There is a major new release of the UCWEB browser in the works. It’s Version 7.0 and is already in its second Beta. The official Beta releases are Chinese only but several users have created English translations and posted them to the UCWEB User Forum.
No one seems to have translated the Symbian S60 3rd edition variant of 7.0 Beta 2 yet, so I’m running a Java ME version on my N95, UC Browser 7 Beta 2 Java Script Improvement by Manojr Tiwari “mannuforall” and I’m generally quite pleased with it. Rendering (always UCWEB’s weakest point) seems generally improved and there are new fonts with bold support. But the biggest change is that for the first time a UCWEB Java version properly wraps English text (image below, right) rather than splitting words across two lines as 6.3 does (image below, left). You can’t believe how much that annoyed me.
I’m hopping that the fact that UCWEB created new Latin fonts set and fixed the word wrap issue, which never effected Chinese rendering, means that we will finally see a new official English version. The latest official English release is 6.3, which is getting to look pretty dated with it’s word-wrap issue and lack of features introduced in versions 6.5, 6.7 and 7.0.
A new English release is really needed because the 7.0 clients don’t seem to work properly with UCWEB 6.3’s US based English server farm. While you can download an unofficial translation of the UCWEB 7 Beta 2 which uses the 6.3 English server, when using it I get nothing but a blank page with the majority of URLs I’ve tried. It seems that 7.0 only works correctly with a 7.0 server and the only 7.0 servers currently available are in China. Speed isn’t a problem with the Chinese servers, however the fact that they are behind the infamous “Great Firewall of China” is. Access to many popular sites including Bloglines, Facebook, Blogger sites, Twitter.com and the all the third party Twitter front ends I tried seems to be blocked. At least I think that’s what happening as when I try to visit any of those sites I end up on some sort of Chinese language error page.
However, until the US servers are updated to support 7.0, which probably won’t happen until there is an official English 7.0 release, the utility of UCWEB 7.0 for me is limited because two of my favorite sites, Twitter and Bloglines are blocked. Which is a shame because UCWEB7.0 is otherwise a great browser, it’s fast, does a great job with file uploads and downloads, supports tabbed browsing and has the ability to copy and paste page content, URLs and selected text both between pages within the browser and to other applications using the system clipboard. My favorite UCWEB feature though is that it reformats all pages to fit screen width so that horizontal scrolling is never required.
The Great Firewall does let lots of sites through including Orkut, Googe Reader, My Opera, the BBC, CNN and ESPN, so depending on which site you frequent, the firewall may or may not be an issue for you.
This is also the first UCWEB unofficial English translation that doesn’t send “ch-zn” in the accept-language HTTP header. That caused lots of sites to deliver their Chinese versions with no easy way to get to the English one. With mannuforall’s 7.0 Beta 2 I get English pages for most of the sites where I used to get Chinese. The exception is with most of Google’s products which seem to be looking at the request’s IP address rather than the language header and still deliver Chinese content.
Speed Test – Opera Mini, Bolt, Skyfire and UCWEB
New UCWEB 6.6 Beta
UCWEB 6.5 English Beta
UCWEB 6.3 Official Signed English Version Released for S60
Official Release of UCWEB 6.3 For Java ME