Browsing With Xtravo Explorer Is a Unique but Uneven Experience

The last time I reviewed the free Xtravo Explorer, I saw it as a Web browser with some interesting features--but not one ready for full time use. This time around, the feature list has been reduced, but the bug list has not.

Xtravo Explorer screenshot
A clean and compact interface is Xtravo Explorer's main feature.

Xtravo Explorer pledges speed, stability, and security. It does deliver on its first promise; page rendering is quite quick, and the interface elements are snappy and responsive. For security, Xtravo has an array of predefined blocked sites (a mix of what seem to be fake anti-virus/anti-spyware sites and porn sites, though they can hardly be called close to comprehensive), and a popup blocker which...well, that leads to the middle term, "stability."

To be clear and fair, Xtravo Explorer is stable in the most common sense of the word: It's never crashed or frozen on me. However, its feature set is, putting it as politely as possible, "quirky." With the "super popup blocker" on, clicking a link that would opens in a new page by default (a standard on many sites, such as fark.com), produces "popup blocked." You can right-click to "Open in new tab," except when that option is grayed out, because it is no longer supported. Instead, "Open In New Window" opens in a new tab.

If you want to set your tabs to always open to a given page (for example, Google), you might think that typing "http://www.google.com" in the appropriate option field would do the trick. Hah! First, unless you click the "Set Custom Option" button next to the field, what you typed won't "stick"--a violation of basic Windows interface guidelines. Worse, Xtravo will automatically stick "http://" in front of whatever you typed, even if it's already there--making the URL invalid.

There's a general pattern of inconsistency throughout Xtravo Explorer. On some pages, I could use the scroll bar "thumb" to drag up and down; on others, I had to click the bar itself.

Perhaps most problematic, Flash--medium of choice for most interactive Web content--doesn't work properly on my main testing system. It's a 64-bit Windows 7 system, and Flash does not have a 64-bit version. This is obviously not Xtravo Explorer's fault. However, Flash runs fine in 32-bit browsers, which is why it works in Firefox and Internet Explorer on that same 64-bit system. Xtravo has only a single download--no choice between 32 bit and 64 bit versions. Xtravo Explorer actually contains both 32- and 64-bit versions of the functions in the same executable and automatically uses the 64-bit version on a 64-bit machine. There is one additional annoyance worth mentioning: Xtravo Explorer will change your Internet Explorer home page, without asking. This is a big no-no.

On a positive note, Xtravo has some extremely useful tools for Web page analysis, including a quite robust page structure inspector which shows the HTML outline tree in one pane and the page in another. Click an item on the page to see where it is in the document structure tree. It also has a feature to download all embedded graphics on a page, giving you several options for storage. Both of these are handy tools and should be standard features in the "big boys."

At this point, it's hard for me to recommend Xtravo Explorer as anything other than a curiosity. It is under active development, though, and I will watch for its future versions with great interest.

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