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Netscape 6: Enter the Gecko - page 2

Reviewing the Next-Generation Web Browser

  • April 17, 2000
  • By Kevin Reichard

As covered earlier, the familiar Netscape interface has been overhauled. There is more screen real estate given to an actual Web page, and newly implemented is a My Sidebar section for favorite Web sites. Despite its appearance, My Sidebar works virtually the same as the Favorites menu in Internet Explorer, except that My Sidebar uses tabs that suck in dynamic content.

For instance: you could set up My Sidebar to regularly monitor the latest headlines from Linux Today, display a Buddy List to see who's available for online chat, and monitor your stock quotes. Netscape 6 comes with some tabs already preconfigured, but it's easy enough to add your own, and many Web sites will soon be sporting buttons that automatically add their content to My Sidebar.

Basically, the Netscape 6 interface is divided into three areas. There's a personal toolbar containing bookmarks, a link to your personal home page, and a link to your personal My Netscape page hosted at the Netscape Web site. A task bar on the bottom of the window lets you open the various Netscape components (Web browser, mail, calendar, et al.) and sports shortcuts to frequently used Netscape features, such as Tools and Channels. Finally, the minimalistic four buttons can be used to move between Web sites.

The URL Locator field has also been slightly changed. Instead of being used just for loading URLs, the field can also be used to enter search information. The search results appear in your main browser window and your My Sidebar field; it remains in the My Sidebar area until you perform another search, no matter how much browsing you do in the meantime. (No more going back and forth from your search page after performing a search.) The search is performed by Netscape Search, which contains the Netscape Open Directory. This directory, which is one of the more quiet success stories in the Open Source world, is the largest human-edited directory on the Web, and it serves as the core of the Google search engine, among others.

A more elaborate Search menu allows you to look for more specific information, such as phone numbers or e-mail addresses. You can choose which search engines are used.

Privacy is also enhanced in Netscape 6 through a Password Manager and a Cookie Manager. The Password Manager performs as advertised: it manages all the passwords for all of your different Web sites and stores the information in a secure file. When you visit a password-protected site, Netscape 6 will automatically fill them in when you visit a site. The password information is controlled by a master password, which you must enter the first time you access any password in a session. There are some limitations: Netscape 6 will store only the usernames and passwords that you specify, so for anything truly important you can keep the information only in your head. (Alas, the master password is not yet protected with encryption; that is promised before the final Netscape 6 release.) The Cookie Manager lets you control how cookies are set and modified each time a cookie is presented to your system.

There are some other small goodies in Netscape 6. In a time when the rest of the world (that is, non-English-speakers) are rapidly embracing the Web, Netscape 6 can now "translate" documents by linking to a Gist-in-Time Web page. This isn't a complete and thorough translation, but you can generally get the "gist" of what the page says.

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