Mozilla is the Open Source version of Netscape. As such, much of
it will be very familiar to Netscape users. You should read
Statement and related pages to understand the somewhat
complicated relationship between Mozilla and Netscape.
I first tried Mozilla when
it was at version 0.7. Although the browser itself was pretty good
by that point, the rest of it (mail and news) was still too badly
broken to use. The 4.77 Netscape I was using on my Linux box was
pretty sad too, but it was far better than Mozilla.
Still, I had seen enough that I liked to want Mozilla. When it
reached version 0.9.7 on December 21st of 2001, I downloaded it for
another look. I didn't really expect perfection, and of course I
didn't get it either, but I am happy to say that at this release,
it's more than "good enough". Mozilla is now very usable, has very
few problems left worth complaining about, and is unquestionably a
vast improvement over Netscape 4.77.
Like Netscape, Mozilla integrates browsing, email and news. Some
people don't need or care for that and would prefer to use other
email and news clients. If that describes you, you'd probably like
Opera or Galeon better. If, however, you
prefer the integrated environment (I do), then you should give
Mozilla a test drive. I have now scrapped Netscape 4.77 and am
using Mozilla exclusively.
The first thing you'll notice about the browser is that it is fast.
Netscape has historically been slow with tables, but pages with
large tables just seem to snap into view with Mozilla. Netscape
4.77 just couldn't handle some pages at all- they'd appear to be
totally blank- I've tested all that I was personally aware of with
Mozilla and they now work.
Graphics are rendered more quickly also, and the difference is
definitely noticeable. I have noticed a few pages where Mozilla
leaves some artifacts on the screen under certain conditions; a
reload usually clears these up. There are apparently some HTML sins
that Netscape gracefully ignores that Mozilla does not; I found one
of my own pages that just doesn't look quite right with Mozilla
(Netscape and IE render it correctly). It's a fairly complex page
and I haven't yet dug into it to see where the problem lies, but my
bet is that it is my own sloppy HTML that is misleading
The next thing you might notice is that Mozilla now supports
"favicons"- those little pictures that first appeared in Microsoft
shortcuts and Favorites. The support includes .ico file types, so
webmasters who have already added favicon.ico icons to their sites
can easily implement these features simply by adding something like
this to the HEAD section of their main index page:
<LINK REL="icon" HREF="/favicon.ico" TYPE="image/ico">
<LINK REL="SHORTCUT ICON" HREF="/favicon.ico">
The result is nothing new if you are accustomed to Microsoft
browsers: the icon shows up in the URL bar (it will also show up
next to bookmarked favorites).
If you've been frustrated by Netscape 4.77's inability to adjust
text size on the fly, you'll be happy to see Text Zoom on the View
A "Sidebar" frame (turn it on or off with the View menu or just
press F9) shows bookmarks, a customizable Search choice (I removed
everything but Google), and some other quick-links. The "Tinderbox"
stuff is roadmaps for the Mozilla releases,
The "What's Related" is supposed to be helpful, and perhaps it
is for some sites, but I haven't found it to be very accurate. The
site specific information for the current page is, I guess,
interesting, and you can probably trust the Contact Info, but the
rest of it is fairly suspect (based on what I know about my own
site and what it tells me).
S/MIME support is new for this version. If you don't know what
that is, and were using Mozilla, you could highlight "S/MIME
Support", and then right mouse click for a context menu that would
include "Search for S/MIME support". If you had already set your
preferred search engine to Google in Preferences, selecting that
would initiate a Google search for that text (where you'd learn
that S/MIME has to do with Mail Security).
A "Print Preview" menu choice is interesting, but I must miss
the point: it shows you where pages would break, but what good does
that do? The built-in Help mentions "Print-Plus", but only mentions
the words; no description is given.
Mozilla has some support for form completion, but again I may
not understand their intent correctly, because I don't see it as
being very useful. Apparently it can "learn" about forms by
watching you fill them in and can then eventually do the work for
you. Frankly, I like Opera's take on this much better- a context
menu that lets you paste from data fields you have stored. But I
may be not understanding this perfectly.
The History Tool (Tasks->Tools->History) is much different
and much improved from Netscape 4.77.
Mail and News
The quick browser rendering also passes over into mail and news.
I deplore HTML mail, and it's even worse when it downloads
pictures, but unfortunately Microsoft and AOL have made this
stupidity all too common. The fact that it downloads and renders
more quickly is at least some comfort.
What's my gripe with HTML mail?
Two things- first, it takes up more space and
takes longer to download than simple text. You may not notice this
if your email use is light, but for those of us who get dozens and
even hundreds of messages daily, this stuff adds up.
Secondly, the results aren't always what you saw
when you sent it- what looks great in your Outlook Express compose
window may be completely unreadable on my screen: 3 point purple
font on a gray background, for example is one I get fairly
regularly from Microsoft users.
This version lets you define multiple POP accounts. Each account
is managed separately. Mail filters are also specific to each
account- I'm not entirely sure that's necessary or even good; if I
did want to discriminate based on what account mail came from, why
wouldn't I just make us of the "To:" field to do so?
One new feature I really do like is labeling of mail and news.
This feature marks messages with one of five different colors- you
define the colors and what they mean to you in Preferences. You
might define Blue as Personal, Red as Urgent, Blue as Business,
etc. You can then sort by these labels so that all the Blues are
together and so on. I'm using that to help organize the constant
back-log of messages that haven't quite been resolved yet or are
waiting for something else to happen before they can be filed away
permanently. This is, in my opinion, a pretty useful feature.
I have no interest in chat, so I didn't test this at all.
Please keep in mind that the development of Mozilla continues
along at a rapid pace. Issues I mention here may be fixed in the
next release, and because I'm never in a great hurry to upgrade, I
may not know about it for quite a while. Therefore, these problems
were present in the 0.9.7 release of December 21 2001.
- Newsgroup article sort order reverts to "Order received", will
not stay as "Threaded"
- Sub-folders in pick-lists (as you'd see when using the "File"
button) should sort alphabetically but do not.
- My outgoing SMTP server name was overwritten with a bogus name
after telling POP to automatically download new messages.
- I don't know if this is a bug or a deliberate design choice,
but I find it annoying that I can't directly type a path into the
Save As or Open File dialogs- you have to navigate with the mouse
to the directory you want.
- The Java plugin doesn't quite render all applets as it should.
It's close, but not perfect. Therefor, a particular applet may or
may not be usable.
There are other bugs- you can find many of them already listed
in the 0.9.7 Release
Notes; if you are reading this much after December 2001, many
of those will have already been fixed.
As mentioned above, I've seen some page rendering ugliness here
and there, and even had one crash while reloading a page. This is
not perfect, at least not yet.
It's now December 2002. I'm up to Mozilla 1.2.1,
and am pretty happy. I do get some strangeness now and then:
refusing to start, refusing to post or save files, all the while
sucking up more and more memory and cpu time, but I've found it's
easy to fix by removing Mozilla's XUL file. Do a "find $HOME -name
'XUL*' to find it, and simply remove it while Mozilla is not
running and restart.
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