Starting New


I never really thought about this for the longest time.  A new tab was just a new tab and a place to start browsing anew while not losing the original focus on the previous tab.  I really bought into the concept of multiple tabs so that I could do and work on a couple of things at once.

Time moves on and I do my best to become efficient.  Because I always check into Twitter, Facebook, my Gmail account, it made sense to save these tabs and load them automatically when I load my browser.  Then, I got hooked on Alltop.  It was a great way to have the commonly read web resources load every time I got started.  For me, I got the sense that I was working smarter and that really made a great deal of sense.  Just the menial task of manually opening tabs seemed to rob me of productivity time.

I think my philosophy changed the first time I loaded the Opera browser and saw Speed Dial for the first time.

You could turn the new tab experience into an ever greater launch point for productivity.  I started looking around and ended up with the Incredible Start Page and I shared it on this blog here.  It just because like a pair of comfortable shoes.  It was there when I started a new tab – had a notepage for quick notes to myself, access to my bookmarks, the apps I had installed, and a list of the most visited sites for me.  For my Google Chrome browsing experience, it was great!  Oddly, I didn’t make the same effort to change the new tab page in the other browser of choice – Firefox, the default always did the job for me.

Then, about a week ago, I read a couple of articles about applications and extensions to bring more functionality to the browser.  The nice thing about blogging was that I could go back to the original post and realize that I hadn’t changed the new tab function for two years.  That’s an eternity to changes made on this computer!  So, I devoured these two articles.

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-apps-and-extensions-to-supercharge-chromes-ne-982659508

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-apps-and-extensions-to-supercharge-firefoxs-n-995238717

…and then started to explore.

I had really bought into the Rockmelt philosophy that there should be something new every time you load a browser.  I was motivated to look for something with the concept that Rockmelt will stop functioning on August 31.  I really hope that Yahoo! finds some way to keeping it alive but that’s fodder for another post.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was just something new when I opened a new tab?

I’ve been curious about active tiles and how it works within Windows 8.  Not enough to buy it but the whole metro interface thing seems to be a new model for getting to the latest and greatest and having it right on your Windows desktop.  Could it not happen in a new tab instead?

To that end, I downloaded and installed the new metroTab.  It had that new metro experience but after poking around I realized that I could do some great customization to suit my needs – including the philosophy that everything looks better in green.  I had access to recently closed tabs but am really drawn to the active content on the desktop.  I liked what I saw and kept it.  It did seem a little wrong to have it running on Ubuntu so I changed the background colour to orange and it does seem to fit nicely there.

I continue to poke around and see what I can do on a regular basis.  The only think that’s seemingly a void in the upgrade was a missing notepad.  But having a tile to Evernote was a no-brainer – I really had gravitated there for the most part anyway.

What to do to refresh Firefox?  There wasn’t a metro interface in the second article but New Tab Tools gives a very nice customization ability to getting started.

In both cases, access to recently closed tabs helps out with those “D’oh” moments.

I’m liking the current new tab modifications.  I haven’t forgotten the past and they may well return but such is the life of an ever evolving search for the ultimate productivity tools.  In the classroom, what a great way to make it easy for students to get to web resources for those computers progressive enough to be using web applications.

Speaking of ever changing, you can’t be complacent.  I read this today.  Changes to Chrome’s New Tab Page.

Who can’t handle a little change?

Rethinking RSS – Noowit Comes To Beta


Like many people, I feared that the end of the world was coming when Google announced that they would be retiring the use of their Google Reader.  After all, it had been the source of news for me for years now.  Some of the notable RSS feed that I read regularly appear right here on this blog over to the right and down a bit in the Blogroll.

I’ve highlighted these excellent resources but certainly have more that are pulled into my RSS reads.  They’re blogs, news services, Diigos, Delicious, and more.  When I’m reading something and like the quality of it or find that it’s contributed to my immediate learning, I immediately go hunting for the RSS or Atom feed and track it.  I even have included the feed from this blog in my reader just as a double check that everything is working as it should.  dougpete has paranoia, don’t you know?

Between Google Reader and NewsSquares in Google Chrome, I’ve always had a tonne of things to read and ponder on a regular basis.  These were my personal calls to action in terms of awareness, new learning, and consolidation of old learning.  So, I was concerned when the thought was that this service would go away.  I’ve downloaded my subscriptions from Google Takeout a few times just so that I don’t lose track of all of the resources that have been so helpful to me.

Somehow, it was comforting knowing that Stephen Downes was going through much of the same process.  He had a nice summary of what he thinks about the top replacement players here.

