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Mozilla 1.0

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  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good

Pros

  • Fast
  • stable
  • free
  • includes fully-featured email client.

Cons

  • Incompatible with some sites built for Internet Explorer
  • chat client doesn't work with the big commercial IM systems, including ICQ, Yahoo IM, AOL IM, and Windows Messenger.

The four-and-a-half-year wait is over: Mozilla 1.0 has gone gold, and from what we've seen, it has been worth the delay. Because the Mozilla Organization has aimed this browser primarily at Web developers and seasoned Web surfers, it's a little too complicated for the average consumer. Nonetheless, the speedy version 1.0 is hard to crash and includes an impressive email client. If you'd like a solid alternative to the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 hegemony, give Mozilla a try while you wait for Netscape 7 -- you might like what you find.

Any browser that intends to compete in today's browser wars must load Web pages quickly. That's why Netscape launched the Mozilla project more than four years ago: to wipe away the slow, buggy Netscape 4.x code and replace it with a modern browser engine. ZDNet Labs ran Mozilla through four speed tests to see how it measures up to Netscape and IE. Mozilla topped Netscape 6.x in our mixed text and graphics tests, but ran a fraction slower than Netscape in the other three. And that's a bit odd, considering that Netscape 6.x is based on a much earlier version of the Mozilla software. Even stranger, both Mozilla and Netscape outran IE 6 in three of four tests. However, since the browser's actual speeds often varied by less than a second, it was a very close race. Mozilla 1.0 is up to scratch in terms of stability, too. Whereas Netscape 6 would grind to a halt at times when simply attempting to launch Composer, the built-in HTML editor, Mozilla 1.0 has no problems running that program, even on an underpowered laptop (a 233MHz Pentium MMX with 96MB of RAM running Windows 98 SE). Nor did Mozilla 1.0 crash during our tests, even when running complicated Web pages that use both Java and Flash. As always, we're big fans of Mozilla's tabbed browser interface, which looks similar to Opera's setup. Tabs let you quickly cruise through multiple Web pages in one browser window, rather than forcing you to open different pages in different windows. The little row of tabs, like those of a manila folder, appears just above the Web page. To turn on the tabs, go to the Edit > Preferences menu, click the Navigator heading to open the subheads, and select Tabbed Browsing. In the dialogue box, there are a few options for opening new tabs. Our favourite, the Control+Enter option, lets you type a URL into the address field the way you normally would, then hit Control+Enter to open the URL into a new tab. If you're like us, you're not a big fan of pop-up and pop-under ads. Hence, you'll love the handy Mozilla feature that disables many, although not all, of them. Sorry to say, you'll need to decipher some technobabble to activate this feature. From the menu bar, select Edit > Preferences, then double-click the Advanced option to see all of the suboptions. Click Scripts & Windows, and you'll see a list labelled Allow Webpages To. The first check box on the list is Open Unrequested Windows. Uncheck this, and most pop-ups will go away. A word of warning, though: this function doesn't discriminate, so it may disable pop-ups you actually want to see, such as the video pop-ups on the News.com front door. If you're worried that this techie browser will look bare and unattractive, don't be. Although Mozilla's default skin makes the browser seem pretty old-school, much like Netscape Navigator 4.x's, you can easily download custom skins from sites such as XulPlanet. There's even a skin on XulPlanet that makes Mozilla look very much like IE, if that's your cup of tea. This feature doesn't make your life easier, but it allows you to cater to your aesthetic tastes. Beyond its skins and pop-up-killing abilities, however, Mozilla 1.0 doesn't do much more for the average Web surfer than Internet Explorer does. For one thing, Mozilla doesn't always render Web pages the same way IE does. Why does that matter? Many Web designers have built sites primarily for IE, and those pages look odd in Mozilla. For example, we struggled with sites that use a technology called positioning to put ads on their pages. In IE, those ads temporarily hide part of the page, then go away. But in our Mozilla tests, the ads sometimes permanently blocked part of the page, and we had to reload the page until we got a different, regular, non-positioning ad. Despite these few foibles, Mozilla compares favourably to both Netscape and Internet Explorer. But don't make any decisions yet. Read on to see what we think of Mozilla's chat and email clients.

Chat and email clients
Integrated chat clients are nothing new. IE comes with its own proprietary instant messenger (IM), and Netscape ships with a full version of AIM. Although most of the popular IMs connect to their own proprietary chat systems (ICQ uses the ICQ protocol, for example), Mozilla's chat client, Chatzilla, connects to the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network. Unfortunately, IRC client applications aren't very user friendly, and the same goes for Chatzilla. You won't find any pop-up icons or happy little noises telling you somebody wants to chat. In fact, you'll have to know how to type in the various cryptic IRC commands to get to chat rooms and find someone to talk to. Chatzilla doesn't offer much help, either. We looked everywhere in Mozilla's help browser (Help > Help Contents) and couldn't find a single thing on Chatzilla or IRC. You must dig around on your own to work it out. If you really want to chat on IRC, use a program such as Trillian instead. On the bright side, Mozilla's email client, Mail, is far more complete than its chat client. It supports multiple IMAP and POP3 accounts (the two leading email technologies), so you can set up in-boxes for all of your email accounts from within Mozilla's client. Mail also offers a couple of handy new features that make it easier to organize, sort, and categorise your email overflow. We also like Mail's new search feature: you select a folder containing email messages, and the right-hand window then displays a toolbar with a search box. Type in the word or phrase you want to find and hit Enter. Mozilla quickly filters the list of messages to only those that have your search term(s) in the Subject or Sender fields. If you need to do a more complex search, say, inside the body of your email messages, click the Advanced tab next to the search box. There, you'll be able to build more complex search queries. Unfortunately, there's still no way to search all of your accounts simultaneously -- Microsoft Outlook lets you search all accounts, but it takes forever. Overall, Mail is quite an improvement over its Netscape 6.x predecessor. Mozilla 1.0 also makes it easier to colour-code your email by using labels. Default labels include green for Personal and red for Important, but you can easily change the meaning associated with each colour -- go to Edit > Preferences, open up the Mail & Newsgroups heading to see the subheadings, and select the one called Label. And here's the really nifty part: by combining labels with Mozilla's email filters (Message > "Create filter from message"), you can colour-code messages based on filters that you create yourself. For example, Mozilla can automatically label email from your boss as Important so that any message from that person shows up in your in-box with a bright red subject line. You can also let Mozilla sort your in-box by its label. Keep in mind, however, that Mozilla has aimed its browser primarily at Web developers. Thus, version 1.0 includes a number of extras just for them. In the Tools > Web Development menu, you'll find a JavaScript debugger and a feature for verifying your Web page's HTML structure. Some of these tools behave in unexpected ways. For example, when we ran File > Quit from the JavaScript debugger, instead of closing just the debugger window, it closed all of our Mozilla browser windows, as well -- definitely not the behaviour we expected or wanted. Still, on balance, we're pleased with Mozilla's extras. Chatzilla doesn't impress us, and we found a few bugs in Mozilla's developer tools. But the email client is first-rate, and the browser itself is speedy and stable. Stay tuned for future reviews to find out whether Netscape 7 will take the lead or if Internet Explorer can regain some of its lost speed. But in the meantime, it won't hurt to check out Mozilla 1.0.

Specifications

General
Subcategory Internet - browser / suite
Software
Subcategory Internet - browser / suite

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