SCI-TECH & AGRI

Netscape: Back in the browser battle

Do not believe some of the catty comments posted on the Net: the download is smooth; and there is no problem even if, like me, you want to have an escape route ready and don't remove any earlier version of Netscape you may be using. My IE is also working fine. After four days with the preview version of Netscape 7, I am almost ready to take the plunge and uninstall my copy of version 4.7.Having putting it intensively through its paces, this is what I have to share with readers about Netscape 7's pluses and minuses: The most useful new feature is something called `Tabbed Browsing'. This allows you to open a series of new web pages one after the other and have them nesting in a row of tab buttons, just below the menu bar.

The way to launch this feature is to go to the `File' menu; choose `New' and then `Navigator Tab'. Alternately you can open a tab by just pressing Ctrl + T.

You can switch from one tabbed page to the other — a great convenience when you want to compare the information in different websites. To make it easy to recognize the tabs, Netscape now includes a tiny icon of the web page along with the URL... a small feature but a great help. The other `goody' that comes with the new Netscape is `Click to Search'. You can select any word on a web page; right-click on it and select `Web Search' in the menu that pops up. This will immediately launch a search operation with a search engine of your choice. The default engine is Netscape.com. This is something you can always do by going manually to a search engine like Google or Altavista, but think how many key strokes that involves! Both these two features are said by some users, to be `inspired' by similar features in the `Opera' browser.

For the first time Netscape users can now save whole web pages, as they appear, complete with all graphics, rather than as mere HTML documents without the pictures. However, users of Internet Explorer will find this is no big deal; they have this facility in IE 5 and 6.

,,This feature is quite common in the VCD video players but is something new for the browsers. Netscape's Mail client has also been beefed up with some new aids: locating old emails by just typing in the sender's email address or subject line in a search mode; filter dialog boxes which help you to `blacklist' unwelcome senders ( can you hear Hotmail users saying "So what's new"?).The Preview Release Version 1 and presumably the full version of Netscape 7 will work on both Mac OS and Windows ( 98/ Me/ NT 4.0/ 2000/XP) platforms which have minimum 36 MB hard drive space and 64 MB of RAM. It is built around a technology called `Gecko' which can be directly traced back to Mozilla, the `open source' browser movement, currently bankrolled by Netscape's parent company AOL Time-Warner.

The link to the AOL service is of no interest to users in India. News from CNN and Time magazine and entertainment news and features from People magazine — all AOL group media operations are now highlighted. AOL seems to be saying: "Two can play at this game. If Microsoft can tighten its grip on the desktop using Explorer, Hotmail, MSN Messenger, MSNBC and what not, we have some arrows in our corporate quiver as well!"

Be that as it may, Netscape's new avatar is a sharp improvement on all earlier versions — a `must upgrade' for users of the browser.

And for those who are contended users of Internet Explorer, there may not be enough incentive to change. However if they are curious about what exactly the competition is offering, they can put the new Netscape on their machines without fear of a conflict.

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