Netscape rolls out new version of Communicator

Netscape Communications Corp. on Tuesday will roll out the latest upgrade to its Communicator applications suite.

Communicator 4.51 adds enhancements to the Netscape/America Online Inc. instant messaging client, along with a new utility for pulling stock quotes off the Internet without having to switch back and forth between applications, company officials said. The changes extend the integration between Communicator and the company's Navigator browser that began with the Communicator 4.5 release in July 1998, they said.

The new version of the instant messaging client adds the ability to click on Web links from within the IM screen, along with single-click access from the IM screen to a user's "My Netscape" Web page, Internet-based e-mail, and Web search functions, said Eric Mann, group product manager for Communicator. The changes mark the first major IM upgrade for Communicator since Netscape licensed the technology from AOL last year, he said. AOL went on to buy Netscape in a blockbuster $4.2 billion deal in November.

The new IM client also allows group chat sessions among as many as 23 users simultaneously, Mann said. A new privacy control setting on the IM client lets users keep their name from popping up on others' "buddy lists."

"You have fairly granular control over who sees what" in the new version of the IM, Mann said. A parent can, for example, keep a child's screen name from being seen by anyone when the child is online, or allow the screen name to be seen only by a specific list of people, he said. A new stock quote utility allows users to type real-language searches, such as "quote Netscape," into Communicator and pull stock quotes off the Web, Mann said. A search on "my stocks" will bring up quotes for all stocks tracked in the user's pre-set portfolio on the Netcentre portal.

The 4.51 version also adds simpler access to the calendar and scheduling functions in Netcentre, and includes fixes for Java-script problems and other minor bugs in the earlier version, he said.

Communicator 4.51, a 14.7-megabyte file, will be available for free download at Netscape's site Tuesday.


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