Maxthon Cloud Browser for Windows

Best known as a popular alternative to Internet Explorer during the Windows 95/98 era, the newest version of Maxthon for Windows was launched as a 'cloud browser' in December. Here's a look at v.4.0.6 what sets it apart from other browsers.

First Look: Maxthon Cloud Browser for Windows
First Look: Maxthon Cloud Browser for Windows

Best known as a popular alternative to Internet Explorer during the Windows 95/98 era, the newest version of Maxthon for Windows was launched as a “cloud browser’’ in December and updated in May. We looked at v.4.0.6 to check out its revamped GUI and to see what sets it apart from other browsers.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Elaborate overlay design

The first two versions of Maxthon from long ago were actually shells running atop Internet Explorer. They bolted on several add-ons and tools to bolster the security of IE, but also introduced convenient features which included a tabs UI. This design approach is carried on in Maxthon 4 for Windows.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Flatter is better

Maxthon 4 for Windows sports a so-called “flat” aesthetic that’s all the rage in UI design now: an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines with sharp corners dressed in a light-grays-and-white default theme. The icons for the browser’s built-in tools are colored in an appropriately subdued scheme with limited palette. In comparison, Maxthon 3’s icons used a greater range of brighter colors and this caused the browser’s overall GUI to look busy and confusing.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Still feels a bit cluttered

This new GUI could use some more trimming, though. Right out of the box, Maxthon 4 comes augmented with a search box and tool icons set toward the right side of the toolbar; more tool icons on the lower-right of the browser window; and a sidebar along the left side (which provides access to your bookmarks, downloads, notes and RSS feeds). We grant that many of these are useful, but the fact that they are already activated by default, and the way they are placed, clashes with the simpler look of the new GUI.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Capitalizing on the cloud

So what qualifies Maxthon 4 as a “cloud browser”? It’s basically mostly marketing, as you may have suspected. You can sync your bookmarks list, browser settings and passwords to access from other computers and mobile devices on which you also use Maxthon 4. You enable this function by starting a free user account at my.maxthon.com.

This type of cross device sync is offered by all the popular browsers, of course, and it was available in Maxthon 3, too. Maxthon 4 throws in three new additions:

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Cloud Push

Right-click on an image, link or text, and the Cloud Push tool menu opens. You can send the item you selected to your personal cloud drive (AKA My Cloud) on the Maxthon servers; to another computer or mobile device of yours running Maxthon 4 (Android smartphone, Android tablet, OS X or Windows versions); or to up to five people by entering their email address or texting phone number.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
My Cloud Tabs

My Cloud Tabs is a tab syncing feature where you can send tabs that you have open on Maxthon 4 to another computer or device of yours running Maxthon 4 -- and you can download tabs that are open on these remote instances of the browser to your local system, as well.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Download, then upload to the cloud

As you download a file, you can choose to have it also be saved to your My Cloud storage space on my.maxthon.com. This process doesn’t work entirely through the cloud. The browser first downloads the file to your computer, then uploads it to your cloud storage space. This is no different than if you download a file and upload it to any other cloud storage service, such as Dropbox or SkyDrive, though Cloud Download goes through these steps automatically but will only upload your file to the Maxthon company’s servers.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Two rendering engines, one browser

Starting in Maxthon 3, WebKit was implemented as the browser’s default layout engine -- the same one that runs Safari and, for now, Chrome. But Maxthon 3 for Windows retained access to the IE engine, Trident, that’s built into Windows. So this made it unique being a Web browser that used two layout engines. Maxthon 4 for Windows uses WebKit as its primary engine, and keeps Trident as its secondary.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Built-in tools

Speaking of a cluttered UI design: previous versions of Maxthon included useful tools built-in that were the kind typically available on other browsers as separate add-ons. There aren’t any new ones in Maxthon 4, but there are a few that first appeared in prior versions which remain in Maxthon 4 worth mentioning.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Reader Mode

A reader-friendly mode enlarges the main body of text on a page and removes ads and other unrelated elements around the words. This tool is similar to Readability (which is available as a browser add-on, mobile app, web app, or web bookmarklet), but often works faster and better at successfully reformatting a page into an easier-to-read layout.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Resource Sniffer

Resource Sniffer can extract links to audio, images and video on a page, so that you can access them directly. This only works with embedded media which are not protected by security schemes that prevent such content from being downloaded by the end user.

Maxthon 4 for Windows
Snap

Clicking a camera icon button on the toolbar will summon the tool Snap, which lets you take a screenshot of an entire web page or a portion of it you select. It’s a nice thing to have readily available since on other browsers good add-ons that can screen-capture a web page -- and do so for free -- are few.