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Arachne DOS Browser

1.  Arachne (Browser/E-Mail/Newsgroups/IRC)

1.1  About

Arachne is an open source graphical web browser originally developed exclusively for DOS. Most of it was written by Michael Polák, but it also includes 3rd party code, most notably the WATTCP library. It used to be a semi-commercial product in the past, and author even was able to sell several “special” licenses (see below), since 2002 (?) the license is GNU GPL. The installer file is very small - cca 1.3 MiB, it fits on a floppy.

1.2  Project history

  • Cca 1990 Zdenek Harovnik started development of the LOPIF graphics library later used in Arachne, since 1992 it supported GIF file format using the problematic LZW84 algorithm (no problem since 2004, nobody cared before), after 1996 it “got part of” Arachne
  • 1995 idea to develop a DOS browser coming up, author’s experiments with TCP/IP programming
  • 1996-Apr development of Arachne started by Michael Polák, xChaos software , some alpha versions released
  • 1996-Dec-22 released 1.0beta2
  • 1997-Apr-30 released 1.02 (version 1.0 was never released)
  • 1997 to 2001 making business with Arachne was possible, it was valuable (or even unique), author sold many standard user licenses as well as some “special” licenses for versions adapted to customer’s needs as well as a source code license to CALDERA used for the DR WebSpyder browser (see Browsers)
  • 1999 xChaos software company renamed to Arachne Labs , author developing sympathy for Linux and GPL, open sourced LOPIF and parts of Arachne package, not yet full source of CORE.EXE (?)
  • 2001-Jan-20 released 1.70
  • 2002-Oct-30 released 1.71, after additional developers obtained access to source code and made contributions, open sourced it at this occasion (?), Michael Polák left the browser development, but continuing with “Arachne Labs” as a “banal internet company”
  • 2003-Nov-08 released 1.73 GPL
  • 2003 to 2008 development of the GPL version by glennmcc and other contributors, also some alternative builds/versions released by other people during this time, meanwhile the usefulness of Arachne unfortunately degraded due to increasing usage of Javascipt, Flash, and other unreasonably complicated and messy things on the internet, despite much work of the contributors, the Arachne development could follow only partially in some areas (UTF-8)
  • 2008-Nov to 2008-Dec glennmcc released 1.95 GPL and declared Arachne development for “dead”, other developers were gone before
  • 2009 to 2010 glennmcc released some super-secret very minor updates to 1.95
  • 2011-Feb RayeR enhanced screen resolution and released an Arachne package with this single update
  • 2012 super-secret CORE.EXE updates (URL length limit)
  • 2013-Mar-06 despite the death announce repeated many times, glennmcc released version 1.97, including RayeR ’s patch as well as many minor updates implemented by himself all the time from 2009 to 2013
  • it’s unclear whether glennmcc or anyone else is going to continue the development

1.3  Contributors

  • origins: Michael Polák, Zdenek Harovnik, Ivan Polak, Jan Vlaciha, Erick Engelke (WATTCP)
  • GPL development: Joe da Silva, Ray Andrews, Christof Lange, Andrej Cuckov, Michal Tyc, Vladimir B. Merlichenko , Laaca, Glenn McCorkle, Udo, RayeR

Attach:Site/arachne.gif Δ

1.4  Functionality

  • Graphical web browser with support of tables & images, lick clicking
  • Support of various VGA and VESA modes (up to 1024×768×16bpp, or even 1600×1200×16bpp since RayeR ’s version and 1.97), built-in screenshot feature (see below)
  • Mouse wheel support (needs appropriate driver)
  • HTML 3.2 with a subset of HTML 4.0
  • FTP download and upload
  • Interactive pages: Queries / Login / Post (not perfect)
  • Copy and Paste from web pages to disk and web forms (not perfect)
  • Save HTML page text into a plain-text file (formatting partially preserved)
  • BMP, GIF (static and animated), JPG and PNG (slightly buggy) images
  • IRC
  • Newsgroups
  • Support of various languages. German and French built-in and very good now, for some other there are APM’s . Also UTF-8 encoded pages are supported (not perfect, but progressing)

