For an overview of the RockMelt web browser, see part 1 of this series.
The big advantage of RockMelt is the tight integration between browsing and sharing. To keep my Twitter account up-to-date with interesting resources on the meaningful use of technology, I currently use a combination of Google Reader (for subscribing to searches and feeds), feed.ly (for a better reading experience when I review what Google Reader has brought in), and HootSuite (so that I can schedule a bunch of tweets to go out over the next 24-72 hours). I also use Packrati.us and Tweecious to ensure that all of those tweeted links get saved to my delicious account, too.
I was curious to see if RockMelt could improve on that set-up. Like virtually every HootSuite alternative I’ve tried, RockMelt’s “share” function does not offer the option of scheduling a tweet for later; that meant I’d still need to use HootSuite. And while RockSuite’s built-in aggregation is good for following one or two feeds, I follow dozens (many of them aggregating from multiple sources). So I knew I’d need to use something like my current combination of feed.ly and HootSuite, within RockMelt itself.
Since RockMelt is essentially a version of Chrome, it can (in theory) run Chrome Extensions. When I installed the feed.ly and chrome extensions in RockMelt, however, they got added to my right-hand edge, but clicking either icon did nothing. However when I navigated to www.feedly.com/home my feed.ly setup was unusable; it just wasn’t accessible from the icon in the right-hand edge. The HootSuite extension didn’t work at all, so instead I used this workaround to install the “Hoot This!” bookmarklet, but the bookmarklet is less useful than the extension because while it shortens my tweets and gives me a window to type my update and schedule my tweet, it doesn’t pre-populate the update with the title of the link I’m sharing (as the HootSuite extension does).
In one respect, RockMelt was an immediate improvement, because of the all-in-one-place workflow:
- I clicked the icon in my right-hand edge to bring up the latest news in my search feed.
- I spotted an item in pop-up window that looked interesting and potentially bloggable/tweetable.
- I clicked that item and the full story on its home site immediately filled the main window; however, the pop-up list of items remained visible, making it easy to skip ahead and look at another item if the one I first clicked proved irrelevant.
- I clicked “Hoot” to bring up my HootSuite bookmarklet, which auto-populated my tweet with a shortened link to the story URL.
- I entered my tweet text and scheduled it to be delivered later.
All great, right? Yes, except that the pop-up window on the right-hand edge obscures the scroll bar for the main story, so there is no way to scroll down and actually read the story; ideally the scroll bar would jump to the left-hand edge. But that turns out to be a moot point, since as soon as you click on the main story, the pop-up list of stories closes. OK, it’s not a monumental effort to click the icon and bring the list back up, but it defeats the benefit of being able to scroll through many stories quickly while viewing selected stories more carefully in the main window. I also found that it was very easy to lose my HootSuite window if I did anything between bringing it up and scheduling my tweet; this isn’t RockMelt’s fault or problem, but it means that the workflow isn’t that useful. So when I’m going online specifically to catch up on news and queue up tweets, I’ll still use Chrome.
But RockMelt will be a great option for day-to-day reading and sharing; i.e. if I’m not trying to queue up a few days’ worth of tweets. That’s why I already feel a vested interest in seeing this browser grow, and why I’ve compiled my wishlist of 8 ways RockMelt can get even better.