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Mozilla 1.0 review:

Mozilla 1.0

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The Good Fast; stable; free; includes full-featured e-mail client.

The Bad Incompatible with some sites built for Internet Explorer; chat client doesn't work with the big commercial IM systems, including ICQ, Yahoo IM, AOL IM, and Windows Messenger.

The Bottom Line Mozilla is the best free alternative to Microsoft IE. And it's faster, to boot.

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CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

It's probably safe to say that more people are waiting for the long-delayed fifth Harry Potter book than for the final release of Mozilla 1.0. But while Hogwarts fans will have to wait a while longer, patient Mozilla fans have finally gotten their due. The four-and-a-half-year wait is over--Mozilla 1.0 has gone gold, and from what we've seen, it's been worth the delay. Because Mozilla aimed this browser primarily at Web developers and seasoned Web surfers, it's a little too complicated for the average consumer. Nonetheless, speedy version 1.0 is hard to crash and includes an impressive e-mail program. If you'd like a solid alternative to the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 hegemony, give Mozilla a try; you might like what you find. It's probably safe to say that more people are waiting for the long-delayed fifth Harry Potter book than for the final release of Mozilla 1.0. But while Hogwarts fans will have to wait a while longer, patient Mozilla fans have finally gotten their due. The four-and-a-half-year wait is over--Mozilla 1.0 has gone gold, and from what we've seen, it's been worth the delay. Because Mozilla aimed this browser primarily at Web developers and seasoned Web surfers, it's a little too complicated for the average consumer. Nonetheless, speedy version 1.0 is hard to crash and includes an impressive e-mail program. If you'd like a solid alternative to the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 hegemony, give Mozilla a try; you might like what you find.

Speedy and stable
Any browser that intends to compete in today's browser wars must load Web pages quickly. That's why Netscape launched the Mozilla project more than four years ago: to wipe away the slow, buggy Netscape 4.x code and replace it with a modern browser engine. CNET Labs ran Mozilla through four speed tests to see how it measures up to Netscape and IE. Surprisingly, Mozilla and Netscape outran IE 6 in several of CNET Labs' tests. However, since the browser's actual speeds often varied by less than a second, it was a very close race.

Mozilla 1.0 is up to par in the stability camp, too. Whereas Netscape 6 would grind to a halt at times when simply attempting to launch Composer (Netscape 7.01 fared much better), the built-in HTML editor, Mozilla 1.0 has no problems running that program, even on an underpowered laptop (a 233MHz Pentium MMX with 96MB of RAM running Windows 98 SE). Mozilla 1.0 didn't crash during our tests, even when running complicated Web pages that use both Java and Flash.

Running up a tab
As always, we're big fans of Mozilla's tabbed browser interface, which looks similar to Opera's setup. Tabs let you quickly cruise through multiple Web pages in one browser window, rather than forcing you to open different pages in different windows. The little row of tabs, like those of a manila folder, appears just above the Web page. To turn on the tabs, go to the Edit > Preferences menu, click the Navigator heading to open the subheads, and select Tabbed Browsing. In the dialog box, there are a few options for opening new tabs. Our favorite, the Control+Enter option, lets you type a URL into the address field the way you normally would, then hit Control+Enter to open the URL into a new tab.

Pop-up haters, unite!
If you're like us, you're not a big fan of pop-up and pop-under ads. Hence, you'll adore the handy Mozilla feature that disables many, though not all, of them. Sorry to say, you'll need to decipher some technobabble to activate this feature. From the menu bar, select Edit > Preferences, then double-click the Advanced option to see all of the suboptions. Click Scripts & Windows, and you'll see a list labeled Allow Webpages To. The first check box on the list is Open Unrequested Windows. Uncheck this, and--voilà!--most pop-ups will go away. A word of warning, though; this function doesn't discriminate, so it may disable pop-ups you actually want to see, such as the video pop-ups on the News.com front door.

Skin tight
If you're worried that this techie browser will look bare and unattractive, don't be. Although Mozilla's default skin makes the browser seem pretty old-school, much like Netscape Navigator 4.x's, you can easily download custom skins from sites such as XulPlanet. There's even a skin on XulPlanet that makes Mozilla look very much like IE, if that's your cup of tea. This feature doesn't make your life easier, but it allows you to cater to your aesthetic tastes.

Good but no IE killer
Beyond its skins and pop-up-killing abilities, however, Mozilla 1.0 doesn't do much more for the average Web surfer than Internet Explorer does. For one thing, Mozilla doesn't always render Web pages the same way IE does. For example, we struggled with sites that use a technology called positioning to put ads on their pages. In IE, those ads temporarily hide part of the page, then go away. But in our Mozilla tests, the ads sometimes permanently blocked part of the page, and we had to reload the page until we got a different, regular, nonpositioning ad. Why does that matter? Because since IE browsers now hold around 97 percent of the browser market, many developers design sites that cater to IE's various standards. This means the onus is on the underdog browsers to accommodate those sites, especially if they want to cut into IE's market share. It's not pretty, but that's reality.

Despite these few foibles, Mozilla compares favorably to both Netscape and Internet Explorer. But don't make any decisions yet. Read on to see what we think of Mozilla's chat and e-mail clients.

Read more of the review!

Mozilla comes with two skins, or interface designs. The default is the so-called Classic, which makes Mozilla look an awful lot like Netscape Navigator 4.x.

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