Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WotW: Manage Your Social Networks with Rockmelt

In the beginning there was Facebook. And it was good.

And then there was Twitter and Tumblr and StumbleUpon and Pinterest and Google+, and, and, and...

There are a lot of social networks out there and chances are you belong to more than one. Unfortunately, there is a finite amount of time in the day and trying to keep track of all these social networks can be a hassle. If you have a mobile device, you probably have some neat apps that assist you with this task. But what about those who don't have a mobile device or aren't tied to their phone all day?

I'd like to introduce you to your new best friend: RockMelt.

RockMelt is a web browser that taps into the social network spirit by providing you with a smorgasbord of tools to manage new updates, who's online and the easy sharing of content you find on the web.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of RockMelt, I want to take a minute to review a bit about web browsers. For starters, a web browser is an application that allows you to browse the Internet. Back when Lu was writing this weekly post, she wrote about the different mainstream web browsers. You can catch up here.

RockMelt is not a mainstream browser, but it's built on the framework of one of the most popular: Google Chrome. At first glance, RockMelt is Google Chrome meets Facebook. Or in other words, pure awesomeness.

To get started, go to and click the download button on the home page. A small installer package will download and you can then install it, which takes only a couple minutes.

As soon as downloading is complete, you will be prompted to enter your Facebook username and password. What, you're hesitant now? What about when you gave away this info and more for Farmville or that too-good-to-pass-up coupon offer? Don't worry, it's OK. RockMelt has been around for awhile now and is legit. Go ahead and login.

As soon as you login, you will see some familiar sights.

Recognize these guys? Yep, those are your Facebook status buttons. You can control Facebook directly from your browser. If you want, you don't ever have to visit the actual site again because you can see your updates, new messages, friend requests and make status updates all from within RockMelt, regardless of which website you may be on at the time. This saves you some serious time!

On the either the left or right side of the screen (depending on your settings) is your Friend Edge, where you can see your Facebook friends and see who's online. This is the same idea as the chat sidebar on the right side of Facebook.

To make a status update on Facebook from within RockMelt, simply click on the write button (familiar to mobile device users) and type your status. As soon as you link other accounts (we'll get to that in a minute), you can opt to have your status posted there as well.

On the other side of the browser is your App Edge.

You can install "apps," or websites that you commonly use and receive updates through. Not sure what there is? Simply click on the + sign and explore the ever-growing App Center.

To save you some time though, you can get updates from Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, your favorite blogs, popular news websites, etc.

The great thing about installing one of these apps is any time there is an update, a little number will appear in the top-left corner of the app icon. To view those updates, simply click on the app icon and the update will appear right there.

Speaking of updates, any time a new update occurs, a little box will appear in the bottom-right corner of the browser, alerting you of what's new and happening. You can disable this feature, of course, but I find it kind of nice.

So, in the real world, here's how RockMelt will make your social networking life better. Imagine you hop on the computer to get some work done. You'd really rather be doing something else, when all of a sudden an update appears. You quickly see it and realize it's that's annoying friend that always posts something pointless that their kid did. No need to stop there, keep working. A few minutes later, a new update appears letting you know a good friend just broke up with their boyfriend. Damage control time. All throughout this, you can see which friends are currently on Facebook and you can chat with them while you're working. The best part? You've never left the page you were doing your work on. It's the perfect integration of social networking and... all the other uses of the Internet (in case you forgot, yes, there are a few).

A few other neat features include one-click sharing in the top-right corner of the browser. Let's say you just read an awesome article. Share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter by simply clicking the Share button. You can also add a comment if you'd like. Besides the social networking abilities, RockMelt is built on Google Chrome, so you have the capabilities of that powerful web browser on top of everything else. I promise I'll do a bunch of posts soon about how amazing Google Chrome is.

Now, the downside of RockMelt. When I first learned about it, I installed it and used it religiously. One day, while teaching at school, I had RockMelt open in the background. I was projecting my PowerPoint on the screen when suddenly a slew of friend updates started popping up and they just happened to be embarrassing ones too. My students thought it was the greatest interruption ever. I realized then that constant updates is not so good sometimes in the work environment. But, since then, they have added a Quiet Mode feature (located next to the Share button) which turns off the updates until you are ready to receive them again.

RockMelt is a little intense at first because of all its features, but take the time to try it out. I think you'll find a rich and rewarding experience on the web.
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