Not yet supported:

  • HTTPS/SSL/TLS (encrypted connections)
  • HTTP uploads (file hosting, forum attachments)
  • Javascript
  • Java Applets
  • APNG (animated PNG)
  • HTML 5 audio and video (minimally “recognized” in 1.97, but see below)
  • HTML 5 other features
  • “Flash” (but see below about “Accessing video” ;-) )
  • Most XML-related technologies (AJAX, MathML, SVG, …)
  • DBCS characters
  • Frames and “tabbed browsing” / multiple screens / “windows”
  • Downloading in the background (can download only 1 file at same time, and fully “busy” with this task then)

Partial support / known problems / bugs:

  • Page layout not always correct (too “big”)
  • CSS - incomplete handling:
    • Arachne can use only one CSS style sheet
    • If a page has several CSS files linked … Arachne will only see the last one in the list
    • Only supports this format for linked CSS style sheets: <link rel=“stylesheet” href=“skin.css”>
    • Can deadloop on buggy CSS in rare cases (Acid2 test, see below)
  • Text styles:
    • Font switching not supported, there is only one font
    • Bold and Italic supported
    • Changing text size and colours supported (yeah !!!), however, there are many ways to do this, and Arachne supports only the old “deprecated” HTML 3.xx methods, thus nowadays, with most pages using HTML 4.xx / CSS or HTML 5, including this Wiki, it won’t work and all the text will be standard size and black, see below for info and tests
  • Problems with very long pages (slow, crash)
  • Does not always automatically “refresh” the page, you might not see your new post, or even worse, when editing a Wiki or post multiple times, the previous edits are getting “reverted”, make sure to manually force refresh of affected pages regularly
  • Problems with Wiki editing:
    • Refresh issues (see above)
    • Page truncation (now fixed ?)
    • Sometimes breaks formatting
    • Can damage some “unusual” characters
    • MediaWiki: can login, but not register (“critical server error, we’ll fix it ASAP” :-D ), editing possible
    • Can edit pages up to 32 KiB source text size only, larger ones are not saved
  • Text editing (not only Wiki) has some flaws, C&P may not always work correctly, undesirable EOL’s getting inserted
  • Can’t post in phpBB3 forums (now fixed ?)
  • JPEG and PNG decoder are separate executables, invoked from CORE.EXE (slow, see below)
  • Buggy decoding/merging of some (<8 bpp) PNG’s
  • Downloaded non-text files (ZIP, PDF, OGG, …) sometimes (random ?) show as text (this problem exists to a lesser degree in other browsers too), press “=“ to debug, “content type” issue

An old version was included into PTS-DOS, also some FreeDOS distros do include a version.

1.5  Project pages / Forums / Download / Links

Project pages:


Minimal update 2014-Jan-22:…id=13401 (topic has misleading name, but it’s indeed about Arachne, scroll down)

APM Arachne plugins can be downloaded from:

Other links:

1.6  Internal design, hardware compatibility, performance

As of 1.97, Arachne is still a 16-bit real mode application. The core file providing the network access (via dial-up or packer driver, using included WATTCP library), GUI with mouse support (using the LOPIF library), HTML rendering, GIF decoding (also animated, code “moved out” from LOPIF library) and BMP support is named CORE.EXE and is a 16-bit real mode executable, source code is in C language and compiles with the Borland C 3.1 compiler. The main version is “optimized” for “387″, thus at least 80386 CPU + FPU are required, however there is also a (bigger and slower) version for 8086 (no FPU required either). The core can’t decode JPG or PNG, this is done by external “file-to-file” decoders. For JPG both 16-bit and 32-bit versions are supplied, 32-bit is the default, for PNG only a 32-bit version exists. The 32-bit decoders are compiled with DJGPP and don’t include any DPMI host, thus CWSDPMI will be searched if no host is resident yet. It might be a good idea to replace the buggy included CWSDPMI r3 by r5 or r7 or HDPMI32, and make it resident. Obviously decoding with writing to a disk is very slow, so a RAMDISK should be supplied for this purpose. Also since the low memory provided by DOS is obviously insufficient for Arachne’s work, it is necessary to provide XMS (preferred, needs many handles so something like DEVICE=HIMEMX.EXE /NUMHANDLES=72 should be done at DOS startup), EMS, or, as very worst choice, swap space on the disk (you also can swap to a RAMDISK, bypassing Arachne’s limited amount of XMS supported).

