Updated: November 28, 2012
Seamonkey is not the first name that comes to mind when you talk about browsers. Nor is it a fourth. In fact, it's not even a browser. But then, in those terms, neither is Opera. Seamonkey is an all-in-one cross-platform Internet suite, a collection of Web-facing programs all bundled into a single product. Worth your time? Perhaps, we will discover today.
Let's begin with a confusing intro, shall we. Seamonkey is a standalone project, but it shares code with the Mozilla suite, which is not Firefox, although there are some things in common. And let's not forget Thunderbird, which also shares code with the suite, or KompoZer, a web development editor, also present and accounted for. All of which look back to Netscape for heritage. So what is Seamonkey exactly? Difficult to say. We tested.
I decided to test Seamonkey on Linux Mint, 64-bit, and instantly hit a snag. First, it's not available anywhere in the repository. So I downloaded the available archive from the official site. Again, I failed when trying to run the suite, with XPCOM error. Apparently, it was of the wrong class, 64-bit, whereas the browser was 32-bit, which is exactly the kind of issue that will come up when mixing shared libraries across architectures.
After some searching, I found an unofficial at-your-own-risk 64-bit build of the suite available. It's a rather tricky statement on behalf of the project, don't you think. They say, we won't bother with the repositories, we won't bother with the 64-bit edition, even though all processors and Linux distros have been running this way for almost a decade, and you get a best-effort hacked offering only because someone cared enough to run a compilation for you. Eventually, the suite was up and running, from within an extracted archive:
The latest edition of the software is 2.10, which at first glance tells you nothing about the capabilities of the program. Seamonkey comes with several utilities all bundled into a single and somewhat unified interface - Web browser, e-mail client, newsgroup and feed client, IRC chat client, and HTML editor. Not bad, especially since it combines several important aspects of modern online usage.
Look & feel
My first task, though, was to remove text from the navigation buttons:
And if you attempt to use a more modern theme, supposed to integrate well with the underlying system theme, you get a jarring 1994-style visual nightmare. The combination of soft gray and blue gradients, sharp angles and archaic icons from the last free edition of RedHat before going pro, which would be 2003, does not align well with whatever you're used to in 2012.
Here's a handful of screenshots of the different utilities, and a few lines on what they look like and what they can do.
The browser is everything you want it to be, more or less Firefox, or rather, what Firefox was a few years back, at least in terms of bling-bling, if not core functionality. Somewhat similar to K-Meleon. Speed is decent, and so is W3C compliance. I haven't played with extensions, and you might even be able to hack Firefox addons to work here.
The mail client is similar to Thunderbird. You can use all kinds of account types, configure filters and junk mail, and you also get a tabbed interface like most modern programs.
You also get a proper, old-school address book. Most people will ask, how does it integrate with popular services, like Google, Facebook or smartphones and such? My answer is, I honestly do not know.
For HTML editing, you get Compozer, or rather KompoZer, which is a decent tool, and which I personally use for creating content. Not exactly the state of art of modern, but supports everything any website needs, from scripts to advanced CSS classes and all that.
ChatZilla works fine, if you're into IRC.
Seamonkey also has many useful tools: page translation, Web search, management of images, cookies and popups on a per-site level, the ability to clear private data, manage passwords or even switch profiles from within the suite itself. Plus you get Web console, debugging tools, and more.
The list is rather long and impressive. Without spamming, you have a bit of everything, a Jack of all Trades, his sister Jane and their little bear called Bilo. Seamonkey browser supports sync, session restore and personas. You also get inline search. The mail client allows multiple accounts and RSS feed subscription. The chat client can be configured to please your taste. And there's still a lot more.
Let's not forget the full addons manager, with all you need - or the download manager.
On one hand, Seamonkey is an awesome program. It's really so wealthy in features and capabilities, and this is probably its biggest downfall. Much like smartphones that try to combine so many things in one small form factor. Quality has to give somewhere. While Seamonkey manages quite well most of the time, you do feel the touch of neglect infuses the product all over. Seamonkey is just not in. It's boring.
From the technical perspective, it's a great toolbox, save for the installation and availability woes. However, from the service perspective, as a product, it lacks the appeal of dedicated products, like individual browsers, and overplays the importance of other online activities. Mail, chat and all that, people use Web services for that.
I think Seamonkey is a handsome, respectable relic of another age. Its complexity gives it a lot of street credit, but not when everyone is trying to make streets as narrow and straight as possible. For users looking for a one-in-all Web solution, this is an excellent choice. For most people, the staggering list of features will simply frighten them. And the looks could be improved. Overall, I guess something like 7.5/10. But then, I was never into suites, even ten years ago. Must be a personality trait. One last question, what's with the name? Sea? Monkey? A bird logo? What gives? That would be all.
Thanks to kingceasar for suggesting this software!