Sunday, September 1, 2002

Four Palm OS Web browsers show their stuff

MOBILE INTERNET

By Stephen Vance

Previously, in my article, "A survey of Palm OS Web browsers for IT professionals," in the August 2002 issue of PalmPower's Enterprise Edition (at http://www.palmpowerenterprise.com/issues/issue200208/browser001.html), I decided to look into that staple of modern networked communications, the Web browser. This series of articles examines browsers that operate over TCP/IP and that process raw HTML using the HTTP protocol. The contenders are EudoraWeb (at http://www.eudora.com/internetsuite/), PocketLink (at http://www.mdevelop.com/product_PL.jsp), Xiino (at http://www.ilinx.co.jp/en/), and Blazer (at http://www.handspring.com/software/blazer_overview.jhtml).

Road tests

The ultimate proof of an application's utility is how well it works in real life. To that end, I chose four of my favorite Web sites with different stressing characteristics to sample the browsers' capabilities.

The four sites I tested were Yahoo!Finance (at http://finance.yahoo.com), the Hunger Site (at http://www.thehungersite.com), Dilbert.com (at http://www.dilbert.com), and the New York Times (at http://www.nytimes.com).

Yahoo!Finance

Yahoo!Finance has a relatively simple layout, limited use of images, and structured use of tables. Figure A shows this site using Internet Explorer for comparison.

FIGURE A

Here's Yahoo!Finance in Internet Explorer. (click for larger image)

EudoraWeb's rendering of Yahoo!Finance, shown in Figure B, provides a simple text view with a basic re-flowing of content. Alt tag data (descriptions of a graphic displayed when graphics are turned off in the browser) makes the lack of images functional as long as the site is designed well.

FIGURE B

Here is how EudoraWeb renders Yahoo!Finance.

PocketLink, in Figure C, provides a more aesthetic view, including the site banner. However, it re-flows the site, leaving lots of empty space to scroll over. Regardless, the rendering is strong and useful.

FIGURE C

Here is how Yahoo!Finance is displayed with PocketLink.

In Figure D, Xiino does an excellent job of both rendering the image and re-flowing the text densely but faithfully. My only objection is its insistence on compressing tables to fit the width of the screen instead of adding a horizontal scroll.

FIGURE D

Here is how Xiino displays Yahoo!Finance.

Blazer's horizontal scroll bar makes a significant difference with Yahoo!Finance. The table of market indices underneath the NASDAQ chart extends to the right of the screen width. Using the horizontal scroll allows the entire table to be displayed without compromise. It's shown in Figure E.