Showing posts with label Chrome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chrome. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Vimium, the hacker's browser

Vimium is an essential tool for those looking to increase their productivity regardless if you're on Windows, Mac or Linux. Read to understand.
Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

If you read this blog before, you probably know my perfect setup: Fedora Linux, the i3 window manager (or Sway), the terminalRangerVim and lot, lots of automation. I got to this setup after meticulously searching for tools that could improve my workflow so I could be more productive, doing less. However, during that journey I realized that the browsing experience  - which takes a lot of our productive time - wasn't as optimal as it could be, so I started looking for ways to optimize it as well.

Turns out that Vimium is the key ingredient on that setup. On this post, let's learn what Vimium is, what it offers, how to use it, and how you too can be more productive, regardless of what your perfect setup might be.

About Vimium

So what's Vimium? Vimium's is a browser extension that provides keyboard shortcuts for navigating and controlling your browser inspired by the Vim text editor.

But why use Vimium?

So why should you care for yet another browser extension? Because Vimium:
  • will increase your productivity: by allowing you navigate the web without using the mouse.
  • makes you work faster: when you get used with Vimium you'll be able to accomplish work faster.
  • is highly customizable: allowing you to set your own keyboard shortcuts
  • is simple to use: once you understand how it works, it'll be very intuitive
  • has Vim-like keybindings: this is what makes Vimium 
  • helps reducing your fatigue: during the day, we do thousands of movements from the keyboard to the mouse. Keeping your hands centered on the keyboard will save you a lot of energy.
  • is an active open-source project: mature and healthy open-source projects are important as they guarantee you'll receive updates, fixes and improvements. You can find it's source code here.

Supported browsers

Currently Vimium runs on most browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Brave.

Why based on Vim?

Contrary to what you may have heard, Vim is a fantastic text editor. Vim emphasizes good typing practices by leveraging the keys located around the home row. The home row (F and J) is the most efficient place to place of your fingers causing less muscular stress and reduced arm movement. Vimium brings these concepts to the browser, transforming the traditional point-click browsing experience into productivity through the use of the keyboard.

Installing Vimium

Installing Vimium is very simple. Just open the app store for your browser and click Add extension (or equivalent) button on the extension page. Google Chrome users check this page, Firefox users can find Vimium here.
Installing Vimium on your browser should be as simple as navigating to the links above, clicking the Add extension button and confirming. No restart is necessary.

Using Vimium

With Vimium installed, let's start with the basics. The most essential shortcuts are:
  • f: pressing f will make Vimium highlight all hyperlinks. Entering the key opens the link on the same tab
  • F: same as f but opens on another tab
  • x: close the current tab
  • j: scroll down
  • k: scroll up
  • d: scroll down half a page
  • u: scroll up half a page
  • gg: scroll to top of the page
  • G: scroll to bottom of the page
  • H: go to the previous page
  • L: go the the next page 
  • b: open a bookmark
  • /: search
Vimium does not run on all pages. If the V icon on your bar is grey, it's turned off.  Vim also does not run by default on Private Mode but you can configure it to, on the extension settings page.

Managing Tabs

Vimium can also manage your tabs. The most used commands are:
  • x: close the current tab
  • F + link: opens link in another tab
  • J: previous tab
  • K: next tab
  • g<num>: goes to tab <num>
  • t: create new tab
  • yt: duplicate current tab
  • X: undo close tab

Getting Help

With Vimium installed, press ? to view the default shortcuts. You should see a screen like this:

A simple example

So let's do a simple example if possible, by just using the keyboard. With Vimium installed, open its GitHub page and press f. You should see:
As you can realize, all the yellow boxes contain letters inside. Typing them will tell the browser to click those links. For example, if I pressed S, I'd be taken to the link that here points to on the same tab. Need to continue working? Just open a new tab and go from there. Change tabs with J or K (uppercase), close with x, rinse and repeat.
I used F instead of f, typing S next would open here in another tab.

Advanced Features

As previously said, Vimium is also highly configurable. Because it's out of the scope of this post, will simply point you to the official configuration. There's a lot more there and once you get used with the tool you'll probably want to explore and customize it to your needs.


