Netscape 6.2

The latest update of this one-time market leader is now available

Netscape 6.2

For: Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP, Mac (PowerPC only), Unix (Details...)
From: Netscape
Price: Free.
Download: Netscape 6.2 Web installer 217KB
Pros: Netscape 6.2 includes Netscape Navigator, Netscape Mail, Netscape Instant Messenger, Netscape Composer, and Netscape Address Book. Netscape 6.2 also delivers cutting-edge add-on applications that help you get more from the Internet. Netscape 6.2 offers Java for running web applets, Nullsoft Winamp for audio playback, RealPlayer8 for streaming media, Macromedia Flash for high impact web content, Net2Phone for FREE PC-to-Phone calls anywhere within the U.S., and Print Plus from Hewlett Packard for easy access to printing services and features. supports Mac OS X and Windows XP.
Cons: Slower to load than Internet Explorer on most systems.

Review forthcoming. Early comments, however, are encouraging....

Netscape 6.0

What were they thinking?

Netscape 6.0
For: Windows 95/98/NT, Mac (PowerPC only), Unix
From: Netscape
Price: Free.
Download Netscape 6 for Windows, Mac and Linux here.
Pros: Better support for CSS, customizable "Themes" (skins), faster rendering engine.
Cons: Incomplete CSS support, slow to load, buggy.

Introduction
The vaporware crown is once again up for grabs. The official, non-beta, version of Netscape 6 is finally available after a 32-month development process that saw the company lose its once-dominant market position, release the program's source code as "Open Source," scrap a version 5.0 release altogether (Contrary to some reports, Netscape did not skip over version 5.0, as did, say, Microsoft when it jumped from elected to jump several version numbers in its Visual Studio 1.1-to-7.0 release cycle) and weather a transition from independent company to AOL division.

If the browser wars were not already over (and we think they were) by the time Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5.0, this release pretty much clinches it. Netscape fans still holding onto the fact that Netscape was once the superior browser should get over it. It's no longer true. However, for those users for whom Internet Explorer is not an option  -- Linux users, for example, or any card-carrying member of the local ABM ("Anything But Microsoft") -- this release does bring some much needed improvements to the Netscape user's platform of choice. And, as former Netscape fans ourselves (we were using it back in its earliest pre-1.0 releases, and we had used its predecessor Mosaic as well), we were interested to see how our baby grew up.

First the good news: Generally, we like the interface more than we did in the 4.x Communicator release (but no "Home" button? Come on!). Powered by an allegedly all-new rendering engine called "Gecko," it features customizable skins called Themes, of which there a few included with the product and many more at Netscape's site. It also takes a page (no pun intended) from the interface design of Internet Explorer with a number of new interface elements. Generally, these are welcome improvements.

The new release includes a password manager that can store user names and passwords for Web sites and a forms manager that can remember information entered into Web site forms. There's a new search field, similar (as are most of the other Netscape 6 features) to capabilities already found in Microsoft's competing Internet Explorer browser.

There's also a new feature in Netscape 6 called "My Sidebar," supplying calendar, instant messaging contact lists, stock quotes and other info on the left side of the screen. Customization buffs can choose from a variety of user interface "themes" to change the way the program looks.

And those concerned about Internet "cookies" will appreciate the release's new Cookie Manager, that provides more flexibility in accepting or rejecting cookies.

The bad news is the stability of the program. Simply put, we had plenty of trouble on both the Windows and PowerMac platforms attempting to install and test this browser.

We tested the Mac and the Windows versions of the program. Both caused us problems, ranging from minor annoyances to severe crashes.  In what has to be one of the worst cases of programming stupidity we've seen, the Mac setup program, with default settings, installed literally hundreds of ".xul" text files onto the Mac desktop. And, unimaginably, after we cleaned them all up into a folder and ran the program again, it dropped another 334 junk files onto the desktop, before crashing with a Type 2 error. Literally every time we ran the program thereafter, the program would crash sooner or later with a Type 2 or Type 3 error. Duh! This has to win some kind of award as the worst piece of programming ever to appear on the Macintosh platform.

Meanwhile, the Windows version Setup program failed (twice!) to download and install all of the necessary files, but still placed a Netscape 6 icon onto the Desktop, which allowed us to run the doomed-to-fail program. Worse, there was no uninstall option, as the installer had failed before getting to that part of the installation. Again, this looks like nothing more than poor programming. It's certainly not a ringing endorsement of the Open Source model.

It is also very slow to load, taking about 20 seconds to start on a typical Pentium III system.

The new release doesn't fully support cascading style sheets, doesn't seem to accurately handle some JavaScript, and messes up the display of some pages with tables that work correctly in other popular browsers such as IE 5.5, Opera 4 or even previous Communicator versions.

If you're still determined to give it a go, download Netscape 6 here.

Other Issues
Close watchers of the Mozilla/Netscape development dichotomy may notice other issues, too. As Sean Coleman, (xraytwo@mediaone.net), an Internet Consultant, notes on CNET's user forum:

  • Netscape 6 final is based on the M18 build (which is not a recent one)
  • Drag & drop hyperlinks from address bar to bookmark list does not work like on previous versions.
  • PSM (Personal Security Manager) should not be a separate application (like on previous betas) taking up to 5MB of memory. - Mouse Right-click on forward/back buttons does not bring up history list like recent Mozilla builds.
  • Mouse right-click on page does not bring up Send Page option but instead requires a click from the toolbar.
  • Email notification and automatic message download is not available like in previous versions.
  • Media player (embedded in news.com) does not work correctly as well as import of other plug-ins
  • Uses about 20-35%25 more memory than 4x versions.
  • Preferences window needs more work.
  • Newsgroup sort list toolbar should be same as in previous versions (as well as the tree method for posts/replies).

Sidebar: Better Browsing for Linux
Despite the release of the long-awaited official release of Netscape 6, many former Netscape users have already moved on to a different browser. Linux fans don't have the option to use IE5.5, the choice of most Windows users, but they probably won't miss it, thanks to the Konqueror browser for the KDE2 graphical environment. Konqueror also works on OpenBSD/FreeBSD, Sun Solaris, HP-UX and AIX.

For more info visit: http://www.kde.org and www.konqueror.org

Mail Tip: An advanced property sheet value of objectclass="person" is necessary to search some LDAP directories. Enter this value in the "Search Base" area on the page accessible by clicking the Directory Service's "Advanced" tab.

For Further Reading

  • Betanews: User comments on the Windows and Linux releases
  • News.com: news and user commentary
Solutions: