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July 8, 2002
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Mozilla 1.0 Browser Quick Look

Mike Angelo -- 8 July 2002 (c) -- Page 2

One of the most obvious and onerous Mozilla Sidebar annoyance bugs is the oingo history-tab bug. When you select the History sidebar tab, Mozilla, without you so requesting Mozilla to do so, downloads and displays the page shown in Figure 6, below. This bug makes opening the Mozilla Sidebar History tab a very annoying pain in the butt. There is no excuse for having such a bug in a 1.0 release!

To reproduce the bug, select the Bookmarks tab in the Mozilla 1.0 sidebar. Then select the History tab in the Mozilla 1.0 sidebar. If the bug is present in your copy of Mozilla 1.0, the page shown in Figure 6 will appear in the Web-page display panel of your Mozilla browser. We have observed this bug in both the Linux and MS Windows versions of Mozilla 1.0.

It's likely the bug also sends the standard get request info about your IP identification, browser, OS, and so forth to -- and of course it is giving lots of hits, which it does not deserve. Was the bug just another Mozilla unintentional blunder -- or was, perhaps, a Mozilla/Netscape developer(s) trying to get lots of hits for

In any event, Mozilla 1.0 should never have been released with the bug. It is a very obvious and very annoying bug. Releasing Mozilla 1.0 with the bug is just another example of the poor Mozilla quality control and poor Mozilla Project management. Moreover, releasing Mozilla 1.0 with the bug is just another reason that we conclude that Mozilla was released prematurely, lacks 1.0 polish, and was not ready for prime time.

There are lots more Mozilla 1.0 Sidebar and Bookmark bugs, annoyances and issues too.

Figure 6. The Oingo History-Tab Bug. When you select the History sidebar tab, Mozilla, without you so requesting Mozilla to do so, downloads and displays this page

  • Customizability

CSS = Cascading Style Sheets

HTML = HyperText Markup Language

JS = Java Script

XML = eXtensible Markup Language

XUL = XML-based User Interface Language

A more unique and original Mozilla browser feature is it's overall customizability. For all intents and purposes, the Mozilla browser is almost completely customizable. At a more simple level you can hack the XUL, XML, CSS, JS, and HTML scripts and components that define the user interface (UI) -- the look and feel of the browser.

The Mozilla browser-suite is built on top of the multi-platform Mozilla Application Programming Framework (APF). That framework is written in open source code. So, you even can do some heavy duty hacking to the underlying Mozilla Framework, if you wish.

The capability to hack the Mozilla user interface and/or its underlying Application Programming Framework is something more for the power-users, developers, and computer geeks. Most end-users likely will not have the computer programming skills to hack, nor the desire to learn the intricacies of hacking, the Mozilla UI or its underlying APF.

  • Mozilla Skins (Themes)

Nevertheless, just about any end-user, as well as any power user or developer, can change the look and feel of the Mozilla browser -- without the need to hack the Mozilla UI or the underlying Mozilla APF. It's all in the Lizard's skin.

Skins, or themes, provide the look and feel of the Mozilla browser-suite modules --browser, e-mail, news, and composer. Mozilla 1.0 comes with two skin choices, Classic and Modern. The Classic skin, of course, has the look and feel of the classic Netscape 4.x browser suite, while the Modern skin is a substantial departure from the classic Netscape 4.x look.

You can select which of these skins you want to use by clicking on Edit > Preferences > Appearance > Themes. As you highlight each skin choice, you will see a preview of that skin. Simply highlight your choice and click Okay. Please see Figure 7, below.

Also, you can change skins by clicking on View > Apply Theme and then selecting either Classic or Modern. Additionally, you can set the theme preference from the Apply Theme menu. However, you cannot switch skins on the fly. You must restart Mozilla in order for a theme change to take effect.

Third-party skins are available. Or, you can make your very own Mozilla skin. But that's another story.

Figure 7. Mozilla Themes preference selection panel with the Modern theme highlighted. Figures 1, 3, 4, and 6 above show Mozilla in Classic theme mode.

  • Gecko Rendering and Layout Engine

At the core of the Mozilla browser is the Gecko rendering and layout engine. The Mozilla Organization claims the Gecko engine is 100% (W3C) standards compliant. However, Gecko does have problems rendering some standards compliant code. This seems to be a matter of bugs and poor coding rather than a matter of Gecko engine design goals.

The Mozilla browser has two Web page rendering and layout modes, Standards-Compliance mode and Quirks mode. You can see what mode Mozilla has used to layout a Web page by clicking on View > Page Info. It takes Mozilla longer to lay-out Web pages in Quirks mode than it does in Standards-Compliance mode.

Note to Web page authors and developers: other Web browsers also seem to layout Web pages faster if the pages are 100% W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards compliant. By making sure your Web pages are 100% W3C compliant, your Web pages will display more quickly in your Web site visitors' browsers. You can make sure your Web pages are 100% W3C compliant by checking them with the W3C Validator -- links in the Resources section on Page X.

(Netscape introduced the <layer> tags in pre-Mozilla Project versions of the Netscape Navigator. Considering that it was Netscape that introduced <layer> tags and that Mozilla has its roots in the old Netscape Navigator, it is rather inappropriate for the Mozilla Quirks mode now not to honor <layer> tags.)

Lots of HTML on the vast World Wide Web is not strictly W3C compliant. That could present problems pulling in and displaying many web pages when surfing the Web with a Gecko-based browser, such as the Mozilla 1.0 Web browser -- if there were no Quirks mode.

The Quirks mode allows display of some older and non-compliant code plus older legal code that is no longer compliant, which the strictly-compliant portion of the Mozilla browser will not render. The Quirks mode provides some relief to non-compliant-code page-display problems. A strictly compliant Gecko engine without a Quirks mode would not layout such code correctly, or it might not lay it out at all.

