Text-Only Web Browsers

If you were born in the late 80s or 90s, you may not even know what a text-only web browser is. It does not mean that you open Firefox and disable images. A true text-only web browser is opened in a Unix or Linux terminal window or console and uses nothing but good old fashioned text to display web sites.

For a dedicated server administrator, text-only browsers serve two very useful purposes:

1. Checking the accessibility of websites. The way you perceive text to flow may not be the actual way it does flow in a text-only environment or with a screen reader. You may also find that your “alt” descriptions in your image tags are sorely lacking in detail.

2. If you manage your server remotely with SSH, you may actually find a reason to use a text-only browser. There may be times when you need to visit a particular site and download files directly to your server. Wget will work for direct downloads but may not always work for redirects.

Popular Text-Only Browsers

Lynx -This browser is one of the oldest and tries to remain as purely text-based as possible, not applying styles or formatting from web pages. As such, is it a great tool to use to test accessibility. It does support SSL and some HTML features, such as cookies. Images display their “alt” tags.

ELinks – Described as a “Full-Featured Text WWW Browser”, ELinks includes support for many traditionally graphical features like CSS, tables, Javascript, SSL, and tabs. Similar to Lynx, images are displayed as the text found in their “alt” tags.