Hands On: Mozilla 0.9, Part 2

Originally published 14 May 2001 as a Tech Reflections article for Low End Mac.

More criticism, accolades, and observations of Mozilla 0.9

For some bizarre reason, typing anything into the Location box caused the Low End Mac home page to be reloaded — the URL typed is not visited. Restarting Mozilla (I had to use the menu, as key commands had quit working) fixed it.

Remember my criticism of the "Modern" theme? Well, it makes the buttons on forms look like Windoze dialog buttons. Yuck. Actually, so does the "Classic" theme. Funny, I don't recall there being Windoze-like buttons in Netscape on the Mac, whose appearance the Classic theme is supposed to simulate according to the documentation. Oops.

Clicking in the Location bar puts the insertion point at the cursor location rather than highlighting the whole URL, as IE5 does. Score one for Mozilla; I wish you could change the behaviour in IE5 — actually, I wish you could choose between the two behaviours in either application.

Somehow, Mozilla managed to not only not recognise command keys, but it wouldn't quit using the menu either. It seems to have eaten all its menus — none of them respond at all in any way. I had to force-quit again. And again, the problem went away on restarting the application.

The Mozilla application itself is only 240 KB in size. The rest of the folder, however, is nearly 30 MB. I suspect some of the components (Mail and News, Composer) could be removed easily by removing files from the Components folder, but I don't see a good, clean way to do this without messing up the application. (I tried removing the Mail and News stuff from the Components folder, but it had no apparent effect on Mozilla in my admittedly limited testing. As I said, I don't think these two things ought to be in here anyway, so I don't use them.)

The Forms Manager functionality is great — even better than IE's — but it has some redraw bugs that make it nearly impossible to use. You have to resize the window to get it to redraw when you switch panes, and it's a real pain to do so. I don't know about most of you, but I'm not storing my credit card number, social security number, or other similar information in there. There are very few sites that actually need this information, and I'd prefer to give it to them as I choose rather than have Mozilla fill it in automatically. Fortunately, by leaving these fields blank, it's simple to avoid this problem.

Despite its bugs, I'm really impressed with Mozilla in the five days or so I've been using it. I wish there was an easy way to convert cookies from one browser to another so I could switch from IE5 completely. Anyone know of something? Email me if you do.

According to one of my readers, Madison, the Mail and News portion is an optional install, but only for the Mozilla versions without Talkback. I recommend you use the Talkback version at this point, as it sends crash data back to the developers, which will help them make the final release much better. If you don't use the Talkback version, the developers will get no feedback (unless you do it yourself), and your use of the product won't help them. (And if you want to complain about this build of Mozilla needing so much RAM and hard drive space with those extra components, well, what are you doing using bleeding-edge software on hardware that is barely capable of running it?)

I can't change the location of the cache in Mozilla. Running the cache on a RAM disk is one of the best ways to speed up browsing, especially on a slow connection, and this needs to be fixed soon.

Command-clicking on a server-side image map in order to open the link in a new window doesn't work; it appears Mozilla opens the new window after it sends the coordinates of the click to the server. This causes the click to go through in the first window and opens a second window that comes up with an error, because no coordinates were passed. Server-side image maps, while slightly faster than client-side image maps, are going the way of the dodo for various reasons, but there are enough out there still that this needs to be fixed. (Note that IE has no problem with this.)

There seems to be some sort of bug with drawing background images on a few sites. I'm not sure if this is an HTML issue or a Mozilla bug; I haven't yet tested background images on a site I know to be HTML spec-compliant. If anyone knows of a site that uses a background image and is 100% HTML4 (or 3.2)-compliant, let me know, and I'll check it out.

There's still no keystroke to cycle through open windows, as in IE5's command-` keystroke. C'mon, guys, this can't be that hard to do. Why do I dislike the lack of this? Because Javascript-based popup windows, once they pop up, cannot be sent to the background unless you click on the main browser window or close the popup. I generally kill popups immediately if they're for ads, but I use several sites on a regular basis that use popups for image display or other things, and these windows will not be switched from in Netscape or Mozilla. IE can handle it just fine, however.

Kensington's scrolling feature in their drivers doesn't work with Mozilla but works fine with other apps.

Also worth checking out: the official Mozilla Known Problems list. So far, nothing I've listed appears on this page with the exception of the scrolling bug noted above (which is only listed for Linux and Windows systems).

All in all, Mozilla is good, but not great. It's not good enough to convince me to switch from IE yet, but if any of you are still using Netscape Communicator, Mozilla 0.9 isn't much less stable, and it certainly feels better overall. I'd take this over Communicator 4.7x or Netscape 6 (oh! the horror!) any day.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson