It’s about time for Cardinal

I saw this comment (#7) over on Mike Neel's blog this morning and decided I'd better post something here on my blog before such comments begin appearing in my comment section. So let me try to catch you up on some of the things that have been capturing my attention during the last week or so.

Yesterday morning I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me about the upcoming Cardinal release of Flock sometime in May. If I understand correctly, Cardinal will be the first actual beta version of Flock. Up until now, all the releases have been termed a "developer preview," and they were accompanied by a warning that the software wasn't even to the beta stage yet. Despite that very preliminary, and yes even buggy, version of the browser, I began using it back in November as my default browser. At any rate, yesterday I decided to download the latest "daily build" of Flock to see what has changed, so I downloaded version 0.7.0.3.0 and installed it. A number of changes have been made, some of which I like and some of which I don't.

For instance, I am now using the new built-in blogging editor for this post. When you press the hot key for it (Ctrl-B), the editor pops up a separate window, which is okay I suppose, but one of the things I notice immediately that there is no way to enter categories for the post. That means that posting to the blog will have to be a two-staged adventure. First, I can draft the post in the editor, but afterwards I'll have to open the post in WordPress and change the categories there. That is not very efficient and surely it is an oversight.

Also the editor doesn't seem to separate paragraphs with a space when you press Enter. I won't know how the post will appear on the blog until I publish it, but if it doesn't add the space between paragraphs I'll have to add them during that second stage of editing the post when I am adding the categories. I can, of course, modify my behavior to add those extra CR/LF (carriage return / line feeds) when I'm editing the post, once I discover how the editor treats them, but this behavior is a departure from the previous versions of the editor and to me it seems an undesirable change. Also this version of the blog editor no longer has a spell checker built in. Given my poor spelling skills, that is definitely not an improvement.

Another change in this version of the software is that the widget for selecting which collection is displayed at the top of the browser has been moved from the left side of the window to the right. Why? I have no idea. Again I can get used to that, but it doesn't seem to be an improvement to me and I see no rationale for the change.

What used to be called "the shelf" is now referred to as web snippets, and its location has been moved from the topbar to the bottom window. A feature has been added that allows you to highlight text, graphics, and links and drag them to the bottom of the window which causes the web snippet window to open automatically where the item can then be deposited. Once you've done that, moving the cursor back to the browser window closes the web snippet window. I think the rationale for this change was to make the web snippet window easier to use. I'll just have to see whether this configuration proves easier and more desirable. So far, I'm not convinced that it is.

One of the things that I do like about the new version is the modification they have made to the photo browser. I can now see all the photos of my friends on Flickr instead of just the ones that are public, meaning that I can see the photos that are classified by the photographer as for "friends and family" only when I am one of their contacts. That makes sense and is a change that needed to be made. Also the developers have added a link to each photograph that permits you to drag either a small or a large version of the photo to your blog post. I'm pleased with that capability. Previously you could only drag a small version of the picture so this new ability gives greater choice, and I'm almost always in favor of that.

So, despite my kvetching about the little niggling things I don't like about the newest version of Flock, I'm still a big fan of this browser because I've become reliant on the tools it provides for interacting with the web. I like the fact that when I mark something as a favorite in the browser it updates my del.icio.us site.

Flock is very innovative in the ways it encourages you to participate online rather than to merely observe content that others have generated. And since I favor all of us contributing to what's online, I think Flock will make a major contribution to that capability. Other browsers are like radios (one-way conversation) whereas Flock is more like a telephone.

Update: Upon publishing from the blog editor, I discovered to my delight that I did have the option for adding categories after all because upon pressing the "publish" button I was presented with a list of my categories from which to choose, and when I clicked on the "advanced" button I found that I could even enter Technorati tags too. So the paragraphs in which I complain about those absent features just reflects my lack of familiarity with the features. On the other hand, my observations about the CR/LF issue were correct, so in the future I'll know that if I want a blank line between paragraphs when I'm using the blog editor, I'll have to put them there. That's not hard to do, though, so I'll just modify my behavior to account for the way it works.

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3 thoughts on “It’s about time for Cardinal

  1. Pingback: Daryl’s Flock Blog » Armchair user interaction design and recent changes in Cardinal

  2. Will Pate

    Perry,

    Thanks so much for the fantastic feedback. You may have even helped us find a new bug to squash 😉

    Hope to hear your thoughts again when Cardinal comes out.

    Cheers,

    Will Pate
    Community Ambassador, Flock

    Reply
  3. Perry

    Thanks for stopping by Will and for posting a note. I’m sure you’ll continue to receive my feedback, like it or not, in the future. I’ve been around this long; I can’t imagine jumping ship now that things are getting good. 😉

    Reply

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