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Preview: Netscape 6, Preview Release 2 - page 4

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • August 10, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

This release of Netscape 6 allows "skins" to customize the appearance of the browser. The one theme included changes the program from its default "Modern" skin to the "Classic," which looks much like the Netscape 4 browser. It's too bad Netscape chose to include such a trivial example if they had to choose just one. The Sullivan/Aphrodite skin is a much nicer example of what can be done with Mozilla's theming abilities. The classic skin also shrank the already small fonts to near-unreadable sizes.

Looking around the main screen, the elements that jump out are the Sidebar (called "My Sidebar") and a collection of labels at the bottom of the screen labelled "Channels" "Tools," "Free Time," and "Shopping." Each opens up a set of links that pull the user directly into a related area of Netcenter.

The sidebar, by default, includes tabs for a "What's Related" function, a Search tool, a Buddy list (a carryover from AOL), CNN Headlines, and a stock quotes lookup tool. The sidebar is customizable and may also include travel-related information and weather forecasts. It's a useful bit of functionality as convenience features go. We were most happy with the "What's Related" and search tools, especially when we realized the search tool allowed a search of local bookmarks. A visit to the preferences tool also allows users to set which search engine returns results.

In addition to the sidebar and Netcenter tie-in links, Netscape 6 also includes the traditional mail and news clients, and HTML composer. It also includes an integrated AOL Instant Messenger client, which is interesting enough if you're a chat fan, providing a buddy list and chat client integrated with the browser in the sidebar. If you don't have a screen name or AIM account, the client launches a web-based registration.

The mail and news clients look fairly good, but with the preference settings for the mail client grayed out and no apparent way to tell it to leave mail on the server, we were loath to allow it near our mailboxes. The news client, while presenting little different in the way of appearance from the client found in Netscape 4.7, didn't allow us to subscribe to any groups.


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