Flock Review: A Browser for Blogger?

Flock 1.2 Browser ReviewDuring the last weekend I have a few hours to get my hands on Flock. My first impression is, “Wow!” but there are a few drawbacks too. It has been a few days since I’ve used Firefox extensively as the only browser. I’m still in the testing phase so Mozilla Firefox still sits right in my hard disk somewhere.

I feel a bit embarrass to admit that I didn’t contribute to the Firefox 3 download record, which broke the record of more than 5.8 million copies downloaded in a 24-hour period.

Firefox 3

Somehow I have to chose the new and shiny Flock over Firefox, but no, I still like the Fox. Perhaps next time.

What is Flock?

Flock is an opensource web browser based upon Mozilla’s Firefox source code. The development is more towards support for Web 2.0, social media, including blogs.

In its current version, as of this writing is 1.2 or 2.0beta, Flock is now a stable browser that you can rely on as a default browser.

This review is based on version 1.2. Version 2.0 is still in beta. It is based on Firefox 3 code, which should be faster and consume smaller memory footprint but my machine is quite robust so it doesn’t matter at all.

Prepare for the Learning Curve

Flock advertises itself as a social browser. As powerful as it be, there is slight a stepper learning curve if you compare it to Firefox. Unless you have or are planning to use social media heavily, perhaps this browser is not for you.

You can rest assured though, it will automatically import your bookmarks (now called Favorites in Flock) including cookies, saved form history, saved passwords and bookmarks, so you will not lose your data or have to add them manually.

Integrated Blog Editor

Flock includes a blog editor. It allows you to post to Blogger, Blogsome, LiveJournal, Typepad, WordPress.com, Xanga and Self-Hosted blog platform using WordPress.org and others.

Flock Blog Editor

You can add and edit a blog post in Editor (WYSIWYG) or Source mode, specify tags and preview the whole post before publishing. It also has a feature to add photos from the Media Bar or from local computer. The Blog This feature lets you add web quotes easily. It is available when you select text and click on the right mouse button.

Web Clipboard is available in the main browser and blog editor. Dragging and dropping text, links and images to the Web Clipboard will save them for you for later use.

Blog Editor suits you if you don’t have extra requirements. It doesn’t allow you to edit the url or slug of the post. For that reason, I still prefer the in-built editor in WordPress.

Integrated Social Media Features

Flock includes features to upload photos to Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and Piczo with the Photo Uploader tools, up to 1,000 photos at a time.

The Media Bar allows you to search for photos and videos on Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Truveo or YouTube.

Flock Media Bar

It loads slower than Firefox, but fortunately it is unnoticeable in rendering page, except when you change character encoding.

One thing I really miss from this is the capability to search for Creative Commons License images. For bloggers who want to include images in their post, this may help big time.

Feed Reader

I tested importing my feeds using OPML to Flock. It worked like a charm, although I still miss some features in FeedDemon, especially the capability to check the feeds manually and a group at a time.

Flock news reader will check every single RSS feed you have subscribed to every hour (I’m not sure, but every time it starts the hard disk grinds for a while and slows the entire system down.)

The lack of options makes it less appealing. I will stick with FeedDemon for the moment, although I’d prefer it to be integrated with the browser.

Favorites Manager

Flock FavoritesBookmarks are called Favorites in Flock. The Local Favorites section works much like usual bookmarks, but you can import your del.icio.us bookmarks into Online Favorites section.

Using the search function to locate your bookmarks can’t be easier. Browsing through the tags is also available and functions much like folders.

Seems like Flock is encouraging the use of Favorites as it is represented with a big star button in the Navigation Toolbar.

Webmail

I don’t use this feature, but Flock integrates with Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and AOL Mail. That means when you have new mails in your web mail account, you will be notified by the changing icon in the toolbar.

The function to browse your mail and compose new mail message is available right in the menu.

Other Features

You are able to send the link to current web page via email, add installable search engine, see media stream and subscribe to content feed directly from the browser bar.

Flock Toolbar

Right below the Navigation Toolbar is the new and unique Flock Toolbar. It contains shortcut to many Flock features mentioned above.

All My Extensions / Add-Ons Work Flawlessly!

I was worried about incompatible add-ons. It does happen with some extensions, but fortunately, none of them failed me.

Here are the list of extensions I install in my browser right now:

Flock Extensions

  • AI Roboform: Remembers passwords and fill forms.
  • Alexa Sparky: Alexa ranking and trend in the status bar.
  • All-in-One Sidebar: View dialog windows in the sidebar.
  • ColorZilla: Advanced Eyedropper, ColorPicker, Page Zoomer and other colorful goodies.
  • FEBE: Backs up your extensions, themes, bookmarks, prefernces, passwords, cookies and others.
  • Firebug: Edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page.
  • Google Global: See what the Google search results that you are viewing look like from different geographical locations.
  • Live HTTP Headers: View HTTP headers of a page.
  • MeasureIt: Draw out a ruler to get the pixel width and height of any elements on a webpage.
  • S3 Firefox Organizer (S3Fox): Organize, manage and store your files on Amazon S3.
  • ScrapBook: Save Web pages and easily manage collections.
  • SearchStatus: Display the Google PageRank, Alexa rank and Compete ranking anywhere in your browser.
  • SEO for Firefox: Pulls in many useful marketing data points.
  • Session Manager: Saves and restores the state of all windows.
  • StumbleUpon: Discovers web sites based on your interests, learns what you like and brings you more.
  • Web Developer: Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.

Other Issues

Firefox loads faster than Flock. I can see a slight delay when opening a new tab too. Rendering time is great though.

People sidebar is very helpful. It is one of the main reason I switch from Firefox to Flock. The problem is, the message doesn’t wrap at window edge. Even when extending the width of the sidebar to the max, I still can’t view the message fully.

I’m considering to add Twitterbar so I can see the whole tweets easily. Currently, I’m using HelloTxt to update my status across social networks and microblogs.

Conclusion

I’m pretty satisfied with Flock. It kicks your browsing experience to the next level. I expect to see new development and even more features in the future. Currently I set it as my default browser. You should try it too, especially if you are involved actively in social media.

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