The decision to switch to SeaMonkey as the default web browser for LXLE is something not taken lightly. --- (Like to test our SeaMonkey Mod? Scroll to bottom of article.)
Web browsers are a very big deal, particularly in the sense of everyday computer use. Altering and or deciding on what default browser to use is serious business. For most, it almost single handedly represents the Internet itself. To use an old phrase, if the Internet is the 'information super highway', then the browser is the vehicle you use to drive on it; And regardless that it may be, for all points and purposes, a 'daily commuter', no one wants it to be a hoopdie either.
The trouble is, especially when speaking of older hardware, the weight of that vehicle can be a major issue for the relatively limited 'engine' that’s driving it. Since probably somewhere near 90% of the time that anyone is on a computer the web browser is open, it has always garnered attention when optimizing a system to perform better and faster yet still have the ability to do everything you want; For most browsers this is a very tall order to fill. Classic you can't have your cake and eat it too scenario.
The best most can hope for is some where in between. Perhaps best described as a 'crossover', to keep with the auto analogy. Something thats got muscle and capability yet sips system resources. As Ali would say, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", that’s what a browser should be. Hey that rhymes. :)
Over the years I've noticed a number of resource focused distributions try to address the issue, with good reason. Settling on a lighter weight browser has usually been between either Midori, Qupzilla, NetSurf or even Dillo. Yet more times then not, at least to me, those browsers seem more like a motorcycle then a daily commuter. Fast yes, but lacking many of the comforts of an automobile. Granted none of the mentioned browsers have the resources of some of the larger browsers yet all have their uses and are solid projects worth development.
However, for everyday use, they can leave the user wanting for more, which in this case mainly consists of addons, plugins, extensions while also supporting today’s web technologies. Your favorite addon, the same as your favorite website, can make or break a browser. If your favorite addon or something like it isn't available or your favorite website doesn't quite look/work right, then that 'lightweight browser' just lost. The user will almost surely reinstall Firefox or Chrome and continue as usual installing their favorite addon and visiting their usual sites.
Perhaps a few readers are thinking of PaleMoon as possible alternative optimized browser and wondering why it hasn't been mentioned yet. The reason is quite simple, I've been using Linux a fairly long time now, for well over a decade. I've witnessed a number of slimmed downed browsers come and go and or development ceases. I certainly can't predict the longevity of the project mentioned above but I can take experience into account. An additional reason for not moving toward PaleMoon is it's primarily developed for Windows first, while subsequent versions either play second string or have an entirely separate developer compiling their browser modification on different platforms. Palemoon also has fairly restrictive distribution policies that seem to reflect their MS like mindset.
So on my 'better browser hunt' for aging computer systems I remembered SeaMonkey and started investigating. I've always been a Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox person straying from time to time only to return after my short affair with alternative browsers. Each return in essence renews my vows with Mozilla because at the end of the day, my Internet use is more pleasant with the right browser. I'm a gecko nerd I guess.
The other variable taken into account when deciding on the best web browser for LXLE was email. You might think, why would email be a concern when deciding a browser? Typically for perhaps a very modern computer it may not be all that relevant, yet even if I owned a top of the line new computer, I would still be a system resource saver. Whether your system is old or new, faster is always better. When working with that point of view, email can and should be a concern, in the sense of what is the normal webbrowser/email client combination for most. Surprisingly it seems split down the middle when we started asking users. They either use webmail or an email client or both. LXLE users in general typically use a Gecko based browser with an email client, usually Thunderbird.
It's well known that when a user is checking their email, either the web browser is already open or shortly will be given links provided in emails, like who replied to your social media post, etc etc. This leads to investigation of how much system resources is used when both the browser and email client is open. Using a typical browser such as Firefox or Chrome plus an email client can lead to some pretty heavy system resources usage. This is where SeaMonkey really starts to shine with its addional components such as an email client, which certainly is suite. :)
The SeaMonkey project is a community effort to develop an all-in-one internet application suite. Such a software suite was previously made popular by Netscape and Mozilla, and the SeaMonkey project continues to develop and deliver high-quality updates to this concept. Containing a web browser, email & newsgroup client with a feed reader, HTML editor, IRC chat and an Address Book. SeaMonkey also has longevity under its belt plus a very close overall relationship with Mozilla. It uses much of the same source code which powers Firefox and Thunderbird while legal backing is provided by the Mozilla Foundation.