On this post we explained why using Vimium may yield good results by increasing your productivity and reducing your fatigue. I hope you are excited to try it out. If you want to learn other productivity hacks, check the Ranger file manager and the Vim text editor. Together with Vimium, these tools will make your workflow way more productive.

See Also

Monday, May 14, 2018

Linux apps coming to Chromebooks

Excellent news for Chromebook users and Linux enthusiasts! Google announced that Linux apps are coming to Chrome OS.
Google recently announced that Linux apps are coming to Chromebooks! This is fantastic! But before we discuss how important that is for FOSS, Linux and which benefits it'll bring for Chromebooks owners, let's review Chromebooks and its OS, Chrome OS.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS was originally created as a Ubuntu spin off. It then migrated to Gentoo Linux and evolved to use custom Linux kernel. The UI has always been Chrome - the browser - being basically your only desktop app. The other apps initially available used were traditionally web apps (Gmail, YouTube, etc) wrapped inside a chrome window.
A Chromebook currently being sold on Google Store

Android Apps

Due to the limitations and availability of apps, Google worked to bring Android apps to the Chrome OS. While that's huge, you can run most of Android apps but not all. Reports show that the majority of other applications work flawlessly. That's million of apps. As a result, we've seeing a growing popularity of Chromebooks. But those apps lack advanced features for some users so Google decided to move further and integrate Linux apps to Chrome OS.

Linux apps on Chrome OS

In order to run Linux apps on Chrome OS, developers are working on what's called Project Crostini - an extension that will allow Linux VMs to run inside a container on Chrome OS. First spotted on Reddit, it seems it's already available on Chromium developer builds with a preview being quickly available for the Pixel book.

The main objective is to run these VMs run within containers on top of Linux's built-in Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). This has an extra benefit in terms of security as those Linux apps would have be sandboxed within the container (and/or the VM below it) so that restrictions would exist from the guest to the host.

VentureBeat has some interesting notes regarding this project. According to them, Chrome OS director of product management Kan Liu has provided some insights, including:
“We put the Linux app environment within a security sandbox, running inside a virtual machine. We made sure the user experience is seamless to the user. Whether you use a web app, whether you are using an Android app, or whether you are using a Linux app, the window treatment and the way you launch the app from the launcher is the same.”

How it will happen

Still according to VentureBeat, you won’t see the windows from the Linux side; it’s just running within a Chrome OS window. So expect Chrome to wrap those tools as regular windows similarly to how you're used on Windows and MacOS. On the backend, expect some Wine integration.

Quick Start

Another good news is that, according to Google, it's estimated that the backend VM will starts up in a second meaning that running Linux apps will happen very smoothly.


 Apart from running apps containerized within a VM, VentureBeat reports:
“The files are actually inside the VM as well. From a security standpoint, that’s what makes it safer. But you’ll be able to access files from both sides. If you were ever to get malware in the Linux side, for example, it can’t contaminate the rest of Chrome OS.”


Some extra requirements include some extra storage space (300MB for Linux and more for the apps) and Linux kernel version 4.4 or higher.


Considering that we already can run most of Android apps and soon, we'll be able to also run native Linux apps on Chrome OS, Chromebooks are definitely becoming a real operating system. The reason why I never invested time on Chromebooks is the lack of productivity tools including the terminal, compilers, source control, a robust text editor, IDEs, package management tools (apt or dnf) and other programming languages. But it will change.

I'm pretty excited about this. Hope this feature becomes stable soon enough to be able to test my favourite tools on a Chromebook.

See Also

Monday, October 30, 2017

It's time to Firefox again

Understand why now is the best time to start using Firefox again

On a previous post, I listed ways we are being tracked without consent by search engines, browsers, mobile apps, social networks, TVs, games, devices, etc. Hopefully by now, you understand why we all should be concerned with security, ethics and privacy.

But before we discuss privacy and why we should reconsider Firefox, I thought it would be interesting to do a quick recap on web browsers, this omnipresent tool in our lives.

Market Share

Today, Firefox has about 13% market share. A huge decrease if we consider that it originates from Netscape, which had close to 80% of the market two decades ago.


