Mozilla of All Trades

In my post about calendar programs a number of great readers suggested that I should try "Lightning" or "Sunbird" which are part of the Mozilla Calendar Project. Calendars from the people who bring us Firefox and Thunderbird.

I didn't include these programs in my initial review for a couple of reasons. The first, is that I downloaded an early beta of Sunbird, and was (unsurprisingly) rough, and I didn't see that there was anything particularly earth-shattering. The second is that I find the Mozilla applications to be remarkably awkward and borderline unusable.

So I've begun to to download and test Sunbird, in an attempt to be complete and because I suspect that the quality of the application has improved in the past couple of years. I don't use Thunderbird because of my aversion to Mozilla and XUL (and mutt sucks less), which nixed the lightening option.

And now on to the interesting part, why I hate Mozilla apps. They all suck. Which is to say that they all look the same, and have this shrink-wrap feel that feels awkward in almost every operating system/environment. This means that everything looks ugly and functionality is never where you'd expect it to be. This might be a good thing if you use a bunch of different operating systems, and want your apps to be consistent cross-platform, but generally I think this is heavy handed and it means that your "cross platform" apps don't work like any of the other "platform apps."

Now of course web browsers and email clients are pretty straightforward and there isn't a lot learning curve, but I think usability and ergonomics in contemporary desktop computing comes down to seconds of frustration and confusion, and not upfront learning curves. At least for me.

To be fair I use Firefox without complaint on my linux environments and I think they work great for that, and I think the real test of Sunbird will be how well the experience is on a linux system. I'm not sure if this is a product of the fact that everything seems a little disjointed about user interface on linux. In this direction I find it particularly annoying that Mozilla apps don't work with the "Services" menu on OS X.

I've found this annoyance factor with any Mozilla product I've used in recent years. I've always blamed it on XUL (the Mozilla interface design methodology), and the idea that Mozilla seems to place a greater emphasis quantity of users than specific quality. Am I the only one who feels this way? Do other people really like the Mozilla apps' user interface? Why?/Why not?


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