Unfortunately, neither the Mozilla-based Quirks mode nor the strictly W3C compliant Gecko engine mode honor <layer> tags. Mozilla 1.0 does support layer effects in pages using <div> and/or <iframe> tags. Not being able to view pages that use <layer> tags could be a turn-off to prospective Mozilla 1.0 users. The Mozilla Organization ought to add <layer> tags to the Quirks mode for its Mozilla browser, but so far the Mozilla Organization refuses to do that.

If you are interested in a more detailed treatment of the Gecko engine, you might want to dig through the Nglayout Project / Gecko Layout Engine FAQ. Link in the Resources section at the end of this article.

Preferences, Privacy, and Security

The good news is that the Mozilla 1.0 browser affords you lots of ways to control the way your Mozilla browser functions and how it handles privacy and security matters. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the default Mozilla privacy and security settings leave you wide open to Web sites that might wish to invade and jeopardize your privacy and security.

Immediately upon installing the Mozilla browser you should open the Preferences panel (Edit > Preferences) and adjust all the preferences settings to provide the level of security and privacy that you desire to maintain.

We will discuss actually setting the privacy, security, and other important Mozilla 1.0 preferences in an upcoming MozillaQuest Magazine article. However, in the meantime you can use the guidelines starting at Page 14 in our How to Download Install, and Configure Netscape 6.0 Safely article to help you get your shields up.

A nice Mozilla 1.0 feature is that you can pretty much block out annoying ads and popup panels. Important tools for doing that are found in the Preferences > Privacy & Security > Images panel and Preferences > Advanced > Scripts & Windows panel. You also can do some advertisement and popup management from the Tools menu on the Mozilla menu bar.

Incidentally, the NetCaptor browser has some nice advertisement and popup management tools too -- including, inter alia, URL blocking, image blocking, and blocking popups when Tabs are closed. However, URL blocking is not available in the NetCaptor free-trial version.

The Mozilla 1.0 Browser Is Immature and Not Ready for Prime Time!

On the surface the Mozilla 1.0 browser is impressive. However, when one starts digging into and under the Mozilla Lizard's skin -- well, beauty is only skin deep.

The Mozilla 1.0 browser-suite lacks sufficient polish, has too many bugs, and does not have some essential features necessary for a 1.0 browser-suite product-debut. Mozilla 1.0 is sufficiently stable and polished for regular use if you are willing to put up with lots of annoyances and issues. Other than perhaps its Tabbed-Browsing feature, we see no compelling reason for people to switch to the Mozilla browser-suite from browser products such as KDE's Konqueror (Linux), Microsoft's Internet Explorer (Windows), and other popular browsers.

However, other competitive browsers such as NetCaptor and Opera do have tabbed browsing. So, you can have the neat, tabbed-browsing feature without having to use AOL-Netscape's Mozilla or Netscape browsers.

Meanwhile, the four major Linux distributions have included pre-1.0 Mozilla browser-suite milestone editions in their distributions for some time. Some, such as Red Hat Linux, already have pretty much replaced Netscape with the Mozilla browser as the default Web browser in their Linux distributions. Red Hat will drop Netscape altogether in its next Red Hat Linux distribution.

However, KDE's Konqueror browser and file manager also is available by default on those Linux distributions. If the KDE folks were to add the same sort of tabbed-browsing that Mozilla has to their Konqueror browser, there would be little if any reason to use the Mozilla browser over the Konqueror browser in Linux.

It appears that the KDE organization plans to do just that. Tabbed-browsing has been added to the KDE Konqueror browser in the Konqueror development tree and likely will be included in KDE 3.2.

Overall, the Mozilla 1.0 browser suite has lots of potential and is very impressive in many ways. However, AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization's release of its Mozilla browser suite as a 1.0 offering on 5 June 2002 was premature. Therefore, we place the Mozilla 1.0 browser-suite in the close, but no cigar category.

If AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization wants the cigar for its Mozilla browser suite, it will have buckle down. To get the cigar, the Mozilla Organization and developers must engage in a more focused project development and management and they must resolve the many annoyances, bugs, missing features, and other issues that are holding-back the Mozilla browser from reaching its potential as a darn good product.

Relationship of the Mozilla 1.0 and Netscape 7 Browsers

The Netscape 6 and 7 Web browsers are based on Mozilla code. In effect, the Mozilla browser is an Open Source version of the proprietary Netscape browser or perhaps vice versa.

The Netscape 6.x browser was built on top of pre-1.0 Mozilla browser code. The recently released AOL-Netscape 7.0-PR1 browser was built on the Mozilla 1.0-RC2 code-base. It's likely that the next Netscape 7.x edition will be built on top of Mozilla 1.0 code, or later Mozilla code such as 1.0.1, which is expected to be released shortly.

See Some Mozilla Problems on Page 3 ----->

Related Articles

Article Index

Mozilla 1.0 Is Out! (includes release info and download links)

Turmoil in MozillaLand: Current Status of Mozilla 1.0, 1.0.1, and 1.1-Alpha

Mozilla 1.0 Browser Unofficial Sneak Release -- Mozilla 1.0 is unofficially out!

Year 2001 in Review -- Mozilla and Netscape Browsers

Is Mozilla Actually AOL-Netscape's Mozilla?

Netscape 7.0-PR1 Browser-Suite Released

MozillaQuest the Series: Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser

Mozilla's ChatZilla -- The Lizard Speaks: Real Internet Chatting & Communication

Part II: The Many Faces of Mozilla -- A Preview Look at the Mozilla Application Programming Framework

Copyright 2000-2002 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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