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SeaMonkey: More Than Just a Firefox Clone

SeaMonkey: More Than Just a Firefox Clone

For me, using multiple browsers is part of my work style. On all of my computers, I switch among several browsers, and I keep finding reasons to come back to SeaMonkey. This latest version is a drastic retooling. Even though its innards are revved up with the Firefox engines, SeaMonkey still has its own personality and is not the Firefox browser.

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
05/11/11 5:00 AM PT

SeaMonkey
(click image to enlarge)

Mozilla.org's SeaMonkey Project was my first exposure to Web browsing when I started dabbling in the Linux OS. I have since played around with other browsers, including my workhorse favorite, Firefox, by the Mozilla folks. But I keep coming back to SeaMonkey for its simplicity and charm.

SeaMonkey's latest version, 2.0.14, comes much closer to being a clone of the latest Firefox rendition. It has many of the features that have become synonymous with Web browsing. For example, SeaMonkey offers tabbed browsing, interface customization, user profiles and an amply stocked tools menu.

The SeaMonkey community keeps growing more add-on functionality. Although the collection is not yet nearly as prolific as what Firefox provides, several of my favorite add-ons are exclusive to SeaMonkey. Equally nice is the ability to run some of the Firefox add-ons in SeaMonkey as well.

What I like the most about the SeaMonkey browser -- and what keeps me coming back to it -- is its cleaner look and feel. In particular, I rarely keep a sidebar open in a Web browser. But SeaMonkey's sidebar has such an efficient flow to it that I actually do not mind having it share some screen real estate with a Web site's page display.

Cloning Around

With all these nice features available in SeaMonkey, why am I willing to settle for a near clone of Firefox? That is a fair question. The answer, however, may not be satisfactory.

For me, using multiple browsers is part of my work style. On all of my computers, I switch among SeaMonkey, Firefox and Google Chrome. But of these three, SeaMonkey is the one browser that requires almost no fussing.

I have Firefox preset to load always-there websites and online email services that consume regular repeat performances throughout my workday. Having a second Web browser open lets me move around the Web without other distractions. I use the same approach with the two automobiles in my driveway -- an SUV for hauling and a sporty model for touring.

I tend to keep Firefox loaded with so many add-ons and open tabs that I can feel it slow down. By comparison, SeaMonkey seems to load much faster and zips in and out of websites with a lot less effort.

Under the Hood

SeaMonkey now uses the same internal platform as Firefox 3.5.4, according to Mozilla.org. This makes SeaMonkey's user profiles, add-ons and user interface elements almost like its kindred brother.

The framework is so similar that importing legacy profiles and Thunderbird profiles -- the e-mail companion -- is an automatic action. SeaMonkey's functionality makes its new Add-on Manager tool a snap to use for installing, updating, disabling and removing extensions, themes and plugins.

Another clue to SeaMonkey's clone appeal to Firefox is the addition of a Session Restore feature. With this new crash recovery tool built in, all browser windows and tabs are automatically restored. That includes data you entered in online forms that you did not yet file or save on the web site.

More Good Stuff

With SeaMonkey I can restore previous browser windows and tabs from their last open session. I can also restore closed tabs (aka "Undo Close Window") when starting SeaMonkey. These two features were not available in previous versions of SeaMonkey. Being able to do these things now removes one of the barriers I felt in the past to continuing to use this Web browser.

As I said earlier, I keep finding reasons to come back to SeaMonkey. This latest version is a drastic retooling. Even though its innards are revved up with the Firefox engines, SeaMonkey still has its own personality and is not the Firefox browser.

For example, Password Manager is new and improved. So searching is easier. Its notification bars replace modal dialogs to make remembering logins more efficient. Similarly, Download Manager has a makeover. Part of that fix-up is the ability to resume interrupted downloads.

SeaMonkey Security

I tend to be anal when it comes to privacy options. The Preferences panel makes looking over my shoulder when I surf the Web so much easier. For instance, I can set conditions for how much and how long to remember browsing history. Ditto for Location Bar History and the Form and Search History caches.

Two easily accessible buttons let me clear the history and clear location bar records. The Privacy and Security options are even more enticing. On that Preferences tab I can instantly clear private data while still in a browsing session. Plus, a checkable option will always clear my private data when I close SeaMonkey.

I can further sharpen my security paranoia by selecting/deselecting a list of data areas for clearing. This list includes download history, saved forms, the browser's cache, cookies, offline website data, saved passwords and authenticated sessions.

Better Cookies and Rendering

SeaMonkey makes it very easy to see which websites are watching me watching them. For example, the redesigned Cookie Manager makes it simple to search for cookies by website and cookie name.

Screen displays within the browser itself are peppier as well thanks for improvements in the Gecko rendering engine that SeaMonkey uses. These changes include a better graphics back end with Cairo/Thebes and better support for fonts, CSS, DOM and JavaScript.

The rendering features round out with better performance for HTML5 and audio/video elements, downloadable fonts and JIT-compiled JavaScript. This is a mirror listing of improvements found in Firefox since version 3.5.

Bottom Line

SeaMonkey is a good browser choice and solid alternative to the more popular and traditional Linux-based Web browsers. It will seem like home if you come to it from Firefox.

If you are an enamored add-on user, the more limited extensions inventory may disappoint you. But its configurability can make up for this. All in all, SeaMonkey is a full-featured Web browser with options not available with most other choices.


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