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I am not usually the type of person that tries a new browser unless the one that I’m using really bombs out on websites or features that I absolutely need. After Firefox became too bloated and laggy for me, I switched to Google Chrome about a couple of years ago (not sure of the exact timing). Since them, I’ve been pretty happy. Chrome is fast, fairly light (although it can become a memory hog after using many tabs), and it is able to properly load about 99.99% of the websites out there.
So, I didn’t go out in search of an alternative browser for the sake of replacing Chrome, I did so in the hopes of consolidating web apps. I’m tired of the size and bloat of Thunderbird, but I’m also frustrated that there aren’t really many clients out there that even come close to competing with its features and robust connectivity to every email account that I want to link to.
Thankfully, during my search (where I always start with MUO of course), I stumbled upon Justin’s review of SeaMonkey from a few years back. From the developers of Firefox, SeaMonkey promises to provide you with access to all of your online needs – browsing and email primarily, although an IRC client and WYSIWYG web editor is also included.
In my quest to consolidate desktop applications that chew up my precious memory as I’m trying to test other apps and blog at the same time, I thought I would give SeaMonkey a full-out test run and really dig into its features.
Using SeaMonkey For Everything
In Justin’s review back in 2010, he offered a quick overview of the browser and a screenshot of composing an email, but since my interest is in completely replacing Thunderbird which I’ve been using for years, I really wanted to dig into whether it is capable of what I need it to do. I was also curious what progress the Mozilla team has made since the 2010 release – the latest available download being 2.11 (with a 2.12 Beta 1 available since July 21 of this year).
For the purpose of this review, I downloaded the most recent stable version. The first thing I noticed about the install is how quick and seamless it is, especially if you use Thunderbird as your email client. Everything, including all of the account settings that you configured in Thunderbird, is automatically imported into SeaMonkey.
This is just sweet, because the thing I dread most about starting any new email client is the hassle of having to reconfigure all of the email accounts that I use. With SeaMonkey, the install handles it all – providing me with a good first impression of the software.
With that said, it would (and still will) take some use to convince me that SeaMonkey has the horsepower that I need for everything I do online. There are mixed reviews around the web on SeaMonkey, but the one benefit nearly everyone notes is the fact that you get an all-in-one app. If the browser can perform at even 90% of Chrome’s capabiities, allowing me to dump Thunderbird as an external app once and for all, then I’m sold.
As far as the browser goes – it’s a browser. What more can I say? You get large navigation buttons, your standard URL field and of course the quicklinks bar that you’re used to with Firefox.
It’s clearly based on the Firefox browser in terms of design and the look and feel, although in all honesty the SeaMonkey menu system and layout feels a tiny bit more clean and intuitive. I really took a liking to the quick navigation icons at the bottom left corner of the browser window. Each of these icons makes up the five main components of the application – the browser, email and newsreader, web composer, address book, and IRC Client.
By the way, for what it’s worth, the SeaMonkey browser easily screamed through web pages that normally take a little longer to load, at least based on my initially run through. Although for anyone out there that has tested many browsers, you probably know that the true test of a browser is how fast it loads pages after a year or two, and after installing a few add-ons as well.
With that said, I was very satisfied with the initial speed of the browser and it’s ability to correctly display an assortment of websites that I frequent often.
The real test of course is the email client.
If you’ve used Thunderbird then you can see that the main interface looks nearly identical to the Thunderbird client. Even with all of the same accounts configured, I definitely noticed that the SeaMonkey email client ran a lot faster than Thunderbird. There’s no doubt about it. Although, the claim that SeaMonkey packages all Internet features into one is a little misleading, because the email client is actually an app all on its own. You can close the main SeaMonkey client and keep email running, or use the “SeaMonkey Mail” launch icon in the start menu.
When you launch the HTML composer, you’ll see a web design app that could probably compete with some of the best free web design programs out there, like Kompozer.
If you prefer writing your web pages in straight HTML, that’s not a problem. Just click the HTML Source button at the bottom and code to your heart’s delight.
The publishing process is pretty fast and easy. If you have an FTP account set up on your web browser, just fill in the details here to quickly transfer your files or modifications to the website. This saves you the hassle of having to run a separate FTP app to update your site with changes.
The address book is very simple and easy to use. You can import addresses from Thunderbird, so I basically didn’t have to do any work at all to have all of my same contacts available, which was pretty sweet. From the address book, you can select a contact and kick off either a new email or launch your default IM client to chat with them.
SeaMonkey does have an IRC chat client, which I don’t really plan on using. For one thing, I’m not much into chatting these days. For another, do people still use IRC these days? Given the number of users across the channels, I guess people do!
It’s there if you want it, and the chat Interface is certainly up to par with modern IRC clients, and of course light years ahead of the sort of IRC chat clients I used back in the late 90’s. Of course, those ran on IBM mainframes, but anyway, I digress…
As you start navigating through the SeaMonkey menus and features, you’ll see many of the sort of things that you came to love about Firefox – the menu system is nearly identical, and you’ll see any available RSS feeds for the site you’re visiting with the RSS indicator in the URL field. Sometimes it’s just those little things that you miss – so if you’re switching from Firefox, you won’t miss too much.
You’ll also find that the Mozilla community does offer a number of add-ons for the SeaMonkey app, but nowhere near as many as you’d find for Firefox of course. There are a good list of them out there though, and one of the first that I installed was Ghostery.
When you browse Mozilla plugins, you’ll see all of them for Firefox and SeaMonkey, with the ones that are available for SeaMonkey highlighted. The ones that are not available will be grayed out.
So, in my final analysis I decided that SeaMonkey has the horsepower that I need, and is robust enough to handle the variety of websites that I frequent, and it satisfies my need to access multiple email accounts in an easy app that is at least tightly linked with the browser.
They do appear as different apps, but you will find the browser integrated with everything. Give SeaMonkey a shot and let us know if you think it might be worth using as your own all-in-one Internet application. What do you like and what don’t you like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.