Introducing qutebrowser, for secure and keyboard-driven web browsing

While web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are undoubtedly popular, there are numerous other choices on the market, many of which offer superior features in terms of security, rendering and customization. One of these browsers is qutebrowser, a keyboard-driven web browser that’s intended to be used exclusively with the keyboard, without any need for a mouse. Based on key mappings similar to the Vim text editor, the workflow is easy to learn, making many common web browsing tasks exponentially faster than other available browsers. This blog post will give a background on the browser, its features, and how you can get started using it today.

Background

Originally the sole project of Belgian developer Florian Bruhin, the GNU open-source and cross-platform qutebrowser now boasts over 200 contributors who actively maintain it. One of Bruhin’s main motivations for creating qutebrowser was the common issue of many popular web browsers taking a long time to implement the latest versions of WebKit and other web browser engines, resulting in greater security risks and a lag in implementing support for bleeding-edge technology updates, particularly in JavaScript. Additionally, qutebrowser uses DuckDuckGo as its default search engine, ensuring the best defense from tracking of personal information.

Installation

qutebrowser is a cross-platform browser, available for Windows, Mac OS X and numerous distributions of Linux. You can download the latest pre-built binaries from their GitHub releases pages, as well as find detailed installation instructions in their official documentation.

If you are on Mac OS X and have Homebrew Cask installed, the easiest way to get started is just by running the following command in your terminal:

brew cask install qutebrowser

Common Commands and Getting Around

Once you open qutebrowser for the first time, you’ll see the DuckDuckGo homepage, set as the default.

To open a URL, hit the 'o key, followed by the URL, then hit enter.

You can also run a search by typing search terms instead of a URL after the o key, which will then pull up search results in DuckDuckGo.

But how do you click on any links without the mouse? This is where qutebrowser starts to shine. Hit the f key, which then displays a highlighted combination of keys on top of every link visible on the page:

In the example above, we can quickly get back to the offical GitHub page by typing gh.

Navigating up, down, left and right is done via the h, j, k, and l keys, just like in Vim. To go back to previous pages in your history, type H (capital H) and L to go forward.

Pressing the colon : will pull up qutebrowser's command line, which includes an extensive list of commands for various functions of browser navigation and management. qutebrowser will display the list of commands and descriptions for each, and as you start typing keys it will narrow the search results for a command that best matches what you've typed.

Here's a complete cheat sheet with available command supported by qutebrowser.

Conclusion

We’ve just scratched the surface of what qutebrowser can offer, but I hope we’ve demonstrated some of the basic features of this very flexible, customizable and efficient web browser. Going through the documentation, learning the commands, and setting up preferences in the configuration file can vastly speed up your time using a browser, helping you to find the information that you need.