There was a time when the suite idea wasn't necessarily the best of ideas, particularly when computers were far less powerful then they are today. The extra components plus the browser made for a heavier app than most standalone browsers of the time, especially when considering early browsers didn't have as many technologies to support. This made them much leaner than their suite counterparts, which in turn made them more popular. In those days, you really did try to have as few programs open as possible for the sake of speed and sanity online.
Yet we've seem to have reached a strange time in computing/browser history. The above is no longer true on many levels. Todays' old computers still crush the computers from the Netscape days, plain and simple. Todays' modern browsers include multitudes more of technologies than the browsers of the past. Because of this the core of the browser itself makes up most of the components internal code with little to no additional 'weight' needing to be added to produce those components. This makes for a unique situation for the suite idea.
SeaMonkey runs arguably lighter out of the box than Firefox, at times it can be comparable given the situation and plugins installed when taking into account some addons are necessary just to enable some features found in standard Firefox. However even with quite a few addons, SeaMonkey still weighs in lighter than its Firefox sibling. Once you start adding in the savings in resources by using the components instead of completely separate programs, you really start to notice your machine has a lot more left over to do a lot of stuff more quickly.
This is excellent for LXLE and any system or user looking to lower the resource requirements when engaged in everyday computer use. Over the course of our testing with SeaMonkey and its components it began to feel like a completely natural fit for a system like LXLE and it's goals. However that didn't mean that it wasn't in need of a little TLC. Meaning we felt an LXLE overhaul of SeaMonkey was in order. Not only to better accommodate our users but to also show the flexibility and capability of this excellent gecko based Mozilla sibling.
So what did we do? Well first we addressed the relatively dated look of SeaMonkey. This is something I wish the developers would address better, however, developers are usually busy doing just that, developing. They tend to leave things plain with the idea of the user will dress it up if they want to, which 'can' be true, but isn't as common as they might tend to believe. This has a bad side effect as well, it tends to lead the user into thinking that perhaps this software isn't that great. Something that claws-mail is guilty of as well. When in actuality both are extremely excellent projects/apps. Sometimes a development team simply needs a artsy tech finisher to bring their work home in the final stretch. Nothing short of an anchor leg on a relay team.
To address a few of the shortcomings of SeaMonkey, and I really hate using that word (shortcomings) because it implies there is something wrong. Which there isn't, the things we addressed were items we felt the average person (not the corporate type) would be missing and or would expect from a browser considering what the features of their last browser most likely were, since it was probably Firefox or Chrome perhaps even IE.
We chose a handful of addons, userstyles and bookmarklets to bring, what we felt, was a considerable improvement to the functions and look of SeaMonkey out of the box. A few features we mimicked from Firefox and Chrome while others are our own with additional user modifications. Within SeaMonkey itself are excellent useful links to help make the switch to SeaMonkey be a successful one. Not only did we address the browser but also the other components as well, adding useful extensions and updating their overall look. We also added FireFTP and the Lightning calendar to complete the suite. Both is something I personally feel should be folded into the suite by default. Beyond just a facelift and a few added features we are also going to monetarily support SeaMonkey by sharing our donations.
We are introducing what we are calling for now, "Rotation Donation". This means that for every donation made to LXLE. We will split that donation with one of 5 sources we have been in contact and formed relationships with, these would include, our Parent Distribution(s), The Document Foundation, Free Software Foundation, SeaMonkey/Mozilla, and the 'Third Party Developers' that help make up the LXLE desktop. The final group will be in their own group rotation. In other words for each donation where it's split with the 'Third Party Developers' a selection will be made among them and the split will go directly to them. This includes everything from music players to browser extension developers and repositories like Ubuntuzilla. So for every 5 donations a 'Third Party Developer' will receive a donation. Each donation will be split with one of the 5 recipients. This seems the most fair without trying to 'value' their work as a whole.
The SeaMonkey project we feel is well worth support, development and should be considered by all users on any operating system as a major browser choice. We will also be housing some converted Firefox addons for our users if any issues arise with our SeaMonkey Mod.
Currently you can try out our SeaMonkey mod by installing and or downloading SeaMonkey from the SeaMonkey website or Ubuntuzilla. Once installed simply replace the SeaMonkey directory with the one available in our downloadable zip and relaunch SeaMonkey.
If you're using Linux you can download our SeaMonkey profile/mod and take it for a test drive. Simply extract the zip file to your desktop. Run the following command.
Warning if you're already a SeaMonkey user you may want to backup your SeaMonkey directory located in your .mozilla folder in your home directory.
Open a terminal and enter
mv -i seamonkey ~/.mozilla/