Monday, September 04, 2006

Flock Web Browser Brings FireFox To Life

Flock adds some of the most popular tools from social networking sites such as Photobucket, Flickr, Blogger and MySpace. 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 and flickr into a browser built on Firefox and you have an innovative approach to how the internet browser is used.

Photos stored on either Flickr or Photobucket are integrated directly into the browser with a drop down menu just above the browser window that allows horizontal scrolling. The toolbar also comes with a built in search feature, for finding photos fast and easy, and a favorites bookmark folder that saves bookmarks of your favorite friends or relatives. Photos can be uploaded to these accounts by dragging them into the browser or by using the uploader. The photo uploader is packed with features such as image cropping, rotating and resizing. As well as features to choose or create folders for Photobucket.

Photos in the toolbar can be added to any web page that accepts html (a comment area on a blog, for example) by dragging the photo directly into the web page. This is a great feature for anyone sharing photos on sites such as Myspace, Facebook or LiveJournal. This is the single most compelling reason (for me) to start using Flock on a daily basis.

Apart from photos, you are given the ability to make blog posts over your blog through your Flock without having to visit to the blog website of yours. You can post your new blogs directly from Flock which is faster. Blog posts can be created from a sidebar called Shelf that acts as a repository for blogging content, such as photos and text; items on the Shelf can be dragged into place on the blog post.

Web Snippets
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. 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). While not all of me favorite FireFox extension work with Flock I've found most of them do. One down fall I see so far is the lack of themes for Flock you are stuck with the standard theme which isn't bad but I prefer a more customized toned down look. 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 I definitely recommend that you do.

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