couple of weeks ago I was wanting to show my wife something on my computer. I was in my office, she was sitting in the bedroom. I didn’t want to drag the laptop into the bedroom, so I just “cloud pushed” the page I was looking at to my Nook. All I had to do was pick up the Nook, turn it on and open up Maxthon on my way to the bedroom. Boom, there it was, by the time I walked through the door into the bedroom. No searching through a menu, no waiting for it to sync. It was all instantaneous. I use this feature between my laptop and my phone all the time.
Maxthon also offers free cloud storage. I honestly don’t know how much storage they offer for free, but I do know I downloaded some free mp3’s the other day on my laptop to my Maxthon cloud account, and from there I downloaded them to my phone where I will use them for some new ringtones. All together the songs were about 25 MB, so it has to be more than that. Any time you download anything on your computer or mobile device, it offers to save it to the cloud. This comes in handy for sharing things between devices, or if you downloaded, for example, a document template and something happens and you need to revert to the original. If you saved it to your cloud, it will be right there instead of you having to find the web site again to re-download it.
Maxthon for the desktop (this includes Mac OS X and Linux) has a couple of other unique features. First, it offers unique tools to instantly download pictures, videos and other media from web pages. For example, any time you see an embedded video in a web page, a box automatically pops up that offers you the option to download it. No right-clicking, no clicking through to the host page. Second, pun intended, Maxthon also offers the unique option of two-pane browsing. You can have two active web pages open at the same time inside the same window. No switching between tabs or windows. This comes in handy when I’m looking at my online banking account in one pane and our budget spreadsheet saved in an online cloud account in another pane.
Maxthon's mobile start page leaves a lot to be desired.

A couple of things really annoy me about Maxthon, though, that keep me from using it exclusively. One is its klunky interface. If you look at the screenshot, it looks like something out of 2002. Just about the only thing that’s missing is those cool comet tails shooting by the Netscape “N.” The mobile version isn’t any better. Look at the ugly boxes on the speed dial page. You can’t even pick the colors. Everybody knows Yahoo should be purple, but not Maxthon Mobile, which assigns colors to the boxes based on some internal, random formula. Sometimes it will inexplicably download an icon, which looks a little better, but not much. The mobile browser also does not allow you to press down on the back arrow and give you the history of all the open pages in that tab. This has been basic browser design for years. They have fixed the phone version, but the tablet version has a teeny-tiny "x" button to close a tab. It's almost impossible to do. I usually end up reopening the tab I don't want to see or accidentally opening a new tab, which is not what I want to do either.
Another problem with Maxthon is rooted in the fact that it is primarily a Chinese company and new in the Western market with a small market share. It has very few extensions for the desktop version, and many of those are targeted for a Chinese audience. In fact, if you look at my desktop screenshot above, you will see one of the little boxes on the left side has a Chinese icon. That’s the only extension I could find that allows me to share pages to Facebook. I don’t know what the symbol means in Chinese, but it works.

Maxthon is now where the future of computing is headed. It has great features not found in the more popular browsers. No doubt the developers at Chrome, Firefox, and Safari (does Microsoft even have developers working on Internet Explorer? Maybe in a closet somewhere) are working on many of the same options, like downloading to a cloud or sharing web pages instantaneously across devices, that Maxthon offers right now.  But unless you really need or want to try out its unique capabilities, I really can’t recommend Maxthon to you. If you’re happy with the way your browser looks and feels when you use it, switching to Maxthon will be a jarring experience. I definitely recommend Maxthon to power users, but for light browsing the extra stuff is not worth giving up a simple, familiar user experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment