elinks vs lynx vs links vs links2 — choosing elinks

Preamble

Non-graphical web browsers have been compared in the past [1][2]. The purpose of this article is to convince you that elinks is the best tool for Linux system administrators.

Introduction

elinks, lynx, links (more information on links2 below) are web browsers that can be used in non-graphical environments, such as servers and embedded devices.

A common use-case for a non-graphical web browser is to test the availability or (simple) functionality of a site or specific web page from an external network. This can be achieved by SSHing into a server in an off-site location (perhaps in another country) and then using a non-graphical browser to view the web page.

The browsers

I’ve chosen to compare the “links” browsers because they are the most-often cited applications of their type and are very often confused.

To help minimise confusion, I have removed links2 web browser for the following reason: The links2 web browser is a more advanced version of the links browser, written by the same people. The only major difference is that links2 can also be used as a graphical browser (supporting different sized fonts and images).

Name HTTPS* HTTP Basic Auth HTTP Digest Auth Proxy Authentication Frames UTF8 Cookies
lynx ✔ **
links
elinks

* Browser can deal with encrypted connections. It may not properly handle verification of certificates.
** Content of frames available as hyperlinks

Additional Notes

links, links2, and elinks user interfaces try to more closely resemble a regular (graphical) browser, with drop-down menus and pop-up dialogues (emulated in an ncurses interface), while the lynx user interface accepts input and provides feedback at the very bottom of its interface. An apt comparison might be the emacs interface (with its drop-down menus when menu-bar-mode is enabled) versus the vi interface (with its input/feedback prompt at the bottom).