Browser Wars! Part 1 of 7 – SeaMonkey

Browser Wars! is an ongoing article series published on the BetweenBytes blog. In this series, we’ll look at and review the browsers of today (and some that still look like they’re from yesterday) in a battle that unlike Macs vs. PCs, people are constantly switching sides.

SeaMonkey. If it were a kind of animal, it would be a very strange and not very powerful one. Why you ask? First, because monkeys don’t swim well and second, because that is how I would describe the browser carrying the same name.This was probably a good browser 2 years ago when then Executive Editor at cnet, Tom Merritt, recommended it as “the most bang for your byte”(1) seeing as it bundles not only web browsing (duh) but also email and contacts, IRC chat, and a web page editor. In 2009 it might have been worth it, but not in 2011.

Icon
I know most software reviews don’t normally waste time on the icon of a piece software but this one is just silly. The icon appears to be a swallow bird (not monkey) light blue in color with a dark blue circle in the backdrop. This browser, powered by Mozilla, uses much of the same source code which seems to translate ok as far as performance goes. But neither icon designs nor User Interface (more on that in a minute) remind me of a piece of Mozilla software.

Performance
This is probably the brightest spot in the story of the SeaMonkey. Like I said, it’s based on Mozilla source code which translates ok. It had no problems handling Facebook, Google Docs, HD YouTube content open in tabs (which is not one of this browser’s strong points) simultaneously. Overall it performed surprisingly well. Email had a second of delay before loading each new message but other than that seemed snappy.

User Interface
SeaMonkey was arguably good in 2009, unfortunately it looks like it’s from the year 2000. It has that grey UI from Windows ‘95 with a slightly blue tint that I’m guessing they hoped would help make it look more modern. This browser feels dated. Starting at the top with the regular windows command menus across the top (File, Edit, View, etc.). The second line of options include large Back and Forward buttons, a Reload button (really) followed by Stop. Surprisingly they combined the location and search bars into one, which has become the norm for most modern browsers at this point. Search and Print buttons I hoped would round out the setup. I say hoped because the final button on the second line is the SeaMonkey logo which takes you their rather uninteresting website (here’s the link if you’re just dying to see it) and seems utterly pointless. The final row of buttons include Home, Bookmarks, Most Visited and the bookmarks bar populated with the usual bloatmarks obviously inherited from Mozilla. If you have multiple tabs open you’ll see the tab bar show up below the third row of buttons. This is the worst part of the browser by far. To open a new tab (not using a keyboard shortcut) you must move your mouse all the way to the left of the screen and click on the the icon of a page with an asterisk on it (icons are not SeaMonkey’s strong suit). Now this is the good part, to close a tab you must move your cursor all the way to the right and push the x there. This will close the tab you are currently in. Most modern browsers currently have the ability to close tabs when your not in them. In SeaMonkey you must switch to a tab in order to close it. Which has most people (including myself) saying “Not cool, SeaMonkey, not cool.”

Features
I’m currently running the 2.1 beta version of SeaMonkey. I previously tried the most recent stable build (2.0.14) which is missing a few features like the ability to bookmark from the location bar (Like FireFox or Chrome). This browser has what you’d expect. The awful implementation of tabbed browsing, support for recent web standards like HTML 5, bookmarks, tear-off tabs (also not well implemented) etc. The email client was also missing things like a way to distinguish if a message is unread or not. Really this browser just doesn’t feel done.

Wrap-up
I decided to review this not widely used browser seeing as it is Mozilla project. When using this browser though, It doesn’t feel like a piece of Mozilla software. If the development team of SeaMonkey had stopped developing and supporting this browser several years ago, This would be an unfair (and frankly) irrelevant review, but the fact of the matter is that they are continuing to develop this seemingly decade old software. Their most resent version of the beta build (when I  wrote this) was released on April 28th, 2011. Not even six days ago. Unless you really like the look and feel of last decades software with (some) newer technologies, I would leave SeaMonkey for the…well…monkeys.

Sources:
(1) Tom Merritt recomends SeaMonkey

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2 thoughts on “Browser Wars! Part 1 of 7 – SeaMonkey

  1. EasyOSX says:

    Not a bad review. However, the reason for the icon is because a seamonkey is actually a type of shrimp (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea-Monkeys). The name was given because it was a reworked version of another suggested name.

    The browser is a little more developer and technically oriented, though it is still severely lacking. Part of this is because Seamonkey, unlike Firefox, is almost completely crowd-sourced, where as Mozilla is open, but still under Mozilla’s control. That being said, it used to be my browser choice, but now I favor Rockmelt (see my review here: http://easyosx.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/app-of-the-week-rockmelt/).

    • Reagan W. says:

      Thanks for the info. I wouldn’t have know that. I’m not quite part of the “in-crowd” when it comes to developers.

      I love RockMelt! I’m actually working on a review for it and I use it as my main browser. I have bounced around between browsers, but I keep coming back to RockMelt. It’s amazing.

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