Mozilla Browser Tightens Up

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-03-31
 
 
 

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 gains 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 in March, include newsgroup filters, automatic image resizing and dynamic profile switching. Also, although many who made a quick jump to Mozilla 1.2 ended up regretting it because of several initial problems, eWeek Labs found Mozilla 1.3 to be very stable and fast in tests. (Mozilla 1.3 can be downloaded for free at www.mozilla.org.)

However, while Mozilla 1.3 runs well on Windows, Linux and Mac OS 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 addition to Mozilla is the mail clients new ability to filter spam (see screen). Like the spam-stopping capabilities in Mac OS X, the new features in the Mozilla mail client use Bayesian filtering to detect probable spam. We could train the client to detect new spam messages by identifying which existing messages were and were not spam.

The addition of standard newsgroup filters (see screen) will be welcome to anyone who frequents newsgroups. Using the filters, we could easily identify important messages and threads or, more important, 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, had 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. Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer has had this feature for some time, but we prefer Mozillas because we could switch between an actual-size and a 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. Midas lets Web developers add rich-text, editable controls to pages using standard script commands. This solution has the advantage of working across all platforms that Mozilla supports, but wed prefer more truly standards-based editing, such as that made possible by Document Object Model.

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 its mail client lacks a spelling checker feature. Although a spelling checker has not been built into Mozilla at this time, the add-on spelling checker available at spellchecker.mozdev.org has been rebuilt for Mozilla 1.3. We easily added this fully functional spelling checker to Mozilla 1.3, and it will most likely be built into the browser before Version 1.4 becomes available.

East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza is at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

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