Communicator: A New Year's Gift from Netscape


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Communicator: A New Year's Gift from Netscape

Netscape Communicator Preview Release 1 raises the stakes in the browser battle

By John Makulowich, Contributing Writer

Raise the bar another notch in the world-class competition for top client. With Netscape Communicator Preview Release 1.0 - all 22 million bytes of it or 9 mb compressed - the browser battle again changes momentum. And this time the package, a suite of clients, is looking more and more like a virtual Swiss army knife, complete with 5-in-1 and 8-in-1 versions.

Written for Windows 95 and Windows NT, this new offering gives you what Netscape bills as an e-mail, groupware and browser suite with tools to communicate, share and access information on your intranet or the Internet.

In the company's own words, "Netscape Communicator integrates open e-mail, groupware, editing and browsing tools into one powerful yet easy-to-use application."

Available in Standard and Professional editions, the complete package includes Navigator (the 4.0 browser), Messenger (e-mail client), Collabra (news groups and discussion groups), Composer (Web pages), Conference (audio/video conferencing), Calendar (enterprise scheduling), AutoAdmin (remote management of Communicator) and IBM Host On-Demand (IBM Host access).

The full package shows great promise. Unfortunately, not all links work for all tools, with some surprises.

For example, in the Netscape Communicator Online Help section, of the five links, that is, Setting Your Preferences, Using Your Network, Using Communicator's Help, Starting to Use Communicator and Communicator's Quick Reference, only Using Communicator's Help worked. The other four were simply placeholders. The same applied to the "tools" in the Professional Edition.

On a different note, Navigator 4.0 features a new face and, for whatever reasons, Netscape know-it-alls decided to move around basic functions again.

This time, you find the Preferences as the last item under Edit. For functionality, it didn't seem to make a difference and its use remains basically the same - when you remember to clear memory and disk cache.

My award for Slickest Feature goes to the floating taskbar that sits on the desktop and overlays all your PC applications. Thus, as I was writing this column, the taskbar with icons for the Browser, Inbox, Discussions and Editor sat in the lower right corner - or wherever you want - ready to retrieve information at a finger's click.

You can always "Dock the Taskbar" if it gets in the way. My award for the Sign of the Times Feature goes to the Stop Animations item under View.

Overall, I remain impressed, especially with the Composer tool that lets you create Web pages and mount them on your server in one fell swoop.

When you first launch the Composer, you have a range of choices, including a set of templates from which to create your home page. The categories cover such items as Personal/Family, Company/Small Business, Department, Product/Service, Special Interest Group and Interesting and Fun (My First JavaScript and My Calculator).

Most of the good stuff you'll want to play with is under Windows in the Menu Bar. And if you haven't yet bought a new computer to run clients like this, now is probably the time.

This suite just made your 486 a piece of legacy equipment. Welcome to 1997! The Internet Iditarod continues apace.

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. Send e-mail to The URL for his home page is or

©1997 Washington Technology. All rights reserved.

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