And like so many, I’ve been looking for alternative solutions.  As I blogged a couple of days ago, incorporating RSS into Hootsuite has been a great solution for me so far – on the computer.  I do do so much of my reading on my portables – it’s a great way to pass the time while waiting in line for appointments or lying in bed or on the couch or so many other places.  I’ve been playing around with Feedly and the new Digg as well.  However, even Feedly which seems to be everyone’s choice of reader is having problems.  You’ve heard of “failed whale”; how about a “failed cloud?”.  To their defense, everyone is looking for a solution.

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Every analytic, I’ve come to recognize that I really do most of my portable reading on Zite and Rockmelt.  Both have allowed for the importing of RSS but more importantly you can set your reading to a concept and not just a pre-defined feed.  This allows the services to discover content wherever there is a feed to scrape.  I’ve run into some very unique and interesting resources.  Zite doesn’t have a desktop version but Rockmelt does so that gives me a shot of serendipity when I need it.

But, recently, I was invited to play around with a pre-Beta version of Noowit.  Somehow, the best way I can describe it as combining the best of everything into a web application.  So far, it’s been very impressive.

Noowit

Like so many readers on the market, it imported my Google feed and let me “Discover” related content.  So, as a reader (and sharer), it performs very nicely.  There is another feature that I haven’t got to yet and that’s the ability to create my own Nootwit Magazine.  I’ve started but haven’t stuck to it long enough to generate something worth sharing yet.  For right now, it’s all about the discovery, reading, and sharing.

Like many programs of this type, you add categories and ideas.  Noowit claims to learn what you’re reading.  I’m hoping that once I get a chance to start my own “Mag” that helps discover more related and interesting content.  Plus, sharing is nice.  It has the feel of a paper.li to me.

Right now, I’m kind of fascinated by its navigation.  If there ever was a web app that works like a tablet app, this is it.  Navigation by mousepad feels and reacts just like I’d reached out and swiped the screen.  I wonder if the developers are programming with Windows 8 in mind.  The whole layout and preparation is interesting.  You can pick by author or category or sources.  There’s also a “cut the noise” setting that’s definitely going to take some playing with.  There is so much in this project and I know that I’m not taking the best advantage of it.

The whole experience, combined with what I’ve done in the past has convinced me that I’m in search of more than an RSS Reader.  In that regard, perhaps Google’s move has been good for the entire reading industry.  Perhaps we’ll become better and more diverse readers because of it.

Check out Noowit’s description:

and the best news….

What about you?  Are you looking for just a Google Reader replacement or do you want more?

Rockmelt for Web


I have been a Rockmelt fan for a long time.  When the browser first came out, I grabbed it and made it the default browser on my computers.  It was based on Chromium and had all of the hooks to social networks built right in.  It was the perfect combination of everything that I do most online.  Everything was just sort of arranged around the outside of the browser itself.  Because it was Chromium based, you could apply a Chromium theme to it (I love my green).  Extensions just worked and so it really acted like a well decked out social browser.  I originally wrote about it here.  Looking at the date, I can’t believe that it was back in 2010 when I got my first invitation to use the product.

The folks at Rockmelt have announced the end of life for that product.  It’s sad but things have really moved along there.  Recently, I blogged about the release of Rockmelt for iPad.  That brought a whole new way of reading the news for me.  I shared my thoughts about it here.

So, it was with great excitement that I read that the changes that were promised for the desktop were now available.  Their newest product is Rockmelt for Web.

I sure could have used it just this past weekend at the Google Summit.  The hotel that I stayed at had very weak wireless access.  I couldn’t get connected with my iPad but I could with my laptop.  Sadly, that stopped me from using Rockmelt for iPad!  Then, at the sessions themselves, it was a matter of shifting from one device to another to get the best of both worlds.  It would have been nice to just have Rockmelt in the browser.  Now I can.

It’s as simple as going to Rockmelt.com.  You’ll be asked to log in – at present you’ll have to request an invitation or already have a Rockmelt account from one of its other products.  I have five invites if you’re in a hurry to try it out.

Once logged in, you’ll see immediately a consistent approach to the display of information.  The categories that I have selected for the iPad version are instantly available on the web.

rockmelt1

The stories appear in the very popular tiled format.  You get a quick look at what the story is about.  Tapping the story opens it in your browser and you’re off.

See a good story?  You’ll be able to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest immediately by connecting your accounts.

The whole Rockmelt approach also lets you tag an emotion to any story.

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When I first saw this, I thought it was a little hokey and I didn’t really use it a lot.  However, when you use all the features of Rockmelt, they make so much sense.

