By: Walter Metcalf
Some days it seems I live in the Netscape browser! When I am doing things directly related to this site, it is
somewhat unusual for me to have only one copy (instance, for the purist) of Netscape running: three is quite
common. As a result, I have developed a love-hate relationship with Netscape. When I get disgusted
with it, and hear of another browser that is supposed to better in some way, I often check it out. So far
I have always found that the new one has some deficiency bad enough to make it intolerable, and I come back to
"the devil I know".
At least Netscape is nearly always predictable, and can be customized to a degree sufficient to make
it reasonably comfortable to use. Some things of course, I will just have to live with. However, in
this article I want to talk about some of the techniques I use to customize Netscape. As usual with this type
of thing, there are a few caveats.
First, I have learned these techniques from a wide variety of sources over a number of years, so I can't
begin to give proper attribution. Consequently, in most cases, I won't attempt to give the source of a tip.
Second, I am either currently using or have recently used the majority of tips specified here, so I know
they work--at least on my systems. I cannot guarantee, however, that they will work on everybody's system.
If I mention a tip I have not been able to confirm, I will say so. In other words, YMMV (your mileage
Third, I use third party programs for the other functions of Netscape--mail, news, and composer, and
consquently am not intimately familiar with Netscape's behaviour in these areas. Therefore I will limit my
discussion to the browser portion.
Finally, this list is no sense complete. It is merely some of the more useful tricks I have found that work and
make Netscape more tolerable and easier to use.
Maximize Your Bookmarks
- "Hello, I'm running Windows"
Depending on the sites you visit, this could be your most important tip. Unfortunately, many
otherwise excellent web sites reject non-Windows browsers, or non-Windows and non-Mac browsers.
Most give you a message, however some do not--you just can't see anything. Still others, like
Western Digital (www.westerndigital.com) show a
basic site to non-Windows users and an enhanced site to Windows users. You can set Netscape
for OS/2 to tell everyone it's running on Windows: just add the following line to the prefs.js file located in your profile directory:
- user_pref("os2.emulate.windows", true);
- Note: Here, as anywhere else you are changing the Netscape files, be sure all Netscape
programs are closed first.
Another exceedingly useful trick is to add the line user_pref("os2.drag_menu", true); to the
pref.js file. This simple trick will display your bookmarks in multiple columns across the
your screen, complete with folder icons, which can be expanded merely by holding your mouse on them.
I have been able to get three columns, but to get that many you do have to be a little careful about
the maximum length of the bookmark descriptions. If even one in the third column is too long,
the display will revert to two columns.
Optimize Memory Use
A good technique to make Netscape run more efficiently is to hand over the task of managing virtual
memory (caching) to OS/2 Warp: the operating system's algorithms for these tasks are much more
efficient than Netscape's.
Here's how to do this:
Minimize History Management
- Set Netscape's Memory Cache (Edit|Preferences|Advanced|Cache) to a minimum number (1-2 MB);
- Set the Disk Cache to a significantly large number (10-20 MB).
Note the actual values depend heavily upon your machine (especially how you use it and how
much RAM you have.) For example, I have 256 MB RAM and often run multiple instances
of Netscape; consequently I have my Memory Cache set to 4 MB. Avoid setting it too large,
however, as Netscape will get bogged down trying to manage the files, especially the images,
Netscape maintains a history file of images and pages you visit. Its purpose is to allow you to find
places you visited in the past, as well as to speed up browsing by detecting whether or not a page
has changed. The overhead in keeping this file up-to-date grows quickly as the size of the file grows.
Consequently it is very important to keep this file as small as possible. By default, files expire
after 9 days, although this can be changed in the Preferences (Edit|Preferences|Navigator). I
recommend you keep it at the default, or set it even lower.
Balance the Load
If your system has multiple hard drives, consider changing the Netscape cache to a different drive
from that on which Netscape resides. This may be especially advantageous if your system swapper is
on the Netscape drive. By doing this you will help balance the load between your two drives. To
change the Netscape cache drive, first go to the drive on which you wish to cache, and create
a new directory. Then go to the "cache" page on the "Advanced" tab, and enter the
full path specification of the new directory. Close and re-start Netscape, and you're all set.
The Rick Walsh Maneuver
Rick Walsh has found a cure, or at least a work-around, for a nasty long-standing problem in which
repeated opening and closing of the current refresh of Netscape causes the Workplace Shell to close
down. Click here to
read all about it. [Note: I have not confirmed this personally, but a reader has written to me
thanking me for letting him know about the fix.]
As you type a URL into the location box, the browser by default attempts to "guess" the URL you
are going to type based on the URL's you have visited in the past, and then complete the URL based on
this guess. While this can often save you keystrokes, it can also be confusing. This feature can be
turned off. To do so add the following line to the pref.js :
Bookmark your Secrets
- user_pref("os2.url_completion", false);
If you're like me, you have several private sites that require a userid and password to access.
If you access these a lot, it would be handy to bookmark them. Here's how to do it:
Save your Text
- Start Netscape, and click on "Bookmarks";
- Click on "Edit Bookmarks";
- Click on "File";
- Click on "New Bookmark";
- Enter a suitable description, and then enter the URL constructed as follows:
- If desired, use the "Cut" and "Paste" items on the "Edit" menu to move the bookmark to
a different location.
Note: This procedure should not be used where tight security is important.
Here's a simple trick that can help you save, and even print, a web page that's being difficult.
Ordinarily, of course, whenever you do a File|Save As on a web page, the result is a document in HTML
format. If that's not what you want, or you want to print a page that Netscape won't let you, say,
because the function is greyed out, then click on File|Save As, but then before you click OK
in the combo-box, go to the filename window, and change the extension from .HTML to .TXT. Netscape
will detect that change, and automatically perform an ASCII save. The resulting file will contain
all the text, without the images, and can easily be printed.
You probably know this, but in case someone else doesn't, start Netscape and go to the Page Setup page
(File|Page Setup), and note the "Last page first" box. If you have a printer that stacks paper in
reverse order (i.e. so that the last page printed becomes the first page--like many DeskJet printers),
then be sure to check this box. That will cause pages printed from the Internet to come out in
the correct order.
I hope you will find some of these tips useful in making Netscape a little easier for you to use.