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So far I have tried Firefox (latest and greatest) and Chrome (also latest and greatest), and while Chrome runs faster than Firefox over X11 from my CentOS server to my Windows 7 workstation, it's still pretty sluggish.

What other GUI browsers are available for Linux that would [likely] run faster than Chrome?

I've not tried Opera 11, but have had many issues with it under Windows and Mac OS X directly, so am waiting for a new version before going that route.

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Why would you want to do this? I'd think it would be better to configure a local browser to use a proxy which would be on the remote system with its connection being carried over ssh. – Dan D. Mar 22 '12 at 12:52
@Dan D. - a variety of reasons - not the least of which is that enabling X forwarding is desirable for other applications on the host that I want/need to access remotely – warren Mar 22 '12 at 12:56
Unfortunately, I think you're going to have to accept that running a modern browser over X11 forwarding will be sluggish. Just because you have other applications you want to forward doesn't mean you have to run the browser remotely, though. – jjlin Mar 22 '12 at 15:50
@DanielAndersson please don't go around and leave comments like that on every question you answer. Users don't have to accept an answer, even though you're absolutely right, it would help if they explained why not. But such is life – Ivo Flipse Apr 10 '12 at 13:22
Example of why you'd want this: Sometimes you need to download a file to a remote system and that download requires you to go through a captcha. Neither a proxy nor a text browser would solve this problem. – Watcom Aug 16 '14 at 19:38
up vote 2 down vote accepted

There are a few browsers that run a bit (to much) better over X11 forwarding.

Midori is a lightweight, tabbed browser that should run well.

Xlinks2 should work over X11 forwarding pretty well as well.

uzbl and surf are both browsers I've used that should work well over X11 because they're very minimal.

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The main reason X11forwarding is showing lag is because of the cipher that you are using to connect with, and not the actual browser itself.

You will find much better performance if you change the encryption to arcfour or blowfish.

I had the same issue, and found that this pretty much eliminated all of the lag. The downside is that these ciphers are not as secure as AES which is the typical default.

If you are on a windows machine using putty, you can change the encryption cipher selection policy under Connection/SSH/ . You should also enable compression on that same screen and save it as the default for the connection you are loading.

If you are connecting from one linux machine to the other, the connect string looks like this: ssh -XC4c arcfour,blowfish-cbc hostnameorip

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Changing encryption to arcfour worked for me. I think this cipher combined with something like https-everywhere is suitable for most people's needs. – Carlos Nunez Oct 9 '13 at 5:47

I've found that running a VPN (server) on the remote machine and then connecting to that VPN remotely using your local machine and locally running browser allows you to have access to the remote IP space while still running the browser on your local machine. I use openvpn since it's easy and quick to setup.

Since only the HTTP traffic, rather than screen redraws, etc are forwarded it's just as fast as it would be if you were on the remote machine- minus the inefficiency of the encryption.

It's not quite the solution you asked about but while trying many lightweight browsers- xxxterm, etc and even resorting to lynx once in a while never worked out well. The VPN solution however, is more than serviceable even while tethering from your phone.

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Even if you use a browser that is light-weight on CPU and RAM on the server, in this case the limiting factor will undeniably [1] be the network. What you want to avoid is mostly unnecessary screen rendering.

  • Turn off "smooth scrolling" and such features. Use PgUp/PgDn instead of continuously scrolling if you have the choice (a single screen update is much faster than 30 just to see a full page).
  • Keep a small browsing window (but not so small so you have to scroll a lot more as per previous point).
  • Block animated material (animated GIFs are not that common nowadays, so blocking flash will probably do fine).
  • Consider using VNC, which will compress the image transfer in a clever way. This gives me a much snappier experience when forced to use GUI over slow connections.
  • Don't underestimate text-based browsers if there is something you quickly need to do on the server.
  • Proxy and/or port tunneling through SSH avoid/s the problem completely. You just want to transfer the information, it is unnecessary to transfer the complete presentation layer.

[1]: Unless you have a very fast connection (~100Mbps in my experience); then any browser will probably do without being more annoying than using the browser locally. I am blessed with this in my remote needs.

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This answer is actually much better than the chosen answer. The complexity of the browser has nothing to do with how fast it runs over X11 forwarding, only how often it needs to send screen update information, which depends on configuration and usage. Additionally, you can lower the resolution or number of colors which will dramatically increase responsiveness. Having said this, uzbl is a good choice because it uses key bindings natively although most browsers can be configured in the same way using plugins. This will help reduce lag further. – sillyMunky Jun 8 '12 at 10:02

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