Content to read can be selected via categories:

rockmelt2

You’ll notice that you can select by typical topic categories but you can also select by emotion!  When I just need to be entertained, I’ll wade my way through the WTF category.

Of course, what would social be if you couldn’t follow people and others couldn’t follow you.

I’m only into a couple of days working with Rockmelt for Web but have already decided that it’s going to be one of the tabs that automatically open when I launch my browser.  There’s just a neverending stream of interesting things to read and it’s all available in the browser.

For me and my addictive reading habits, this is a definite keeper.

Rockmelt for iPad


One of the browsers that I have installed on my computer is Rockmelt.  Based on Chromium, it very tightly integrates social media into the browser.  I really liked the concept and had made it my default browser for a while.  Then, I got a little scared because while Chrome and Chromium were updating with features and addressing security concerns, Rockmelt wasn’t.  So, even though it was a terrific concept, I sadly set it aside.

This week, in my reads, I read about a new version of Rockmelt – this time for the iPad.  That got my curiosity going.  Could they incorporate the same features into a portable browser?  Off I went to download it.

When I fired it up, the connections to social networking were needed so it continues the tradition of the desktop version.  I log in via Facebook and expected to open in a web browser like the desktop version.

At least that’s what I thought…

I was presented with a bunch of stories right off the bat.  How cool was that?!

I scrolled around for a while and realized that Rockmelt had already pulled in many great stories for me to read!

But, you’re not limited to that.  See that little bar at the top – if you browse, Rockmelt pulls down a categories list where you can pick and choose your content.

(Had to choose LMAO)

Interestingly, at the bottom, if you need more than the original list, you can “add more”.  And add and add and add and add — the suggestions go on as long as you can scroll.

Just click Follow and the topic is added to your preferences.

Want even more?  Because it’s social, before long you’ll get noticed that other Rockmelt users are following you and your reads.  Ignore them, follow them back, follow others — it’s social reading.

But the truly cool thing is that you ARE in a browser.  The open bar at the top is a really powerful Omni-type bar.  Start typing a concept or search key and Rockmelt responds with search results in little buttons indicating what type of results you’re retrieving.  If you know where you’re going, I suppose you could actually type the http:// but it was fun just to watch Rockmelt and Google pair to present the results in a search format.

It was at that point that I realized that I had philosophically changed the way I approached the web.  Normally, in a browser, I would open the page, go to a bookmark or start typing because I had a particular purpose for being there.  Here, I’m starting with some results and moving on from there.  Is this good?  I need to think that through.  It certainly is different.

The webpage rendering seems to be very faithful to the original.

I’m really interested in this release.  Yes, I have a number of other news readers and they do a darn fine job.  But, the fact that you’re also in a browser as you type seems so intuitive and easy to flip in and out of browsing and reading…

Need to share?

Of course you do.  What would social reading be without sharing.  In the top right corner of any webpage or reading, you’ll see the standard share button giving options to send to Facebook, Twitter, Email, and your printer.  For me, it would be nice to also send to Diigo or Instapaper.  But, we have canned “like”, “lol”, etc…  It’s a first release; I’m sure that there is more to come.

Like the desktop version, Rockmelt make use of a sidebar.  This time, you can move a webpage to your sidebar as a bookmark.  Interesting concept.

The only shortcoming at this point comes with the sharing feature.  It would be very nice if Rockmelt pulled the title from the article that you’re sharing.  Instead, the default message to your followers on social media is…

Of course, you could edit that out and replace it with your own content.  It would just be nice not to have to.

So, excited by this, I went to the Rockmelt site to see if I’d missed something with the desktop versions.  I’d just been relying on Rockmelt to upgrade itself.  There was no sign of a desktop version but there was an option to sign up for a new Macintosh version.  Of course, I signed up.  This could be really exciting.

Got an iPad?  Download the software from the iTunes store and put it through its paces.  You might just have a new favourite browser.

Browser Choices


I admit it.  I have a whole slew of internet browsers installed on my computers.  I keep looking for the perfect browser.  In my mind, it needs to be fast, secure, compatible with every website known to browserkind, work miracles with Flash and Silverlight, and handle Java, HTML 5, and CSS3 perfectly.  Oh, and render images perfectly regardless of format using hardware acceleration, allow me to customize it, give me a choice of search engines, let me run extensions to customize the experience, synchronize browser settings from different computers, and let me have everything that I want my way.

Is that too much to ask?

