In what I suppose will come as a shock to some who think of me as a ”SuperFan” of Flock, I’m announcing that during the last week I have decided to change my default browser to Firefox 2.0, just as Tish is getting on the Flock bandwagon. The primary reason for the change, in my case, is speed or the relative lack of it in Flock. It may be just my system or it may be that because Flock aspires to do so much, it will always be slower than FF, but whatever the reason, there is enough of a speed difference that the extra effort required to make this change seems justified.
Last week when I noticed the difference in the speed of the two browsers, I pulled up Process Explorer and checked the properties of both browsers side-by-side, and this is what I saw.
For those really interested, clicking the image above will open a larger version of it that I hope you’ll be able to read clearly. (Update: After posting this I notice that the “expanded view” of the graphic above displays at the same size as what is within the post. Here is a larger display of it.) The memory usage in Flock seems to be almost twice as much as in Firefox. In all fairness to Flock, it must be acknowledged that it is at version 0.7 or thereabouts whereas Firefox is at version 2.0. I’m sure I’ll be testing each version of Flock as it comes out, so the change I’ve made is not necessarily permanent, but for now you can color me as primarily a Firefox user.
So what “extra effort” you may ask yourself is required to duplicate all the functions that Flock makes available in its default installation when one chooses to use Firefox instead? Well, that’s an interesting story to me. In many ways, I think it says some positive things about Flock that there is a lot of things that I must activate to recreate its built-in functions, and there are some things that I can’t duplicate in Firefox at all.
First, let me describe the things I am able to duplicate.
Since I used Flock’s built-in “My News” to track the RSS feeds that I follow, I’ve opened a Bloglines account and am systematically adding the feeds to it that I previously followed in Flock. This would be a lot easier to do if Flock had a capability that Mike Neel has been requesting for a while — the ability to export the feeds from Flock to an OPML file. But it doesn’t yet have that ability (see Update #2 below for a correction), so I’m having to go through the feeds one at a time and subscribe to them in Bloglines. Fortunately, Bloglines offers a widget that you can add to your Bookmark Toolbar so that you can subscribe to a feed easily. I’ve also set my Bloglines account as one of the two Home pages that open when I open Firefox, so that provides the same function as Flock’s notification that a feed has been updated.
I’ve had to add a del.icio.us widget to my Bookmark Toolbar so that I can tag items for my del.icio.us account, whereas when I “starred” a favorite in Flock, that gave me the option to do both things at once. That is a feature that I’ll welcome being able to get back when Flock improves its speed and I return to it as my default browser, because the way Flock stores favorites gives me a capability that I can’t recreate in Firefox. But I’ll say more about that later when I discuss what I can’t duplicate in Firefox.
Flock has a built-in blog editor that Erwan Loisant is working to improve. However, I have already begun experimenting with a number of the other blog editors that are available. At the moment I am using Windows Live Writer for this post, and that is the editor I usually use when I want to add a graphic to the post anyway. WLW gives some additional capabilities for formatting the graphic at the time it is added, so I prefer it for that function. I’ve also installed Performancing into Firefox, and I use that for quick posts directly from the browser. And on those rare occasions when I want to post a podcast, I use the Write panel in my WordPress installation so that I have access to the podPress add-in that I have installed there. I don’t think it is likely that any one of these various blog editors will ever have all the features that are unique to the others, so I am content with having a number of tools to perform the specific task I want to accomplish.
Flock’s integration with Flickr is sweet, and I prefer its uploading capability to either the Flickr Uploadr or the web interface at Flickr. However, I can subscribe in Bloglines to the RSS feeds for those of my Flickr contacts that I want to stay informed of when they update their photostream. So in one sense I can duplicate Flock’s notification that one of my contacts has uploaded a new photo. However, one feature isn’t available by doing that. In Bloglines, I can only see the Public photos that my son uploads, not those that are designated as available to only Family and Friends. However, I can live with that limitation because when I visit Flickr, I can see that other group of pictures.
And finally to draw this epic post to a conclusion, let me say that the thing I can’t duplicate in Firefox that I miss most from Flock is the ability to easily change which collection displays in my browser in the place where the Bookmark Toolbar is displayed in Firefox. I have used the “collections” feature in Flock extensively, and I really liked being able to display across the top of my browser the links in the different collections so that they are easily accessible while surfing.
I look forward to Flock’s further development and the improvements I hope for in its performance. You haven’t lost me as a SuperFan Flock. I just need a little time away to play for a while in the fast lane.
Update #2: Daryl points out to me in a comment to this post that Flock does indeed have the ability to export news feeds to an OPML file. And upon looking more closely, I did discover that ability. Thanks, Daryl. Sorry to have inaccurately criticized Flock regarding a feature that was already there. I guess it lends support to your frequent comments about the importance of discoverability.