Version 1.3 of browser adds spam and newsgroup filtering, and closes usability gaps with dynamic profile switching and automatic image resizing.
Not surprisingly for an application that is intended mainly as a development platform, the Mozilla Web browser continues its seemingly constant upgrade cycle. Version 1.3 of the browser adds many useful new features, including some effective anti-spam features in the mail client.
Other new features in Mozilla 1.3, which was released by the Mozilla Organization earlier this month, include newsgroup filters, automatic image resizing and dynamic profile switching. Also, while many who made a quick jump to Mozilla 1.2 ended up regretting it because of several initial problems, eWeek Labs has found Mozilla 1.3 to be very stable and fast during the week weve used it since it was released. (Mozilla 1.3 can be downloaded for free at www.mozilla.org
However, although Mozilla 1.3 ran well on Windows, Linux and Mac test systems, Mac OS X users may want to hold off on Version 1.3 because it does not currently support the ability to add new features or themes.
By far, the biggest and most welcome new addition to Mozilla is the spam filtering capabilities in the mail client. Like the junk-mail filtering capabilities in Mac OS X, the new spam filtering features in the Mozilla mail client use Bayesian filtering to detect probable spam. We could train the client to detect new spam messages simply by identifying which existing messages were and were not spam.
The addition of standard newsgroup filters will be welcome to anyone who frequents newsgroups. Using the filters, we could easily identify important messages and threads or, more importantly, avoid annoying flame war threads.
A feature obvious in its omission from earlier versions of Mozilla was the ability to switch profiles on the fly. Users instead would have to shut down the browser before switching, a task made more onerous by the fact that Mozilla takes longer to launch than most other browsers. Mozilla 1.3, thankfully, lets users switch profiles without restarting the browser.
Also new in Mozilla 1.3 is automatic image resizing, which users can choose to enable or disable. While Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer has had this feature for some time, we prefer Mozillas because we could switch between an actual size and resized image simply by clicking on the image rather than by searching for the pop-up resize button, as is required with IE.
Mozilla 1.3 also includes a demonstration of a capability, code-named Midas, that will be supported in future versions of the browser. Midas lets Web developers add rich-text editable controls to pages using standard script commands. We found this feature interesting but were not sure why it was included--there are already standards-based ways to do basically the same thing across all browsers.
One of the most common complaints weve heard about Mozilla--especially when compared with its sister Netscape browser, which is based on the same code--is that its mail client lacks a spell-check feature.
Although spell checking has not been built into the Mozilla browser at this time, the add-on spell checker available at spellchecker.mozdev.org has been rebuilt for Mozilla 1.3. We were able to easily add this fully functional spell checker to Mozilla 1.3, and it will most likely be built into the browser before Version 1.4 becomes available.
eWEEK Labs East Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org