… VESA hardcoded mode numbers, 1028×768 or 1600×1200 limit, support of ancient cards, removed by Ray (?) …

1.7  Handling of various file types, “MIME.CFG” file

Arachne can receive various file types from the Internet using HTTP or FTP, or from local storage. Handling of them depends from the file type determined following way :

  • Files downloaded using HTTP are classified by the “content type” sent by the server (for example “image/png” for PNG), press “=“ to check, see for more info and a complete list
  • Files downloaded using FTP or coming from local storage are classified by extension

No attempt is made to autodetect file type by content.

The file “MIME.CFG” defines file types by “content type” and extension, and actions for those files (for example HTM is displayed “directly”, PNG is fed into an external decoder, DOC or PDF kept as downloaded). Unknown types are kept as downloaded.

1.8  Downloading from Rapidshare (obsolete ?) 783) Tue, Sep 07, 2010 - 9:30:06 pm (EDT) (GMT-0400)

1.9  Accessing video (partially obsolete)


Information about MPlayer and Arachne (support of streaming) is available here:

see also Mplayer

Downloading videos from YouTube using APM’s 1239) Fri, Aug 27, 2010 - 6:46:40 pm (EDT) (GMT-0400) (obsolete)

YTCRACK by Fred (see Arachne forum and Fred ’s page)

Online services (obsolete)

“FLVRETRIEVER” service allows (no longer) to download “FLASH” FLV files from online video services like YouTube or GoogleVideo for later viewing with MPLAYER - other browsers display them using JS+FLASH “technology” (without allowing easily to save the complete file), Arachne can’t do anything - you will be asked to install and enable JS+Flash, see GallBrowsers . For FireFox browser there is “MediaPirate” plugin allowing to download the file, thus FLVRETIREVER just replaces this “pirate” :-D

Also there is the new OGG Theora based video hosting service Tinyvid . It allowed you to post a YouTube link and the server will pick the video from there and convert it into Theora. The transfer + conversion will take some time, so you will have to recheck the result page later to get the video. The primary purpose of the thing was testing of the new HTML 5 video support in Firefox (final 3.5, was originally 3.1 beta), however it also allows to download the resulting movie “the straightforward way” , so it is useful to bypass YouTube’s incompatibility with Arachne as well (videos still there but no conversion anymore - needs login and this doesn’t work …).

Youtube is apparently (slowly) switching form Flash to HTML5 using WebM/VP8 and MPEG4/X264 codecs. But they still try to prevent people from downloading the movies.

1.10  Screenshooting & screenshots

There are multiple ways to create screenshots of Arachne:

  • Printscreen key - built-in feature, you can specify file name and path where to save (you must specify a new name on every shot, else previous file gets silently replaced), saves complete visible screen
  • CTL-P - built-in feature, saves the complete page height (if “virtual screen” setting is high enough), with a fixed width found in “BMP width” setting (page will be incomplete if value is too low), doesn’t include the GUI outside of the page area, this is a feature rather unique among browsers
  • Some TSR screenshooter (SNARF works fine, will auto-increment file names)
  • The optical way ( see Gallery )

See GallBrowsers for shots ;-)

2.  See also

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Page last modified on July 22, 2016, at 06:32 PM