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Best browser to view pages offline? / IE takes ages to time out.

I need to browse lots of web pages offline that I've saved.  I am using IE8 in offline mode.

It works ok, but some of the pages contain references to JS or CSS files that reside on a webserver, and it takes some time before IE times out.

Is there a way of changing the timeout to zero?  I've already changed the reg keys:

KeepAliveTimeout

ServerInfoTimeout

But no joy.  Any ideas?  Is there a browser specifically designed for offline viewing that I might find is better?

Jonny
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jonnyguitar
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jonnyguitar
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BillDLCommented:
Jonny

I used to mess around a lot with "distributable" CDs where I needed everything self-contained and running only from the CD without having any dependencies on the host computer's installed applications.  I tested out a lot of "offline browsers" and found a few that did not write registry settings or dump *.ini of other configuration files on the computer.  Some programs masquerading as "browsers" are actually just an "overlay" of sorts that depend on Internet Explorer resources for the basic functionality, and they just skin and enhance some of the functions.

The ones I eventually used that were truly independent were slightly delimited in some respects, eg. no PNG image support, some couldn't handle complex JavaScript or CSS, etc, but they were very quick for reasonably simple web pages stored locally and for what I needed at the time.

That was quite a number of years ago now though.  Out of curiosity I've just searched again to see if any have been updated or kept under development, and I'm struggling to even find some of them now.

Here's an example of one I used:
http://offbyone.com/offbyone/
http://offbyone.com/offbyone/ob1_overview.htm
It seems to have been updated to some extent, although only to HTML 3.2 and some HTML 4 support, and the reason it is so fast is because of what it says at the bottom of the overview page:
No JavaScript support (so no pop-up ad windows).
No applet, plug-in or Flash support.

Faico Information Solutions (http://www.faico.net/) used to have two fast and streamlined browsers named Likse and Navroad that were often used on CDs for browsing the local content, but I see that they are into Web Design Software now.  Likse (http://www.faico.net/likse/) and Navroad (http://www.faico.net/navroad/) are still there, they haven't been updated since 2006 and 2004 respectively, and will hardly have support for modern web pages at all.

There is a clear difference between using an "offline" browser to navigate a locally saved website or web pages when ALL the components for each of the pages (images, scripts, etc) are also saved locally.  That way you can disable caching of pages (which takes time and can eventually bog a browser down) because the required files are already cached locally ready for re-use.

When a browser still has to fetch and download external content from a web server, that is still going to slow things down unless you start disabling security restrictions and so on.  It would make sense to have one browser configured very specifically for browsing offline pages only, but when there is still the possibility of malicious content being fetched in from external sources you are exposing your computer.

I have found that Google Chrome is currently the fastest browser for general use, but because each tab creates a completely new instance of itself to mitigate complete browser freeze-ups and crashes caused by one single page, it can get slower and slower after a while.  It's also a nuisance for launching and then navigating to an offline page to open, being devoid of a traditional File menu > Open option.  It isn't as configurable as Firefox or Opera, even digging deeply behind the scenes, and doesn't (as far as I know) have quite as many command line options available for launching it in different ways as are available to Firefox and Opera.

There are loads of web pages that give advice on how to speed up Internet Explorer, but because it is (up to and including IE8 but perhaps not so much in IE9) a kind of shared resource and almost integral to Windows, you have to be careful so as not to expose vulnerabilities.

Putting ethics aside for a moment, the only real way to save a web page or site in its entirety so that the browser doesn't have to keep fetching external content in is to use a program like HTTrack (http://www.httrack.com/) to "mirror" what parts of a website you need.  Even when you do a File > Save As > Web Page Complete in Internet Explorer, it might not save some of the images that are loaded into the page courtesy of the paths set in the CSS file(s).  Even saving as an *.MHT file, which can be opened in IE, Opera, and I think Firefox, isn't guaranteed to download and pack all the content into the single file, and I don't think there is any real advantage in doing so other than to minimise clutter.

I suppose that it MIGHT be possible to start going through some of your saved content looking at the URLs for all the *.js and *.css files that the pages load, then save those locally, and then use a Search and Replace program to overwrite the URLs to these in the HTML code.  That all depends whether you have all your pages saved into logical folders by site and can therefore re-use the same script files from one folder.  It would be an awful lot of work if you had just saved random pages here and there over the years, and would hardly be worth even starting.

In your situation I would probably be inclined to choose one browser (Firefox or Opera) and dedicate it to browsing the offline content.  That way you can configure it for speed and efficiency.  You could create a shortcut to it with all the appropriate command line options so that it launches in a suitable way for the purpose.  There are "portable" versions of popular browsers (http://portableapps.com/apps/internet) that are really designed to be run from a USB Flash Drive that all your settings will be written back to, and so you can take it from one computer to another.  They will, however, run perfectly well if installed to a folder on the hard drive and in some experiments I have done they have run faster than when installed using the normal package.

The obvious things to disable, no matter what browser you might choose to dedicate to browsing your offline files, would be automatic updates.  I always know when Google Chrome has been updating behind the scenes because it slows browsing down considerably for a while.  You would obviously have to do manual updates at intervals.

I really don't know what to recommend, because "the web" has been changing quite dramatically of recent times.  For quite a while Flash content (banners, ads, alternatives to animated GIFs) has been a ubiquitous part of browsing because Internet connection speeds haven't made them as annoying as they used to be.  Many sites are now steering away from Flash content in favour of HTML5 and CSS3 so that the pages will be viewable in mobile devices as well as modern browsers.  I do know that I hardly use Internet Explorer unless I have to now, for example Windows Update, because of the very thing you are annoyed about ie. takes ages to close completely.

Good luck with your quest, and hopefully my personal observations might assist you in figuring out the best option for your needs.
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BillDLCommented:
Thank you Jonny
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