No seagulls are involved

with this post, so no barmy hairstyles are required.

Thought I’d give”the social web browser” Flock a go, after I kept tripping over it in recent blog posts and newspaper articles, even though it’s a couple of years old now, newest release version came out just a few weeks back.

Flock My World screen shot
Flock My World screen shot

Does the world need another browser? Well it’s not really another one as such as it uses Mozilla as it’s base and so thankfully for site designers shows renders pages just like Firefox. So it’s more like a bunch of “web 2.0” modules added onto the existing browser engine.

Well I’m not much of a social browser myself, I’ve got the blog along with flickr and YouTube accounts integration of which have been built into the browser but haven’t really bothered with online bookmarking sites. So you can upload pics and videos to various online storage services. You can add your favourite media streams to a bar at the top of the browser, below the usual toolbars and the viewing pane, to see when additions are made.

It can handle blogging to most of the more famous hosted blog sites – WordPress, Blogger, Live Journal, Typepad, Xanga – as well as self hosted ones, with a built in editor. As I’ve only tried it with a test self hosted WordPress installation I figure the editor is the same for each service with a pane for WYSIWYG and source, so you can keep out the code clutter with the latter.

The browser has a sidebar window for a “Web Clipboard” where you can add anything that you want to keep for blogging etc, this you can use to drag and drop items such as pictures, videos etc to your blog posts, which is handy I’m always forgetting things I should add to posts and adding sites to the favourites just creates clutter in there. There’s also a right click menu item to “Blog this”.

Only problem here as I see it is the generic nature of the set up, with one editor to fit all. It would be good if you could pick and choose which “module” you wanted for the various blogging services and then maybe they could be developed with that one service in mind, so for WordPress you could also have a box to write a post excerpt in, also you can add tags to the posts but it just sticks those tags at then end of the actual post, link to Technorati, and so doesn’t add them to the tag list in the database so they won’t show up in tag searches or clouds. Would be nice if there was some quicktags on the source editor such as those with WordPress.

So far Flock seems to work well, though it does flag up some big numbers for CPU and Mem Usage in Task Manager the latter being well above Avant. That’s another problem with it at the mo, it’s the lazy nature I have after using Avant. I like my little floating toolbars, I prefer that to the arduous task of having to right click the mouse.

Avant image floating toolbar
Avant image floating toolbar

Mouse over an image, standard or Flash and the above pops up next to it so you can – save to disc, zoom in , zoom out, copy URL to clipboard, open image in new tab, open image with a viewer/editor (drop down list of viewers/editors on your machine) and send in an email.

Highlight some text and you get this toolbar – Copy highlighted text to clipboard, search teh interweb for selected text, search current site, find next occurrence on this page, highlight this section.

Though some Avant users don’t like these toolbars I do and find they speed things up no end.

Another thing I like about Avant is the AutoFill one click login ability, had a look around for some similar FireFox extension tried a couple but there just not quite the same, not able to group sites like they’re bookmarks and such. I also thought that’s what the built in services would do but unless I’m missing something, probably am, all they do is take you to the services site when clicked doesn’t take you to the login page and fill the details in you previously entered, which is OK as long as you stay logged in and don’t clear your cookies.

Thankfully most of the FireFox extension I use on a regular basis do work with Flock – Web Developer, FireBug, Parent Folder, Paste & Go, Tab Mix Plus – as some don’t.

Think I’ll have to search round more for some extensions as IE Privacy Keeper doesn’t work with Flock, yes you can clear your private data – cache, cookies, browsing history etc – when Flock closes but I’d like an option, as you have with IE PK, to keep certain things for example cookies for other blogs so I don’t have to bother with name, email, site URL fields they’re already filled in.

Couple of other gripes, Popcorn doesn’t work as the default email client with it and I’d like to be able to view/edit page source with HTML Kit but haven’t found a way of getting that to work either – edit can do that with the Web Developer extension – couple of extensions wouldn’t install.

One thing far better than Avant is the built in RSS reader, far more control over content – extract or full – and layout and I do like the the “My World” portal (pic at the top) to give you a quick look at your subscribed services, feeds and favourite media when you start up to see what’s new.

I’ll certainly be using it as my default Mozilla browser, might even see me switching full time you never know, will have too see what happens when they release version 1.0.

Blogged while listening to: Van Halen – Everybody Wants Some!! (live) – live from Philadelphia on the reunion tour back with Diamond Dave
via FoxyTunes

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