Think of web browsers for Windows and it’s the usual suspects that spring to mind – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, et al. There are plenty of others to choose from, but generally peaking it is the same names that crop up again and again.
Move to mobile platforms and things start to get a little more fragmented. There may not be as many web browsers available for Android as for Windows, but users are often more willing to try something new. One browser that has proved very popular with owners of Android devices is UC Browser HD, and the same app is now available for Windows 8.
Introducing the Browser
Fire up UC BrowserHD and you’d be forgiven for thinking that things look rather familiar. The first thing you see is the Speed Dial screen which borrows heavily from Opera, but it is all wrapped up in a modern, Windows 8 style interface.
By default you will find that this screen houses tiles that link to popular sites such as Facebook, Google, Gmail and Twitter, but you can easily customize the shortcuts to be anything you prefer. Editing is achieved by right clicking a tile and this also provides access to the ‘Open in Background’ option – which amounts to opening the bookmark in a new tab that does not grab focus.
Zoom out a level and you can browse through more built in bookmarks in categories such as News, Lifestyle and Videos. Right click any of the tiles here and you can opt to move them to a more prominent position on the Speed Dial screen or add to your regular list of bookmarks.
Browser in Action
Being a simple web browser, things are all fairly intuitive – there are few options that are kept out of sight. Unlike the majority of other web browsers, the address bar and navigation tools appear at the bottom of the screen rather than the top. This is not a problem, but it does take a little getting used to.
Next to the address bar is the search box complete with a menu that can be used to select one of several search engines. Unfortunately, there is no option to edit this list or add search engines of your own.
There are not a huge number of options to explore, but all of the essentials are covered – although, slightly oddly, the available settings are accessed through a menu in the app rather than through Windows 8’s Charms bar.
There is more than a nod to privacy. As you would expect, it is possible to wipe out your browsing history so other people who use your computer are not able to see how you have been using the internet, and there is also the ever-useful option to work in Incognito mode if you would prefer to retain the majority of your browsing history, but keep some aspects private.
If you want to gain a little extra screen space and work in a virtually full screen mode, disable the Lock Toolbar option to hide the address bar when it’s not needed.
Although skinning is not available as such, the browser can be customized by changing the background image that appears in the tab area. There are a limited number of built in images to choose from, but you can also select one of your own.
There are a couple of issues worth mentioning. Although there is support for tabbed browsing, it is not possible to re-order them. They can be individually opened and closed, but drag and drop support is absent.
The download manager window is a nice idea. It should enable you to monitor downloads as they take place as well as easily accessing completed downloads, but it does not pick up every file transfer. Download an image by right clicking it, for example, and it will not appear in the list.
The need for yet another browser in an already crowded market place is not certain. Competition is always a good thing, but there are already plenty of browsers competing for attention and helping to push development forward.
That’s not to say that UC BrowserHD does not have its place. It is a great piece of software. The likes of Chrome may have special Windows 8 modes available as an option, but this one of the few apps which has been designed for use solely in this mode – there is no regular desktop mode to work in.
Will you be swayed from using your regular browser? Do you prefer to use a browser in standard desktop mode or as a ‘modern’ app? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.