Mozilla 1.5 Boosts Usability

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-10-16
 
 
 
Probably the biggest surprise about Mozilla 1.5 is that it exists at all. When the Mozilla Foundation laid out its road map earlier this year, the plan was for Mozilla 1.4 (see review) to be the last version of the big integrated Mozilla suite.

But with the stand-alone Firebird browser and the stand-alone Thunderbird mail client still in pre-release versions, the Mozilla Foundation this week released Version 1.5 of the classic multifunction Internet application suite, and eWEEK Labs found it to be a welcome upgrade.

Although Mozilla 1.5 isnt a massive overhaul, it does add some long-missing features and addresses several usability problems found in the previous versions.

For users of the Mozilla mail client, one of the biggest, most welcome additions is that it finally has an integrated spell-checker, which had long been a reason why many businesses chose not to use the otherwise excellent Mozilla mail client. Version 1.5 also includes the ability to mark messages as read by date, which is especially useful in large news groups where a reader may want to mark all messages before a certain date as read This feature was available in old Netscape mail clients, but not in Mozilla until now.

In the Web browser portion of Mozilla 1.5, the main improvements have been in the management of Web pages viewed in Mozillas tabbed interface. In previous versions, if we were viewing a group of tabbed pages and then opened another group that we had bookmarked, Mozilla would annoyingly append the new group to old pages. More sensibly, Mozilla 1.5 replaces the old group with the new group.

We could use the forward and back buttons to move between groups of tabbed pages we had loaded. And if we closed a window with tabbed pages in it, Mozilla asked if we wanted to close all the pages—a useful feature for those of us who sometimes close a whole window when we really meant to just close one tab.

Carrying on from improvements in Mozilla 1.4, the Composer Web page editor has seen some more welcome additions—such as snap-to grid, absolute positioning and a true source view—that make it more friendly for doing quick HTML edits. The Chatzilla IRC chat client also has been improved, though its still one of the less-user-friendly IRC chat clients out there.

Mozilla 1.5 includes numerous bug fixes and stability enhancements. However, we found that changes in the Linux code libraries used caused some plug-ins to no longer work in Mozilla.

As far as corporate interest in Mozilla goes, one of the biggest new additions has nothing to do with the browser suite itself. The Mozilla Foundation, through a partnership with service support company DecisionOne, now makes it possible to get telephone support for the browser at $39.95 per incident. Of course, solutions to most problems can still be found in the excellent resources at the Mozilla Foundation Web site.

To download the free Mozilla suite or to get more information, go to www.mozilla.org.

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