Leaner surfing with the SeaMonkey Internet Suite

Clever Combination

Article from Issue 198/2017
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SeaMonkey is a lean and time-tested alternative for web, mail, IM, and address management that supports Firefox plugins.

Mozilla Firefox is regarded as one of the most secure web browsers and enjoys great popularity for its versatility and usability. But Firefox and its email counterpart Thunderbird are not really suitable for low-end hardware, and even some users with high-end hardware prefer to travel light and avoid big, over-sized applications.

Several leaner browser alternatives exist today, such as Qupzilla, Midori, Chrome, or even Min and Dillo, but many of these tools don't provide the security and privacy options included with Firefox. Perhaps more importantly, they don't offer the rich collections of add-ons and extensions available through Firefox and the Mozilla family of applications.

SeaMonkey [1] is a suite of Internet tools that provides a lean, standards-compliant alternative to Thunderbird and Firefox. The suite is based on the Mozilla Application Suite and is a descendant of the Netscape tool family. The good news for users who are searching for a leaner alternative is that SeaMonkey provides this lighter footprint while still maintaining compatibility with many Firefox add-ons.

SeaMonkey consists of a web browser, an email and news client with address book, and an HTML editor. Because the individual programs share several libraries, the suite claims significantly less space on your mass storage device and in RAM than Firefox and Thunderbird, both of which come with their own runtime environment. In the case of concurrent use, SeaMonkey uses half as much memory as Firefox and Thunderbird running together.

Installation

The current 2.46 version of SeaMonkey is available from the project website. The project offers the 32-bit version in various languages, but the 64-bit version is available in English only. After downloading the 46MB archive, extract it with the following command:

tar -xjvf seamonkey-2.46.tar.bz2

Then change to the newly created program directory and launch the software with the ./seamonkey command. On 64-bit systems, the 32-bit version of SeaMonkey sometimes fails to launch despite correctly installed libraries – in that case, you will need to use the 64-bit version.

After you launch SeaMonkey, you first need to select the checkbox to define the tasks for which SeaMonkey will be your standard application. You are then taken to the web browser's interface, which is still faintly reminiscent of the old Netscape. The interface includes many settings that have been completely deleted, or at least modified, in current browser versions (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The SeaMonkey interface is reminiscent of the legacy Netscape browser.

SeaMonkey offers a conventional menu bar, as well as a slightly rustic-looking toolbar with a URL input field. In the default setting, the window integrates a horizontal bookmarks bar. Using the small buttons on the left of the window, you can hide or show the bars to avoid losing sight of required content and increase the space available for the display.

The status bar at the bottom of the window displays the requested URL and allows rapid switching to the composer, address book, and email client via corresponding buttons. On the right, messages from your installed add-ons are displayed; a small bar graph visualizes the load progress for websites.

Settings

SeaMonkey provides a conventional Preferences menu, as well as giving you the ability to manually modify individual options. Open the Preferences menu by selecting Edit | Preferences. The menu contains dialogs sorted by application that let you customize the program suite. Settings that apply to all components alike are grouped in Appearance, Privacy & Security, and Advanced (Figure 2).

Figure 2: SeaMonkey combines the configuration options for the various modules in a single window.

You can use the menu bar to access several dialogs that allow rapid changing of specific configuration options. For example, the Tools section contains a considerable number of managers, each of which handles a specific task: The Cookie Manager lets manage the cookie options; the Graphics Manager helps you tune the graphics settings, and the Popup Manager lets you open popup windows that the browser blocks by default.

Other managers take care of downloads and passwords. In the same menu, you will also find the entry Clear private data… , which lets you to remove histories, cookies, and other data accumulations. The Change profile… menu item lets you enable and manage additional user profiles in a separate dialog.

Design and Function

SeaMonkey's roots date back to the beginnings of Netscape Communicator in 1997, when Netscape was still the leading suite of web applications. SeaMonkey thus has a slightly old-fashioned graphical interface by today's standards, but one that supports intuitive use with many keyboard shortcuts.

Although the Gecko rendering engine provides good support for HTML5 under the hood, the interface does cause some irritation at first glance: You will initially look in vain for today's typical tab structure with individual tabs for the requested web pages; most browsers have dropped the button and menu bar – still implemented by SeaMonkey – for a 3D look with larger buttons.

But instead of restricting the configuration options for users to just a few switches, SeaMonkey takes a different approach: The settings dialogs let you customize the software in detail to suit your own needs. For example, in Browser | Tabbed browsing, you can uncheck the box for Hide tab bar, if only one tab is displayed to permanently show the tab bar.

You can optionally use the keyboard to manage the tabs: For example, Ctrl+T opens a new tab, and Ctrl+W closes the current tab. If multiple tabs are open, matching icons appear on the left and right in the bar for opening and closing the tabs.

The easiest way to use the zoom function is with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl++ (larger) and Ctrl+- (smaller). Alternatively, you can access this feature in the menu below View | Zoom (100%), which provides several preset zoom levels. To toggle between the different applications, you can either use the Window menu or the shortcuts Ctrl+1 to 4. The original program is always left open.

For example, to launch the email client directly from inside your browser, you can press Ctrl+2; Ctrl+5 launches the address book. These keyboard shortcuts are available in all SeaMonkey applications. A download manager in its own window provides an overview of the current status at all times. A search function lets you track specific files or archives (Figure 3) in long download lists.

Figure 3: The integrated Download Manager provides a detailed summary of current and past downloads and comes with a search function.

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