To understand how that happen, let's take a quick look at the browser market history

The First Browser War

Back in 1995, Netscape sailed in calm waters until a Internet Explorer 1.0 was released by Microsoft. That was the beginning of what's called the first browser wars.

According to Wikipedia:
  • By mid-1995, Netscape Navigator was the most widely used web browser and Microsoft had licensed Mosaic to create Internet Explorer 1.0 which it had released as part of the Microsoft Windows 95 Plus! Pack in August.
  • Internet Explorer 2.0 was released as a free download three months later. Unlike Netscape Navigator it was available to all Windows users for free, even commercial companies.
  • Internet Explorer 4 changed the tides of the browser wars. It was integrated into Microsoft Windows, which gave it a large installation base.

Quickly, the Windows-IE integration brought excellent results to Redmond. Now, Microsoft had two advantages in the browser market:
  • Resources - Microsoft had way more financial resources than the relatively small company that essentially had a single product (Netscape Navigator)
  • IE was bundled with Windows - since Windows had over 90% share of the desktop operating system market, IE quickly gained adoption.

Fast dominance, Slow innovation

But the market share dominance certainly was not good for consumers. A period of slow innovation started:
Microsoft was able to dominate the market share easily as customers had it as the default browser. This also brought an end to the rapid innovation in web browsers; until 2006 there was only one new version of Internet Explorer since version 6.0 had been released in 2001.

The market remained stalled for a few years until a new contender entered the market: Google Chrome.

The Second Browser War

The Chrome browser was released on December 11, 2008, using the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari and a faster JavaScript engine called V8. Google replicated Microsoft's aggressive strategy and embedded Chrome in Android. Quickly we saw Chrome surpassing Firefox and IE to reach the top spot:

Chrome Advances

Let's be honest: Chrome indeed brought us many advances. To name some: simple bookmarks and settings synchronization, web standards support, malware blocking, plugins, incognito mode, speed, stability, desktop apps, its web store, extensions, themes, automatic web page translation, release channels, frequent release cycles, etc. That's a lot!

But remember, they weren't the first to create most of these features. Firefox (and Opera) had most of those features way before them:
  • themes;
  • a web store;
  • extension support;
  • plugin support;
  • incognito mode;
  • web standards support;
  • developer tools;
  • do not track;
  • automatic updates;

The Strategy

The history repeated itself: a company with OS dominance embed  their browser and foster it as the best for you on all its channels. Example, if you go to today using Firefox you will see:

Source: (using Firefox)

Because Chrome is embedded in Android (the most popular mobile OS), has tight integration into other Google services and to ads like the above, people keep ditching alternatives and just using Chrome.

The problem

As always, problems begin when you dominate the market share. Impartial practices, disrespect to open standards, privacy concerns and all sorts of other issues happen. Common complaints in the past are now back with Chrome:

The solution

The solution is a more open Web, not a web governed by one or two companies but internet for people, not for profit. It has to include open standards, open formats, strong security and privacy that protect the users.

It's internet for the people, not for profit


Unfortunately, the web today has problems. Security, ethics and privacy are not being respected and we should work together to improve it. And it will start with us, the users. It should start with our search engines and with our browser.


That's why my browser of choice is Firefox. Because I want my privacy respected, because I want a more open web, because I support open-source software, because it has excellent development support and it's super fast!

Enhanced Tracking Protection

To get better, Mozilla has been working on the Enhance Tracking Protection feature. Starting on Firefox 63, users will be able to block all third-party cookies so they are not tracked while browsing the web.

Fast, Lightweight and Private

Bonus: Firefox Focus

I've used many browsers on different mobile devices and honestly, never have been completely satisfied. Lately, I've been using Firefox Focus and if you want speed, privacy in a lightweight browser, you got it there:


We are being tracked without consent by search engines, browsers, mobile apps, social networks, TVs, games, devices, etc. Hopefully by now, you understand why we all should be concerned with security, ethics and privacy.

There are alternative search engines and browsers that respect your privacy. Why not try and spread the word?


See Also

About the Author

Bruno Hildenbrand