Mozilla Browser Suite

Here, in "Part III" of our Mozilla series, we look at another of Mozilla's many faces, the Mozilla web browser suite.

This all-new Mozilla browser-lizard dances lively, vividly and merrily on the musical-like stage of the Mozilla applications programming framework we discussed in "Part II" (http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=5183). Additionally, as we discussed in "Part I" (http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=5184), Mozilla is the organization and community of developers that are creating the Mozilla software. Moreover, Mozilla is the project that encompasses all this software development.

Netscape/AOL's new browser suite, Netscape 6, is based upon the Mozilla browser suite. Please see our review of the third NS6 preview release, "Netscape 6 Preview Release 3--Strike 3: Is NS 6 Out?", at http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=5217 .

The NS6 RTM (release to manufacturers), NS 6.0, was publicly released during Fall Comdex on November 14, 2000. A review of Netscape 6.0 will be posted here soon. Stay tuned. So far, we feel that if the browser itself is what you want, then it appears you are better advised to use a recent Mozilla browser suite Mtrunk build than Netscape 6.0. (Mtrunk download links are in the Resources Section at the end of this article.

Mozilla, the Web Browser Suite

If you have any notions that Mozilla, the browser suite, is an upgrade from Netscape Communicator 4.x, please lose them. Picture Mozilla as a browser suite that is new from the ground up, but just looks and feels lots like the Netscape 4.x browser suite--particularly if you use the Classic skin.

The two main parts of the Mozilla browser suite, the browser engine (AKA Gecko) and the interactive interface system, were built a-new from the ground up. But let's look first at what you see first when you launch the Mozilla browser suite--the browser's graphical user interface (GUI) or simply the user interface (UI). (Mozilla download instructions and URLs are in the Resources Section.)

The desktop face you see when you launch the Mozilla browser is often referred to as a skin. The latest (at press time) in-development Mozilla edition is Milestone 18. It comes with three skins, Classic, Modern and Blue. The Classic skin is the default skin and you should see it the very first time you launch the Mozilla browser. Which skin is preferable is a matter of personal taste. There are lots of people that like the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) user interface too. So, the Mozilla people might be wise to include an IE-like skin in the Mozilla web browser suite package.

What's New Browser-Wise

Even though the Mozilla browser suite is not an upgrade "per se" from Netscape 4.x, it is used for the product comparison here. In part that is because the Mozilla browser suite has its roots, if not its code, in Netscape 4.x. Also, as explained in "Part I" of our Mozilla series, most of the Mozilla developers are Netscape people.

Moreover, many if not most of the people that might want to adopt Mozilla as their browser of choice will be current or former Netscape users. That consideration is in part why the Mozilla developers decided to have a Classic Netscape skin and to make it the default skin in Milestone 18.

There are lots of people that like the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) user interface too. So, the Mozilla people might be wise to include an IE-like skin in the Mozilla Web browser suite package.

Ultimately, it is the look and feel of the Mozilla browser suite, the user interface (UI), that will determine its success. Since the skin determines much of that look and feel, which skin appears the first time one cranks up the Mozilla browser is important--often love or hate are matters of first sight. However, we all have different tastes, so being able to choose immediately from among several skins is important too.

Netscape 6 PR1 ran afoul of Netscape fans simply because its one and only skin was ugly--and also because it did not have a classic Netscape look. Netscape/AOL corrected that major faux pas by making its new default modern skin much nicer looking and also including a more Classic Netscape appearing skin in NS6-PR2, PR3 and NS 6.0.

The keyword here is "user experience". The vast majority of potential users in the browser market are not going to make their browser choice because of nitty-gritty bugs in W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards compliance or hardly noticeable errors in page display and rendering. It is the overall look and feel, the user experience, that will be the prime influencing factor.

Milestone 18 is the most recent release of the Mozilla suite. According to the web site, "The milestones are intended to be periodic check points for progress on the project, stability of builds, porting status, and are entry points for additional mozilla (sic) contributors to provide testing and engineering help on the project." (http://mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/.)

It has been more than a month since Milestone 18 was released. So, we base today's look at Mozilla-the-browser-suite on both Milestone 18 and the November 12, 2000 "Mtrunk" builds. If you look in the Mozilla FTP daily builds directory tree, you will see the most recent builds are either "Mtrunk" or "MN6" builds. The screen shots here are based upon the Linux Mtrunk build.

"Mtrunk" builds are post Milestone-18 Mozilla development builds. "MN6" builds are the post Netscape-6-PR3 NS6 development builds upon which NS 6.0 is based. Please see our discussion of the Mozilla development plan in "Part 1" of this series for more information about the Mozilla development tree and links to the Mozilla Development Roadmap.

Incidentally, if you would like to get involved in the Mozilla Project, please check "Get Involved in the Mozilla Project" http://www.mozilla.org/get-involved.html.

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