September 8, 2002

Netscape 7 Report

Netscape/AOL released Netscape 7.0 (Mac/OS X/Win) on August 29th. Based upon Mozilla build 1.0.1, from which it inherits the wonderful Tabbed Browsing feature, this release is worth looking at if you've been unimpressed with previous Netscape 6.x releases.

If your usage habits are like mine, you might have three or four browser windows open at the same time along with a source view or two. Add to this mix your various editor and authoring tools, and things quickly become messy, even for folks blessed with multiple monitors. Tabbed Browsing allows for the easy management of your browser windows by collapsing the chaotic mess into a single window organized by a row of tabs marking each open page.

Further, you can bookmark groups of tabs, great for QA folks and news junkies. Tabbed Browsing is a really great feature and if you haven't yet, you owe it to yourself to check out one of the Mozilla-based browsers that support this usability enhancement. Programmers might prefer Mozilla 1.1 for the DOM Inspector and Javascript Debugger tools that release provides.

Bundled plug-ins include Flash 6.0r29 and Real Player 8, the latter of which supplies the tech behind [email protected]

Perusing the release notes we find that besides the requisite "performance and stability enhancements" and aforementioned Tabbed Browsing, we find a few more features that should interest developers...

...I'll briefly describe a few I found interesting:

Favicon Click-to-Search Save whole web pages Full Screen Mode Set as Wallpaper Java 2 Viewpoint plug-in

-Favicons:
Netscape 7 now supports Favicons, viewable in Tabs and the Location bar. Favicons are an Internet Explorer innovation that allow online properties the opportunity to extend their brand to the browser interface, and IE allows Faveicons to be associated with the Links Bar and bookmarks as well, which can help make your property pop-out of a lengthy bookmark list. Future Netscape/Mozilla versions may also support bookmark and Personal Toolbar branding.

Netscape 7/Mozilla support both the original Windows format Faveicon via:

<LINK REL="SHORTCUT ICON" HREF="/images/myicon.ico">

and a more standards-friendly approach using the PNG format:

<LINK REL="icon" HREF="images/myicon.png" TYPE="image/png">

Note that while Netscape 7/Mozilla can read the IE format (on all platforms), IE can't (as of yet, anyway) read the Netscape 7/Mozilla format. For right now, if you want to have this work across platforms, you should continue to use the IE approach. More information can be found in Microsoft's How to Add a Shortcut Icon to a Web Page and at Favicon.com.

-Click-to-Search
Simply select a word on a web page, then contextual menu-click on the word to initiate a search in the search engine configured in your preferences (changed mine to Google).

-Save whole web pages
This is a developer-friendly implementation of a feature first introduced by Mac IE 5, which allowed the saving of a web page complete with its elements. Where Microsoft's approach stored the result in a single file, inaccessible Web Archive, Netscape 7 saves the html file and a folder containing all the page's elements for easy access.

-Full Screen Mode
The user can initiate this mode to minimize (but not hide) the interface and controls and thus view more of a web page's content. Don't know yet if you still need a signed script to programmatically enter this mode; not even sure signed scripts still exist in this generation, anyone?

-Set as Wallpaper
Available in NS 4.x, we lost this feature in the NS 6 releases. If you have browser specific instructions on your downloadable goodies page, you may need to update them.

-Java 2
This is important to someone out there -- if that's you, can you tell us why?

-Viewpoint plug-in
Here's an interesting 3D plug-in previously bundled with AOL 7, and now with the PC version of Netscape 7. Don't know much about it at this point but plan on exploring the developer info when I get a chance. Nice demos, but I don't know why you'd want to use this over the more widely distributed Shockwave 8.5.x. Although not bundled, there is a Mac plug-in, but not an OS X compatible version.

Misc readings from the release notes:

LiveConnect does not function on Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar)

Odd use of old-style brand for the tech that allows a page to communicate with applets/plug-ins via Javascript, now called XPConnect. Basically, this means that any page using such a design will break in NS 7 on the very latest version of Mac OS X. A troublesome technology to begin with, I've always recommended staying away from it and continue to do so. Life is short.

Do not share a profile between Netscape and Mozilla builds. Doing this can lead to unpredictable results, some of which may include loss of Search settings and preferences and unchecked growth of the Bookmarks file (large enough to freeze your system). It is best to create a new profile for each or manually copy (and change the name) an existing profile.

I've seen this misbehavior myself, I now create profiles named after the particular browser version to avoid it.

For enquiring minds:
navigator.userAgent = Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-US; rv:1.0.1) Gecko/20020823 Netscape/7.0

Posted by Lewis Francis at September 8, 2002 1:04 AM
Comments

Added favicons to this site to illustrate its function; I think the one I chose is fairly amusing and a few of you may recognize where this came from. ;)

Posted by: Lewis Francis at September 12, 2002 1:24 PM

An ex-colleague recently emailed about LiveConnect (XPConnect) support in OS X so I thought I'd follow up with an update excerpted from my response:

Haven't followed this closely because the whole Javascript plugin/applet stuff has been flaky for so long that it hasn't made sense to attempt to utilize it for the kinds of sites I've been involved with.

Here are a couple relevant bugzilla entries, the first is listed as a Mozilla 1.4 blocker, but apparently has been overridden for all the recent mozilla release and I'd guess it will be overidden for this one, too; the second is slated to be addressed in Mozilla 1.5.

The next release of Netscape 7 will be based on the Mozilla 1.4 codebase, currently in its second release candidate.

Posted by: Lewis Francis at June 21, 2003 1:15 PM
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