OS/2 eZine

16 May 2001
Robert Basler is the president of Aurora Systems, Inc. and a dedicated OS/2 user since he tired of rebooting Windows 3.1 twenty times a day.

If you have a comment about the content of this article, please feel free to vent in the OS/2 eZine discussion forums.

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IBM Mozilla 0.6

I have been following the Mozilla project for some time. In the beginning it was slow and crashy, as is to be expected from software under heavy development. At the end of March, IBM released the first official version of its own IBM branded Mozilla called the "IBM Web Browser for OS/2" so I thought it was time to give Mozilla another look.

There are two versions of IBM's Mozilla, the first is available on Software Choice and contains an installer, spellchecker and a Flash plug-in, the second is available from the Mozilla site without those extras. I will be reviewing the free version here.


Installation of the free version of IBM's Mozilla is a matter of unzipping the archive you downloaded, and then adding an icon for MOZILLA.EXE to your desktop. If you get the full branded version it comes with an installer.

Once you start Mozilla the first time it will import all your Netscape 4.61 settings and preferences so that everything is ready to go right away, this was very nice for me.

Browser Impressions

The first thing you notice about the new browser is that it is pretty. The Themes skinning feature finally seems to work reliably, bringing a respectably modern look to this OS/2 application. You can even download new skins for the browser to give it a completely different look but watch the version numbers they require, ones for the wrong version don't generally work.

Unfortunately, once you start using it, you also notice that the new browser doesn't feel quick. That doesn't mean that it isn't quick, it just doesn't feel that way. That seems to be the biggest difference between Netscape 4.61 and Mozilla, they feel different. With Netscape when you click on a link, the screen goes blank while the page loads. With Mozilla, the old page stays up until the new page is ready to be rendered so you can read more, scroll up and down, etc. For me this means I frequently peek at the little animated status indicator in the top right of the Mozilla window to see if my click actually took. When it comes to downloading pages, my stopwatch couldn't see any difference between the two programs through my DSL connection.

Something else you'll notice if you've used Mozilla before is that this version doesn't crash very much. I've had one crash and a couple of recoverable hangs in the 6 weeks I've been running it. This is a big improvement over previous Mozilla browsers I have tried, and is on par with my experience with Netscape 4.61.

The best thing about the new Mozilla is that pages which never rendered right in Netscape 4.61 like The Register actually render correctly now.

Mozilla also fixes one of my longstanding gripes with Netscape. When you reload a page, or go back to a page, it is always in the exact same spot as you left it. No more scrolling up and down to figure out where you were.

Instant Downloading - A feature to Love

One feature I have really come to love is Mozilla's background downloading feature. When you click on a file to download, Mozilla starts downloading it while it asks you what you want to do with it and where to put it. This is a huge timesaver as most of the time, by the time I have finished answering its questions, the file I wanted is happily residing on my local hard disk. No more waiting for files to download!

The Microfont Problem

Before I found the setting that adjusts the font size, Mozilla was pretty much unusable for me. Any form that had buttons or drop-down list boxes would render in text that was unreadably small. This microtext also appeared on many web pages.

[Ed. The screenshot below has some missing menus at the side, this seems to be a problem with the screen capture, everything looked good onscreen.]

The answer was found in Mozilla's font setup dialog. There I found some suspicious 8's which after I changed them to 16's, caused the text to become readable.

My Sidebar

One handy feature in Mozilla is the Sidebar. This area has a number of interesting abilities, but my favourite is that it captures the search results from Google so that you can go quickly from one result to another without having to constantly go back to the search results page.

Other things you will find on the Sidebar include the What's Related tab found in previous Netscapes, plus a Bookmarks tab, a Search tab, and a Tinderbox tab. Tinderbox is really only for the Mozilla developers but fortunately you can customize what tabs are shown.

Mail and News

Unfortunately the news reader isn't as nice to use as the web browser is. On my system when I click on a message, it takes one second for the list of messages to update, one second for the message pane to clear, and another second for the message to appear. I run a dual Celeron 433MHz system and that's two and a half seconds more than Netscape takes.

On the plus side, the news reader has a nice password manager which can remember your news server passwords from session to session. Unlike Netscape 4.61, I don't have to re-enter my user name and password every time I want to go read news. The rendering of messages is also nicer than Netscape, at least to my eye. I also particularly like the improved ability to configure what fields show up in the message list so that I can neatly trim it down to just subject, author and date.

One huge bug is that if you right click on an image in a news message and choose "Save Image As" it saves it as an undecoded base64 text file. Hello? Has anyone used this?

The big improvement for mail is that it now supports more than one mailbox.


The new web page composer doesn't look a lot different than Composer from Netscape but it does pack a few nice new features.

One feature I really like in the new composer is the ability to show all the tags as shown below, or to edit the page as raw HTML source.

My longstanding complaint with Composer is that the resulting HTML isn't very clean. There's a lot of extra stuff in there that just doesn't need to be. Unfortunately the HTML code that the new Composer produces isn't any cleaner than previous versions. The code is certainly nicer than what some products I have seen produce, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

If you're looking to make relatively simple static web pages for your own site with graphics and tables, then Composer is a good solution. If you want to make more advanced pages with animation and special effects, or if you are making pages for a high-volume site, or if you spend a lot of time editing web pages, you should look elsewhere.


Unlike Netscape, if you are into IRC, there is also a little IRC client built into Mozilla.


For browsing, I find myself running Mozilla as much as Netscape 4.61, probably more. It renders pages very nicely, is extremely pretty and modern looking, and once you get used to the different feel to it, is little different performance-wise from using Netscape 4.61. The one real sticking point for me moving completely to Mozilla is the newsreader. It is so slow it is unusable, and the one bug I have found is a huge inconvenience.

A lot of people have criticized Mozilla for its slow startup and large memory footprint. With RAM going for around 65 cents a megabyte these days, it seems like it might be time to buy that big DIMM you've been looking at, plus once you start it, that's it, just leave it running, problem solved.

The slow screen update problem will likely be solved with time. I played with the Windows version of Mozilla some time ago, and it was much faster than the OS/2 version at that point. You could even call it snappy. I would assume that at some point the OS/2 Mozilla developers will figure out how to make the OS/2 version as quick. If not, it probably won't matter. After all, computers are only getting faster.

Mozilla is a continuously developing product, this first IBM release is pretty good, much more stable than previous Mozillas I have tried, but there are certainly areas that could still use some improvement. This release is based on the 0.6 version of Mozilla, in the six weeks since its release, the OS/2 Warp Mozilla developers have moved on to 0.8.1, and 0.9. If you haven't tried it recently, and have a moderately quick computer, Mozilla is certainly worth a look. This may be the product that gets me to upgrade to one of those new 1.5GHz CPU's.

IBM Mozilla 0.6
Price: Free, or by Software Choice subscription.
Download: Reviewed 0.6 version: mozilla-i386-pcos2-vacpp-0.6.zip Current 0.9 version: mozilla-i386-pcos2-vacpp-0.9.zip
Website: http://www.mozilla.org/ports/os2/
Support: news://news.mozilla.org/netscape.public.mozilla.os2

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