Flock Browser Innovation
When first I read about Flock Browser months back, the developers’ intent to build a browser geared for publishing in addition to browsing resonated with me. Tools such as shared bookmarking and a blogging interface would facilitate sharing of information while the Firefox rendering engine would handle internet browsing to ensure accurate, standards-compliant rendering. Novel idea, no? Incorporate interfaces to common community-oriented services such as de.licio.us and flickr into a browser built on Firefox and you have an innovative approach to how the internet browser is used.
With the recent release of Flock Beta 1.0 (v 0.7) come numerous enhancements and additional features making it a serious contender as my favorite browser (which is saying a lot for Omniweb has filled this position for some time). New Flock browser features include a beautifully updated photo publishing interface, live search, improved blogging interface, and web snippets feature. Following are brief descriptions of my likes and dislikes of each feature.
Flock photo publishing interface
The updated photo publishing and photo browsing interfaces rock my world. With the click of a button in the browser’s toolbar the photo browsing interface is exposed in a frame with options enabling you to view your own photos, new photos published by your friends, search flickr or photobucket and more. The photo publishing tool provides a drag and drop interface, a few photo manipulation tools such as rotate and crop, and simple means to title, describe, and tag images.
I use Inquisitor in Safari for live search functionality and was pleasantly suprised to find this feature integrated with the Flock search input field. Included in the instant search results are your favorites, browsing history, and Yahoo! the only drawback I have identified thus far is the inability to change the Yahoo! instant results to say Google. Lovely new feature.
The Flock blogging interface though lovely to look at and write in leaves the most to be desired. First off, I didn’t find Textpattern in the list of supported blogging engines and as I prefer Textpattern it would be nice to have it represented in the supported list (Textpattern now has xml-RPC support). I found it difficult to locate the preferences/settings for the blogging interface and when I did realized there was no way to configure the interface to work well for me. The problems I have with the interface are that it does not provide a way to browse blog posts on the site, nor does it take into consideration instances when an external interpreter such as Textile is used to markup my entries. Oh well, maybe in an upcoming release. One shouldn’t expect everything up front.
I cannot tell you how cool I find the web snippets feature to be. In short the web snippets feature is a drawer that, when exposed can have highlighted text or images dragged to it for later reference. As a designer I often find myself spending hours researching a product, reading papers, viewing images, etc and previously had an open text document and a ton of screen shots saved to the desktop. The web snippets feature not only saves a reference to the location of the original picture or text, you can drag photos from the drawer directly in to Photoshop for manipulation. My three major improvements to this interface would be the ability to save “sessions” of the drawer as a means to organize material, an export feature for the drawer so I could output everything to a directory, and a larger version of the image or text when rolled over as the current size of icons in the drawer render the images somewhat indistinguishable from one another.
In addition to the lovely features provided above Flock can also be enhanced with extensions featured on the Flock site (site designed by Bryan Veloso of Avalonstar). My favorites are the Web Developer toolbar, Forecastfox, Firebug and Session Manger. Overall I find Flock to be a great new product the features of which are community-oriented and implemented in a beautiful interface. If you haven’t yet tried it go grab it now.