Netscape Communicator 4.61 - What's New?

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 08/11/99

  1. Personal Observations

    1. General

      1. I tried downloading the new Netscape 4.61 beta shortly after the announcement appeared on WarpCast. Quite soon after that I made it my default browser, reprogramming my Desktop icons to point to it instead of 4.04. I found out quite soon that it works much better than its predecessor, remarkable for a beta; it's also a sad commentary on the quality of NS 4.04.

        By far my biggest complaint is the amount of difficulty I had downloading it. I used NS 4.04 and made sure the memory cache was big enough to contain the entire file. I tried at least a dozen times, and got at most 25% of the way through the file before the server apparently cut me off. I was also unable to connect with any FTP client. I finally tried NS 2.02, and it worked, but I'm not sure it's a version-related problem. After I'd been running NS 4.61 for over a week, I tried using it to download itself, and it worked. I immediately tried again, and it failed. Go figure. Whatever the problem, it must be at the server, because I've never had that much trouble anywhere else. I hope IBM corrects the problem before another beta is released there.

        It has been pointed out to me that NS 4.61 loads rather slowly; it does on my system as well. I expect that will improve once it goes gold. It is normal for beta programs to carry around lot of extra weight in test code, making them slower to load. However, on my Desktop machine (AMD2-333 128MB), once NS 4.61 is loaded it runs at least as fast, perhaps a little faster, than 4.04. (The situation seems about the same on my Thinkpad (PIIe 64MB), but I haven't run either version as much there, so I don't have as much data to work with.)

        What I've have noticed most, is that NS 4.61 is much more stable. Having Netscape locking my system seems to be hardly a problem any more. There is still the annoying delay, during which time the Desktop is frozen, while Netscape releases its RAM if several incarnations quit at about the same time, but the delay is not as long as with 4.04.

      2. Contrary to what the Overview at the download site says, having Netscape 4.04 and 4.61 both installed can cause unpredictable problems: on my Desktop system for example, first loading NS 4.61, closing it, waiting for it fully terminate, and then starting NS 4.04 can confuse the system, cause the wrong version to be loaded, a version to be only partially loaded, or have the Personal Toolbar corrupted. On my Thinkpad the same icon configuration refuses to run Netscape 4.04. Altering the Path/Program and Parameters slightly gets everything run, but once Netscape 4.61 has been run, clicking on NS 4.04 will always run NS 4.61!

      3. There appears to be no problem having both versions installed, as long as you don't try to run one version after the other.

    2. Remaining Issues

      Unfortunately at least two problems introduced with NS 4.04 have not been resolved:

      1. It is still not possible to drag objects from a Netscape object to anything but the Desktop.

      2. Netscape 4.61 still does not reliably come to the foreground when called via DDE.¹

  2. IBM Stated Enhancements

    1. OS/2 Specific Improvements

      1. Support for Java Developer Toolkit, Version 1.1.7. (The beta does not support earlier Java versions.)

      2. "Bi-Di enablement" and "Printer Performance" Enhancements. (IBM does not specify what these are.)

    2. Overall Enhancements

      1. SmartUpdate.

        • If enabled using properties, this feature will allow Netscape to automatically update software on your computer. Only turn this feature on if you are comfortable giving up control of a sizable portion of your computer system.

      2. HTML

        • HTML support has been upgraded to 3.2+.

      3. Availability

        Netscape 4.61 for OS/2 Warp is available in the following Operating Systems:

        1. OS/2 Warp 4
        2. OS/2 Warp Server for e-Business
        3. OS/2 Warp Server 4.0
        4. OS/2 Warp Server Advanced Version 4.0
        5. OS/2 Warp Server SMP Feature
        6. Workspace on-Demand

      4. Support for OS/2 Multimedia Plug-ins and selected 16 bit Windows Plug-ins has been updated.

    3. Navigator Enhancements

      1. Smart Browsing: Internet Keywords, What's Related, NetWatch

      2. JavaScript support has been upgraded to 1.3.

      3. "NetCenter integration: portal customization."

    4. Messenger Enhancements

      1. The major enhancement here is that a new UI has been created that merges Mail and News.

      2. The address book has been enhanced with a new UI.

      3. An important new feature for those who travel a lot is support for roaming; i.e. the ability to access your mail locally in areas where your ISP does not have a "point of presence".

  3. Features Lacking in the Beta Version

    1. Support for Java versions earlier than 1.1.7

    2. Support for 128-bit encription.²

    3. Support for languages other than English and French.

    4. The following components of Netscape 4.04:

      1. Conference
      2. Netcaster
      3. AOL Instant Messenger.

    5. Components of Netscape Communicator Professional.

    6. XML Support

Next time: A good Thinkpad on which OS/2 is supported by IBM!

¹I have encountered this problem primarily with opening HTML documents from PMMail. I was told by SouthSoft Technical Support that this problem was due to a bug in Netscape 4.04.

²Just after this article was published, IBM uploaded a preview version of Netscape 4.61 that supports 128-bit encryption.

For Further Reading:

Netscape Communicator 4.61 for OS/2 Warp Preview
IBM official web page describing new beta.

Netscape 4 for OS/2 Discussion List
Very active list on Netscape topics of all kinds. IBM Netscape team members occasionally drop by.

Netscape Communicator for OS/2 Bug-Tracker Unique site lists new releases of Netscape as well as outstanding bugs and their present status.

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