“Tungsten is a simple web browser with unique features.”
That is an understatement. Indeed, let’s explore one of my new favorite browsers.
Tungsten is a Japanese, dual-engine browser using Blink and Trident, the rendering engines of browsers such as Chrome and Internet Explorer respectively. It is available as installer and portable versions, and it requires Windows 7 SP1 or newer and a CPU with an SSE2 instruction set to run. Virtually any Windows PC made in the past decade or so should be able to execute it.
When you open it for the first time, you’ll be met with a browser window with a minimal interface and a simple background. A Tungsten icon menu, similar to the ones in the likes of Firefox and Opera, occupies the top left. Next to it is the default Quick Start icon which will take you to Tungsten’s homepage. You can change the shortcut, add your own, or hide the Quick Start bar entirely via a right click. Beneath its tab bar is its version of the browser toolbar. The toolbar is similar to Chrome’s or Opera’s in that there are forward and backward navigation buttons, a refresh icon, Favorites (Tungsten’s name for bookmarks), and an omnibar which automatically resizes once Chrome extensions are installed. The two additions the browser adds are a page menu (the rendering engine’s settings menu) after the refresh icon and a rending engine indicator/switcher after Favorites.
On the surface, Tungsten appears to be to Chrome as what many believe Opera is to, well, Chrome: a Chrome with a subtly modified UI with much less of Google’s influence.
Alas, explore a bit, and you’ll discover you can do this:
Being familiar with multiple browsers, I instantly thought of another favorite of mine, Vivaldi.
They do share their similarities even if the names of the functions themselves are different:
- Tab Grouping/Stacking: groups tabs together to free up space on the tab bar and to make it easier to manage tabs
- Split View/Tab Tiling: splits the browser window’s view layout between two or more tabs without needing to create multiple windows
- Chrome extension and apps support: for most extensions
- Loading and saving sessions
- Customizable mouse gestures
And so forth.
Tungsten handles tab grouping and split view a little differently than Vivaldi.
To create a group, drag one tab onto the center of another until the second becomes highlighted in a light blue and then let go of the first tab.
Tab grouping in Tungsten is a little more flexible in that it is easier to navigate through individual tabs within a group. As you can see in the screenshot, the tabs get represented by a renameable Group tab on the main tab bar, and the tabs get sent to a newly created tab bar immediately underneath the first. You can then create a group within this group by repeating with two or more grouped tabs. The grouped tabs’ tab bar automatically hides once any tab outside of the group is given focus. This does take up vertical space because of the addition of one or more tab bars, although I enjoy its and Vivaldi’s integrations about just as equally. Just having two, nicely done variations of tab grouping is really welcome, I believe. You can change the orientation of any one tab bar to left, right, of course top, but not bottom. Doing so will not forceably change the position of all the others. Only that specific tab bar’s orientation is changed, which says quite a bit about the flexibility of Tungsten’s tab UI.
To further illustrate tab grouping and to introduce split view a bit more, here is another image I took:
Each view that you see is adjustable unlike Vivalvi’s current tab tiling implementation. A good way to describe Tungsten’s split view is that it can turn the browser into a jigsaw puzzle of sorts. You don’t have to do that and can opt for simple vertical splits or horizontal splits instead. Also, you can automatically open hyperlinks in a split automatically via the “Open in Next New Tab” option in the browser’s context (right-click) menu.
Tungsten does bookmarks a bit differently, as well. In addition to Favorites (standard bookmarks), it has an Other Favorites menu that contains your Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome bookmarks.
It’s as if Tungsten realizes it’s more than a browser and, subsequently, it has features which allow it to try to make up for its browser-related shortcomings.
Speaking of which, as another such example, it has a Local Apps feature–seen in the previous screenshot–which works similarly to Local Folder. This can lead to some exciting scenarios:
Indeed, what you’re viewing is Vivaldi and Audacity smoothly running as tabs within Tungsten. Not every application will work, of course. I was not able to have Window 10’s Task Manager UI render in this manner, although I only tried for a couple of minutes. I wouldn’t expect to have a graphically intensive game running in windowed mode as a tab, and I did not make an attempt because the very thought is perplexing. Using SMPlayer does work perfectly for me, nevertheless.
This is not to say that Tungsten’s shortcomings should be overlooked. The ones most noticeable to me are:
- only one-window browsing
- the inability to change its Google custom search to another search engine (the development team did this in order to fund their work because of how small the team and the user base currently are)
- no history and bookmarks autofills in the address bar
- no options to change where new tabs should be opened, either next to the current tab or at the end of the tab bar
- no incognito mode
- an incompatibility with a few Chrome extensions, particularly those that modify the browser’s tab bar, address bar, etc.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered workarounds by using extensions, Favorites, Quick Start, Local Apps, and so on for all of these except for the first and the fourth points. One-window browsing does not bother me as long as the browser has advanced tab management, and Tungsten definitely does. I installed New Tab Redirect for the latter, but it seems like it does not work all of the time. I’ll continue observing how tabs open and search for a replacement if it consistently fails to function. Nevertheless, this is a minor concern at best to me because splitting and grouping tabs has made this not much of an issue, personally.
No browser is objectively perfect, but if it offers the most features and functionality that you want that you are able to overlook its shortcomings, then it is perfect for you. Tungsten is it for myself (as well as others such as Vivaldi, Pale Moon, and Cent Browser). This may be the best one-monitor browser for a power user. Its split view is a little more dynamic than Vivaldi’s equivalent, the tab grouping is on par with Vivaldi’s tab stacking, and it’s compatible with a mature ecosystem of apps and extensions because it runs on Blink and Chromium. Tungsten is the only browser I know of that can run other browsers and other desktop apps, running them well at that, within it. I can’t blame anyone who believes that seems like a gimmick or an experiment at best, but just imagine watching a series in your favorite video player app like VLC, MPC, or SMPlayer in a unique, 73%-27% split view with Discord, Skype, or your other favorite messaging apps without needing to alt-tab or pause the video because the chat will overlap the video, bring up the chat, re-focus the video, restart it, and repeat as necessary.
I’m just amazed at the work that this two-person development team has done since at least late 2015 if we go by releases. Speaking of releases, they do release beta, experimental builds of new features with up-to-date versions of Chromium. Going by both of these facts, it appears that they will continue to commit to Tungsten. Their willingness to reach out to an international user base even in spite of their claim of a limited understanding of English is admirable, as well. Tungsten is well-needed in the browser space because it, Vivaldi, and Pale Moon are of a few browsers that we could describe as being modular in the sense that you can make a substantial amount of the UI to your liking. For that, I wish the Tungsten team and all the other development teams continued success.