In this column, we take a look at the latest release of the most popular web browser, Netscape Communicator 4.5 Preview Release 1. For those of you who can't wait, it's available from ftp://ftp.netscape.com/pub/communicator/4.5/4.5_PR1/english/ [Please note that this is an evaluation release, the one currently found at this URL times out on October 15, 1998]
First impressions: its a bloody long download (12.6 MB for the complete install, 15 MB for the professional edition) but its interesting to evaluate. The User Interface (UI) of Navigator, which is the browser component of the suite, seems mostly unchanged, except for a button called "Netscape" which takes you to the Netscape site (and your personal start page there) and another button called "What's related", of which we'll be hearing more shortly.
The primary differences between 4.5 and the previous release, which is 4.05, are:
But enough of just enumerating features. How does it actually feel ? The user interface, for everyday tasks, is essentially the same. The new features in the browser are mildly useful, the ones in the mail/news client are more so, but the most significant improvement seems to be in the speed. This is a subjective impression as I did not do any timed tests, but it seems to loads pages significantly faster than the previous version.
Bottom line: the enhancements seem promising, but will probably undergo further mutation before this version sees full public release. The speed improvement is good, but not enough in itself to make me do a 12.6 MB download. If you get it on CD-ROM, then install it by all means. This release gives us an idea of the directions Netscape (and, by extension, most of the web) will be taking in the near future, and will definitely be worth checking out when the public release does come out.
Try it and let me know what you think. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.