REVIEW: SeaMonkey Retains Mozilla Look and Feel While Incorporating Firefox 3.5 Performance

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2009-11-04 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The free SeaMonkey suite is very similar to the old Mozilla software while keeping the underlying technology up-to-date. The new SeaMonkey 2.0, for example, adds the capabilities of Firefox 3.5's underlying browsing engine while maintaining the old Mozilla look and feel. eWEEK Labs' tests show that SeaMonkey 2.0 takes some getting used to but has some compelling features, especially for organizations that want an all-in-one Internet suite.

If you want to party on the Web like it's 2004, you may want to try out the new SeaMonkey 2.0 browser suite.

That, of course, is the time before Firefox-back when the open-source Mozilla suite was just starting to take on Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser. The Mozilla of that time, like the Netscape browser that preceded it, was not just a browser but a suite of Internet applications-including an e-mail client, a newsgroup reader, a chat client and a simple tool for developing Web pages.

Most users applauded the Mozilla group's move to the browser-only Firefox in 2005. However, there was a community of users who preferred the original suite, and it was because of this community that the SeaMonkey project was born inside of Mozilla.

The free SeaMonkey suite is very similar to the old Mozilla while keeping the underlying technology up-to-date. SeaMonkey 2.0, for example, adds the capabilities of Firefox 3.5's underlying browsing engine while maintaining the old Mozilla look and feel. And when I say maintaining the old look and feel, I mean it: Using the SeaMonkey browser with all of its default settings is like jumping back in time.

For a look at SeaMonkey 2.0, click here.

I found it difficult at first to get used to the old browsing interface methods of SeaMonkey, but there are definitely some benefits to the suite-especially for businesses that want an all-in-one Internet application.

Like its Mozilla brethren, SeaMonkey 2.0 can be installed on most operating systems (including Linux, Mac OS X and Windows), and setup is a simple matter.

Once I launched SeaMonkey, I was presented with the classic Mozilla interface-with no new-tabs button available until I had launched a tab, no history menu and few of the keyboard shortcuts that many of us have become used to (such as hitting Ctrl-Enter to add "www" and ".com" to a word in the address bar).

However, while SeaMonkey looks like the Mozilla suite of yore, it doesn't perform like it.

In addition to including Firefox 3.5's underlying engine (a considerable benefit, with the improved speed, stability and standards support the engine provides), SeaMonkey 2.0 makes it possible to find and restore recently closed tabs and windows inside the browser. This is a welcome feature for those of us who are a little too aggressive in closing tabs. Firefox makes this feature available in the History menu, while in SeaMonkey it's accessible from the File menu.

Also welcome is the addition of the Firefox add-ons manager. This made it much easier to find and install extensions and plug-ins for SeaMonkey during my tests. The download and cookies managers have also been updated to reflect changes in the current generation of browsers.

However, outside of these changes, much of SeaMonkey management remains the same as in Mozilla, and the Preferences dialog still consists of mainly the old Mozilla preferences and not the newer Firefox Options.

The mail client in SeaMonkey is solid-definitely on a par with Mozilla's newer, stand-alone Thunderbird client. One nice new feature is the inclusion of tabbed windows in e-mail, which makes it much easier to open and view multiple mail messages.

SeaMonkey's mail client also now does a better job with IMAP connections and the storage of messages offline, as well as with RSS feed handling.

For the most part, the ChatZilla IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client and the Composer HTML editor components are unchanged, with updates reflecting interface changes in SeaMonkey. Still, both are useful applications, especially Composer HTML, which is helpful for non-experts looking to make simple changes to Web pages.

I didn't run into any sites that the SeaMonkey browser had a problem with. However, SeaMonkey now boasts Firefox's crash recovery features, so, if the browser had crashed, I could have restored the sites I had been viewing prior to the problem.

For more information and to download SeaMonkey, go to www.seamonkey-project.org.

 
 
 
 
Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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