It used to be considerably easier.  Previously, I only ran Windows and had my choice of Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator.  Even when I was forced to use a Macintosh computer, there still was a version of Internet Explorer that would make me feel at home.  These good old days seem so long ago now.  These browsing experiences were fairly similar and so I had a particular mindset as to what the browsing experience was.

I then read about this browser developed in Europe called Opera.  I downloaded it and it was an eye opener for me.  There actually was a different way to think about browsing the internet.  This has started me on the search that I continue today.

So, on my computer, you’ll find instances of Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Flock, Safari, and RockMelt and I rotate through them all regularly.  As of late, my favourite has been Google Chrome, I will admit.  I’m not alone – browser share is important to the individual developers.  You’ll see them and their legions of fans scrambling to explain why a particular browser is better than the rest.

 

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Thanks – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Web_browser_usage_share.svg

The real winner in all of this is us, the end user.  As each browser adds new features  to it, it pushes the whole industry along to create better browsing experiences.  For me, the timing of this post is especially important.  Microsoft is releasing Internet Explorer 9 at the SXSW Conference.  Recently, Google upgraded its browser to Version 10, Apple pushed out a new version of Safari, Firefox has a Release Candidate for Version 4, Opera is now at Version 11, and the upgrade paths continue.  What’s really nice though is that all of these browsers are adding features and making things better with each release.  These better things include making your time on the internet safer.

I suppose the biggest thing for me was the incorporation of hardware acceleration in the browser.  Microsoft demonstrated it nicely with an earlier Beta of the Internet Explorer browser and I did sit up and take notice.  With the hardware at work rather than the software at doing graphics, it flew.  I just wish that some smart developers could work their magic with Flash and Silverlight in this manner.  There’s nothing quite so warm as a computer fan picking up speed to try and cool off the i7 processor doing its best to keep up.

I don’t think there’s a bad browser in the bunch but here are my current thoughts about each.

Internet Explorer
Unfortunately, I see this browser in a downward spiral.  It used to be THE browser – nothing else came close.  But, security issues became apparent and patch after patch was pushed out to try to make the browser safe.  With a huge market share, it was the perfect target for designers of malware.  As one patch was applied, another security flaw appeared.  It’s tough being number one.  As Internet Explorer’s problems became apparent, it really presented opportunities for other browsers to get fans.  In advance of the release of Version 9, the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown was given.  It’s hard to believe that, in this world of heightened security, a ten year old browser is still seen as safe to use.  Internet Explorer 9 is build with security in mind and the promise is to make the web a beautiful thing.  I’ll be grabbing a copy on March 14 to experience it myself.  This might be enough to stop the spiral.

Mozilla Firefox
Until about a year ago, this was my default browser – hands down.  It provided a safer feeling when browsing on the web and opened the door for extensions/addons for me.  I saw the light for different ways to browse with Opera and it continued with Firefox.  I went on a mission to try and incorporate all of the things that I do on the web – blogging, Twitter, and Facebook being very important – having them built right into the browser.  It was great.  However, with subsequent updates to version 3, Firefox started to feel sluggish and my eyes started to wander.  I was intrigued with the Release Candidate of Version 4 and it now resides on my computers.  Recently, on this blog, Stephen Downes offered a suggestion for a new feature to speed up the loading.  When Firefox goes gold, I’ll give it a shot if it’s still needed.

Google Chrome
I must admit that, after playing with all the browsers, this is the default for me right now.  It loads almost instantly; I have my default pages pinned in place and a nice collection of addons in place.  Along with Firefox, the AdBlock extension is great for making things even faster by hiding many of the annoying ads that come along.  It does scream in terms of speed.  It’s fully customizable and just works so nicely.  With the promise of the Google Chrome Operating System in the offing, it can be configured by using the Google Chrome Store to be like an entire web operating system right in the browser.  I do think that I’m looking at the future with the concept of a Web OS.  Imagine just getting connected to the web and you always have the latest and greatest software and storage available without having to constantly apply patches to your computer!

Opera
I really like Opera as a browser.  It was the first piece of software that incorporated gestures.  That is a real experience for me.  Not only does Opera have extensions but it does have widgets.  Combining the two lets you dress up a browser very nicely.  Opera seems very fast but I haven’t had a great deal of luck with the ad blocking extensions.  Opera seems to do the best job of giving the most room for browsing on the screen.  It incorporates Speed Dial when you open a new tab and many other browsers have since incorporated similar features.

