Mozilla 1.0 Not Ready for Prime Time -- Close but No Cigar and No Brass Ring!
Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite's E-Mail & News Quick Look
Mike Angelo -- 27 July 2002 (c) -- Page 5
A more unique and original Mozilla browser-suite feature is it's overall customizability. For all intents and purposes, the Mozilla E-Mail and News module is almost completely customizable. At a simpler 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 Mozilla E-Mail and News desktop.
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 E-Mail and News desktop -- 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. Third-party skins are available too. Or, you can make your very own Mozilla skin. But that's another story.
Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail and News Is Immature and Not Ready for Prime Time!
On the surface the Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail and News 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 (spell-checking, for example) 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. However, we see no compelling reason for people to switch to the Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail client from E-Mail clients such as KDE's KMail (Linux), Qualcomm's Eudora (Windows), and other popular e-mail or news clients.
Major Linux distributions have included pre-1.0 Mozilla browser-suite milestone editions in their distributions for some time. So if you have a Linux distribution, you likely have the Mozilla E-Mail and News module already. KDE's KMail and KNode e-mail and news clients are available by default on most Linux distributions, too. That makes it easy for you to try both the Mozilla and KDE e-mail and news clients and to see what works best for you.
On the other hand, neither Mozilla nor Eudora come with the Microsoft Windows operating systems. So, you will have to download Mozilla and/or Eudora if you want to try them on your MS Windows based computer(s).
Mozilla 1.0 is a free download and there is a free download (Light) version of Eudora 5.1.1. Actually, you can download Eudora 5.1.1 and then chose to run it in the Light or Advertising modes, which are free modes, or the Paid mode.
In the Eudora Light mode, you do not have spell-checking of your e-mail messages, multiple personalities for managing multiple mail accounts or identities, and some other handy features that are included in the Advertising and Paid modes. That's why we pick Eudora 5.1.1 Paid mode ($40) over Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail but do not pick the Eudora Light mode over Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail.
Relationship of the Mozilla 1.0 and Netscape 7 E-Mail and News Client Software
The Netscape 6.x browser-suite was built on top of pre-1.0 Mozilla browser-suite code. The recently released AOL-Netscape 7.0-PR1 browser-suite 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, later Mozilla code such as Mozilla 1.0.1, which is expected to be released shortly, or Mozilla 1.1, which is scheduled for a 9 August 2002 release.
Some Mozilla Problems
On the downside Mozilla 1.0 is very buggy, including more than 500 crash bugs and more than 12,000 screened (targeted) open (not fixed), bugs that were listed in Mozilla's bug database when Mozilla 1.0 was released. Add the un-screened bug count to that and there were more than 24,000 new, assigned, and re-opened bugs listed in the Mozilla Project's bug-tracking database, Bugzilla, when Mozilla 1.0 was released.
These bug counts are not mere abstractions. But rather they point to a vast array of annoying Mozilla behaviors, problems, and issues. That means that many of those more than 24,000 bugs might impact on your user experiences with the Mozilla E-Mail and News modules. We took a closer look at Mozilla browser-suite annoyances, bugs, and issues and how they impact upon the user experience in our article, A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues.
As we mentioned in our Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues article, please keep in mind that not every Mozilla 1.0 bug, annoyance, and issue will affect all Mozilla 1.0 users. Mozilla is designed to run with a variety of operating systems and computer hardware configurations. Many of the Mozilla 1.0 bugs, annoyances, and issues apply to only one operating system or to a particular hardware configuration. Additionally, not all the bugs apply to all the Mozilla browser-suite components. Some bugs apply only to the browser, some only to e-mail, some only to news, some only to Composer, and so forth.
Moreover different people use the Mozilla browser, E-Mail, and News differently. In part that means that some Mozilla 1.0 users will not experience any bugs, annoyances, and issues at all. Or the particular small set of bugs, annoyances, and issues they experience will not discourage them from using and liking Mozilla 1.0. Other Mozilla 1.0 users will be sufficiently upset with the bugs, annoyances, and issues they experience to ditch Mozilla.
Overall performance in Mozilla 1.0 builds seems decent -- particularly on faster machines, with lots of RAM, that far exceed Mozilla 1.0's minimum system requirements. However, on slower machines that are at or not much above Mozilla 1.0 system requirements, Mozilla 1.0 tends to be somewhat sluggish.
We took a closer look at Mozilla browser-suite performance issues in our article A Quick Look at Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Performance -- Speed, Stability, and Memory Hogging. If you would like to know more about Mozilla performance, please read that article -- it's an eye opener.
Standard of Review
The standard of review for a shipping product is much tougher than the standard of review for a beta or pre-shipping product. Now that Mozilla has reached 1.0 status, we are constrained to get more into the detail of the pros and cons of this shipping product.
Unfortunately, that tighter standard of review leads us to conclude that all in all, Mozilla 1.0 as a shipping product is premature and not yet ready for prime time. However, as a beta or development release, Mozilla 1.0 would be pretty decent in so far as it is developed to date.
AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization releasing Mozilla as a 1.0 product at its current level of immaturity is indeed unfortunate. It is premature. In time the Mozilla browser-suite will be a very nice product. It's not there yet.
Standard of review and its associated issues are discussed more thoroughly in our article, A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues.
The Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail and News Module Is Usable
Despite its problems and lack of polish, the Mozilla 1.0 E-Mail and News module is a nice and usable product. Moreover, although Mozilla 1.0 is not rock-solid, it is relatively stable and reliable. The Mozilla E-Mail and News module does have many nice and handy features.
Certainly Mozilla 1.0 is better than the pre-1.0 Mozilla offerings even though it also is buggier than the pre-1.0 Mozilla releases. If you already are a Mozilla user, you ought to try Mozilla 1.0 if you already have not done so. If you have not tried Mozilla, you ought to try it.
There are some data loss risks. Earlier today a Bugzilla dataloss keyword query turned up nearly 150 open dataloss bug reports.
However, to lessen the chance of losing your Mozilla bookmarks and Mozilla e-mail/news files, you ought to back them up regularly, and also before installing a newer Mozilla build than the one you are using. In Windows 98 SE you likely will find them in the C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Mozilla\ tree. In Windows 2000 (Win 2K) they likely will be in the C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Mozilla\ tree
There is no compelling reason not to use Mozilla 1.0 -- other than perhaps the expressed fact that AOL-Netscape and its de facto Mozilla division do not want end-users to use the Mozilla browser suite. In contrast, Eudora and KDE want you to use their e-mail and news client software.
Unless you are interested in participating in the Mozilla Project, officially AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization does not want you to use the Mozilla browser-suite. Here is what the Mozilla Organization says about that: We make binary versions of Mozilla available for testing purposes only! We provide no end user support. (Releases, the Mozilla Organization, 22 July 2002.)
Apparently, the Mozilla Organization's de facto parent company, AOL-Netscape, does not want any competition from the Mozilla browser suite. It seems that AOL-Netscape wants you to use its Netscape browser suite rather than its Mozilla browser suite. In our opinion, if the Mozilla Organization and Project were truly independent of AOL-Netscape, it would produce Mozilla browser-suite binaries for end-use too, not just for testing only.
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