Mozilla 1.4s Key Improvements Out of Sight

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-07-01
 
 
 
The newest release of Mozilla, 1.4, offers increased usability and customization options to the popular open source Web browser. However, this release also signifies more because it is most likely the last Mozilla release well see: The Mozilla Organization plans to split the Mozilla suite into stand-alone browser and mail clients by the time Version 1.5 comes out.

If this is the last version of Mozilla, at least its going out with a bang. eWEEK Labs found the new features in Mozilla 1.4, which was released on www.mozilla.org this week, to be remarkable improvements that enhance what was already the best browser option out there.

Users trying out Mozilla 1.4 wont see a whole lot of major differences at first. Thats because most of the new capabilities in Mozilla 1.4 are in the options and flexibility it gives users in deciding exactly how they want their browser to behave. Little things like being able to set different launch options for startup, new windows and new tabs can go a long way to reducing some of the everyday frustrations of Web browsing.

We also liked the small but helpful changes in popup blocking and image management, which made it very easy to block images from some sites and permit pop-ups from others.

Bookmark handling has also been improved in this version, and we appreciated the new options for managing bookmarks to Web sites, although users looking for the easy drag-and-drop and right-click menu capabilities like those in Internet Explorer might still be disappointed.

Mozilla 1.4 now supports NTLM authentication, meaning it can connect to Web sites and servers that use the Windows and IIS security option. However, this only works on the Windows versions of Mozilla, and only works in the browser.

The Composer HTML editor is one component of Mozilla that has been somewhat neglected in previous releases. In Version 1.4, however, Composer finally sees some useful improvements. For example, as users resize images or tables, a new Standard resize bar displays a pop-up that shows the new size in pixels. Previously, resizing tasks could be a frustrating case of typing in sizes and hoping for the best.

In the Mozilla mail client, the excellent Bayesian filter-based anti-spam features that were added in Version 1.3 have seen some nice usability improvements. Its now much easier to manage messages that have been marked as junk and to remove junk mail.

Also released the same day as Mozilla 1.4 was Netscape 7.1. The new Netscape browser is also based on the Mozilla 1.4 code and Netscape users will also find features that were added in Mozilla 1.3 (see our review of Mozilla 1.3) to be new in Netscape 7.1.

Although both browsers share the same code base, there are some differences. More applications are installed by default and more settings are active by default in Netscape, and, as usual, theres no way to install Netscape without AOL Instant Messenger.

On the plus side, novice users will find it easier to get plug-ins running in Netscape, and the Netscape mail client comes with a spell-check feature. The Mozilla mail client still lacks built-in spell-check capabilities, although one can be added from spellchecker.mozdev.org.

East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com .

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