Flock
Flock used to be my default browser when it was build on the same code as Firefox.  In addition to the features that I enjoyed with Firefox, Twitter was built right into it.  It was my first move into a social web browser and I really liked it.  Then, there was one update that came along that didn’t like Flash well.  Hit a web page that used Flash and the fan noise seemed deafening!  There wasn’t an upgrade forthcoming and so I left Flock although I did check in periodically to see if there were upgrades.  Unfortunately, not.  I then started to hear rumblings that Flock was going to be built on the code from the Chromium project.  As soon as it was released, I downloaded it and was impressed to a certain extent.  However, I had moved to a different Twitter client and the Twitter functionality just wasn’t at the same level.  The latest news is that Flock has teamed up with Zynga.  This could result in some really exciting social media use in the future.  I’ll keep my eye on the prize.

RockMelt
I really like the concept behind RockMelt.  It takes the premise of a social browser like we see in Flock and adds more to it.  With Facebook integration, you can monitor everything that’s happening in your Facebook world while you browse.  It reminds me of a secretary that I had years ago with sticky notes all around her monitor with the Twitter, Facebook, and addon edges in place.  I have my copy tripped out with the same functionality as Google Chrome.

Safari
I’ll be honest.  I keep it updated but I don’t use it.  Maybe I would if I just used a Macintosh computer but I regularly work on the Windows and Linux platforms as well.  My ultimate goal is to find the perfect browser for all of my computing words and to synchronize among them all.  In my world, that rules out Safari at this time.

By the same logic, I’ll grab Internet Explorer 9 when it’s available to see the “beauty of the web”.  Maybe it will make a deep enough impact that I’ll make it the default browser on my Windows computer.  Who knows?  I am hoping to see good things with it.  The other players have made great moves in visibility and safety while this release has been under development.  I’m looking forward with anticipation.  The preview releases have indeed changed the way that Internet Explorer has always worked and felt.

How do you feel about your browser?

RockMelt


Earlier this week, I received my invitation to use the RockMelt browser and so decided to give it a go.  It was a relatively quick download and I was ready to go.

My first impression was – hey, this is Google Chrome.  In fact, it’s based upon the code from the Chromium project and so the initial look and feel shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  RockMelt claims that it will be more than just a piece of software – it will be a way of pulling together your web experience.  Where have we seen that before?  Notably in the Flock browser of which I was a real fan.  However, development for the Macintosh seems delayed so this may be just what I’m looking for.

My internet needs are relatively small – I want to browse securely, I use Facebook, Twitter, and Diigo/Delicious routinely.  It would be nice to find a way to streamline the experience.  To date, that has meant downloading and installing Extensions to Google Chrome.  RockMelt claims to have that done for me and more.

Since it’s built on Chromium, it make sense that I deck it out like I do.  That means adding my favourite extensions like AdThwart, Shareaholic, and Evernote.  And, of course, I need to get a little theme action going – my current choice is the Robot/Android theme.  I also pin my frequently used tabs to the top.  It just takes a few minutes and I’m ready to go.

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RockMelt displays the content relatively inobtrusively.  The extensions and social services that I use are on the right “edge” and a sampling of the folks I’m friends with on Facebook on the left.

They’re all just one click buttons with quick access just a mouse click away.  The Facebook access is nice; it’s really quick with no advertising.  The Twitter access is pretty basic and certainly has nowhere near the power and functionality of Seesmic Desktop.  But there’s something very functional about just opening the browser and being automatically logged in to all of these services.

One of the things that a good learner does is share with others what’s happening.  At the top of the browser window a “Share” button provides one click access to sharing whatever is open in the browser.  A very nice touch.

And then, there’s search.  My initial thought when looking at the browser was that we’re retrograding here.  Instead of the Omnibar that Google Chrome has, there’s actually a search box.  Whaaaa?  Here is the nicest feature so far.

The Omnibar is certainly there.  Type a URL or a search term and you’re searching as you might with Google Chrome.  But, if you type a search term in the search box, a search with results pops up in a window on top of the current page!  This was a feature that I took a shining to immediately.  Rather than leaving the current page to do a search or to open another tab, do the search on top of what’s currently open.  It’s a big jump in productivity.

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Often, I don’t need to go to the actual website to get the information that I need.  The quick summary that a simple search is sometimes enough.

At this juncture, RockMelt is still early in development and only accessible by invitation.  As such, it wouldn’t be fair to get into benchmarks comparing it to other browsers but there’s no noticeable performance delays for my use of the browser.  The whole design is indeed made with the web and the social web in mind.  It’s really worth a download to try a different type of experience.  Whether you stay with it or choose similar add-ons/extensions to your existing browser will be your choice.  RockMelt does give you a good glimpse of what the entire browsing experience could me.