April 24, 2019

Netscape 6 for Linux: Flashy Looks, Little Substance - page 2

A Premature Release?

  • November 14, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

When Netscape 6 starts, it is running one of its new themes, Modern, which changes the look and feel of the interface in a rather pleasant way. One the left side of the screen is My Sidebar, a tabbed interface chock full of mini-screens like News, Stocks, What's Related (Netscape's Smart Browser output screen), Search, and (if you installed it) the Buddy List, which launches IM sessions.

The overall controls of the browser are very streamlined, with buttons to jump right into Composer, Messenger, and the rest of Communicator's tools tucked right under My Sidebar. The Sidebar itself was customizable and everything was easy to figure out.

If you are running an earlier version of Netscape, you will be pleased to know that some of your preferences will be carried into Netscape 6, such as font designations. Less subtle things like home pages did not make the journey but bookmarks did.

I also discovered (very unpleasantly) that the list of MIME types only contains one visible entry: text/HTML. I am not sure if this is the complete list, or just what is displayed, because I ran into a page with Shockwave on it and Netscape recognized that I needed the Shockwave plug-in.

It was this kind of checkerboard approach to things that really stood out. Some things worked and some did not, with little rhyme or reason.

Still, I liked the way Netscape displayed Web pages. Fonts and images looked good and in general everything loaded up in a manner that wasn't too slow. I especially liked the way My Sidebar could be clicked aside so I could get my valuable screen real estate back.

This tool is not going to win any speed races anytime soon. Initial start up takes a very long time (but Netscape 4.7 wasn't winning any sprints in this department, either). Switching Web pages is average, though pages I knew had a lot of Java on them were noticeably slower. Switching between tools was slow and balky, which inconveniences anyone who wants to run Messenger as their primary mail client.

One of the big features Netscape is touting with this release it is improved Search feature. I have to say that I did really think this was much improved over the last released version. It wasn't too fast, or too slow, but searches I ran did not seem to yield any new information. One thing that was a bit irksome was that when I ran a search entirely within My Sidebar, the search results were displayed that and in the main window. I would have liked to have just had the results in the little Sidebar window so I could pick and choose before jumping off the page I was looking at. But, having the main window display the results, while redundant, may be a necessary evil, as My Sidebar was generally too narrow to display the results completely.

Netscape itself reports that typing in certain Internet keywords will enable the browser to go right to the site instead of displaying a search results page. But, when I used Netscape's own documented example of "sports illustrated," I was not taken to the Sports Illustrated Web site, but rather to a full search results page (where the site I was looking for was third on the list).

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