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Preview: Netscape 6, Preview Release 2 - page 3

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • August 10, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Upon launching Netscape, the first things to present themselves on the screen are a curious splash window, and an offer to sign up for assorted Netscape services to "enhance" the browsing experience. This is referred to as "activating" Netscape. It's primarily a come-on to sign up for a NetCenter account with all the free e-mail, calendars, and other services that entails. We weren't particularly impressed with the euphemism--it seemed to imply that the browser wasn't really working unless personal information was divulged and an account created.

Once the invitation to register is past, an information screen renders in the main browser window, featuring a floating and bobbing "Netscape". The screen helpfully points out the key elements of the browser, including an invitation to "Learn More" that led to a dead link. In fact, all the informational links pointed to a non-existent domain. When we gave up trying to learn about Netscape 6's "Streamlined Interface," "Small and Speedy" nature, and support of "Dynamic and Robust" sites, we tried to simply commence browsing by clicking the "Start Using Now" button, but that too, led to a dead link. we settled on clicking the "Home" button and visiting the Netscape Netcenter site to get away from the bobbing, multi-colored "Netscapes".

The Browsing Experience
Browsing the web with Netscape 6 is an uneven experience. When things work correctly, the rendering engine is excellent: it's smooth and only occasionally hangs up on elements in a page, making for some awkward pauses now and then. In general, it's very fast.

The browser itself is beginning to handle better than the last release, as well. Those who have been following the nightly builds from the Mozilla project won't notice much, but the difference in speed and general smoothness is fairly dramatic when compared to the last Netscape release.

One feature we found to be a pleasant relief was the ability to increase and decrease font size on the fly. It's something that's been lacking from Netscape for Linux for a long while. Even if you don't use the feature every day, it's wonderful for those sites that insist on using what ends up rendering as six point type.

Some of the preference settings are a little clunky and may bear reconsideration. Most particularly, the font settings are difficult to deal with: they're changed via a dropdown menu. That makes it difficult when juggling the many, many fonts some people accumulate.

Finally, there seem to be some bugs related to the use of a proxy. We surf behind the Junkbuster proxy, which began to return 'broken pipe' errors until we disabled its use in the browser and restarted.


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