w3browse is a text-based web-browser that can be used to display various types of hypertext documents. Its main focus is on providing textual representations of pages. The browser cannot display inline images nor is it able to execute client scripts or other forms of active content. Instead, inline images are replaced by appropriate texts and framesets are transformed to nested lists with links to the frame parts. Client-side image maps are handled in a similar manner.

HTML, WML, RSS and plain text documents are the domain of w3browse. A broad range of character encodings is supported, e.g. iso-8859-1, utf-8, windows-1252, shift_jis, and many more. Internally, utf-8 is used to represent all characters, but only a small subset can actually be displayed. Other characters from certain languages are transliterated to the target character encoding, e.g. from greek, cyrillic and japanese (katakana and hiragana).

w3browse knows about many protocols for fetching documents such as http, https, ftp, ftps, file, wsp and wsps. All protocols except ftp, ftps and file can also be used for proxy server connections, e.g. to HTTP proxy servers or to WAP gateways. A special protocol named internal is further available and is used to access certain internal applications. Cookies are also supported, but they are always handled like session cookies and are only accepted from and sent back again to the originating server.

Additionally, w3browse offers the possibility to create and maintain off-line caches. Multiple sessions may be created and merged later to form one large cache. A cache may further be indexed to make its contents searchable. This feature is rudimentary, but fairly effective.

There is also functionality available in w3browse for reading, composing and managing e-mails. The browser can fetch messages via pop3 or pop3s and can send them using smtp or smtps, all with authentication. The e-mail viewer is able to display complex multipart MIME messages and the e-mail composer may be used to generate multipart MIME messages that may have multiple attachments.

Many features of w3browse are provided by internal applications that are based on a scripting language and that operate within a kind of internal server environment. These applets include the e-mail application as well as a simple Wiki-like text-based web page editor for HTML, RSS and RDF documents.

The user interface of w3browse is based on a text window manager that operates either on a tty or within a native GUI window of the system. It can be controlled completely by a keyboard or by a pointer device such as a mouse or a stylus, but with the exception that a keyboard may be required for input of text.

w3browse always uses a fixed-width and fixed-height font to present rendered text. Colors may be attached to different kinds of elements in order to visually distinguish them, e.g. by showing all hyperlinks in red and displaying form elements white on black. Many formatting and displaying parameters can be set to preferred values by the user in order to get reasonable and appealing text representations of pages.

Because of its platform independent design, w3browse is able to run on a wide variety of systems. These include UNIX-like systems in general as well as MS-Windows based systems, but certain restrictions may be observed on the latter. Desktop PCs and Workstations are a common choice for the hardware platform of these systems, but handheld computers and perhaps other types of devices such as smartphones may also provide reasonable alternatives.