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Updates issued for Netscape, Eudora, more

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on November 3, 2006
(Issue 2444, Innovation in Web Site Design)

While software updates – particularly those for online utilities like browsers and e-mail clients – don't carry the sense of excitement they did 15 years ago, they can still be worth noting.

Of course, in the days of the dial-up bulletin board system or even early dial-up Internet access, few utilities were mature yet: the functions they should include weren't even settled yet.

Today, functionality for browsers and e-mail clients are pretty much decided on. Which is okay – I mean, the refrigerator is also a mature technology, and beyond exterior ice and water dispensers, haven't changed much since the 1950s saw the innovations of frost-free freezers and having a door-activated interior light.

Any technology will be more exciting when new and in flux, but mature technology tends to be more reliable.

Browser news

While Microsoft continues to fine-tune its next-generation Internet Explorer 7 for release later this year or early next, Netscape has issued a significant upgrade to its version 8 browser for Windows – 8.1. And Firefox has issued a beta version of its 2.0 version, set for a spring release.

The Netscape improvements are mainly behind the scenes: better protection against spyware, better RSS implementation.

The most noticeable difference will be for those who use the Fusion theme in Windows – the pull-down menus move from the top left to the top right.

Installation of the upgrade was seamless, with bookmarks, passwords, form info all right where I left it before the upgrade. However, Netscape's Web site warns that those users with multiple profiles in Netscape may lose some settings during upgrade.

All the functionality that made Netscape 8 the best browser on the market remain – including the ability to render Web pages with either the IE or the Firefox engine.

Firefox 2.0 release candidate 3

While Firefox 1.5 has been out for awhile, and Firefox 1.0/1.5 has grown to 10 percent or more of the browser market (with IE the dominant, but no longer domineering standard), there have still been some improvements in the Netscape and IE that the Firefox browser can use.

Chief among them is an improved tabbed browsing functionality: As with Netscape 8, Firefox 2 now includes a "close" button on each tab – so you can close tabs without activating them first. And when you activate a link calling for a new window, it automatically opens a new tab within the existing window.

The release notes for the 2.0 Release Candidate 3 also say this version has improved phishing protection, better built-in search capabilities (prompting you with related search suggestions as you type in search queries in the built-in search window), and easier RSS subscription functionality.

Most impressive is a new built-in spell check that works on text you enter in forms – while it doesn't seem to be fully functional yet, it does appear on the right-click pop-up menu when you are entering text in a form.

Eudora 7.1 and others

Qualcomm's Eudora 7.1 is a minor upgrade from 7.0. The free version (offered by Eudora's publisher Qualcomm, because Eudora was originally developed as a public domain program by a state university) now contains improved graphics and audio filters, as well as a "Recent" list similar to what Word, PhotoShop and other programs contain, to help you find the most recent e-mails you've viewed.

As with Netscape and Firefox, the Eudora upgrade installed seamlessly, with all existing settings porting over perfectly.

The Bat! e-mail client has issued version 3.85. You can now use The Bat! to work with Microsoft Exchange servers – a useful option for those who don't want to use Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client. The Bat! includes a 30-day trial version so you can decide before you buy. I gave up on The Bat! a few years ago after a crash ended up corrupting my in-box and losing me several months' worth of e-mail. Of course, if I'd backed up my mail files, that wouldn't have happened. Still and all, I'd always liked the The Bat's interface, functionality and general usefulness.

Battlefield 2

The serious bugs that have plagued "Battlefield 2" since its release almost 18 months ago seem finally to have been fixed. The 1.4 patch issued in early September is getting good marks for at last making the game stable. It also adds another map.

Still, given that the futuristic "Battlefield 2142" is being released for download before this column hits the press, you wonder if the "Battlefield 2" patch isn't a bit too little too late.