Miscellaneous Ramblings

Mozilla 0.9.8: Impressive

Charles Moore - 2002.02.12 - Tip Jar

Last week I downloaded both the classic Mac OS and OS X versions of Mozilla 0.9.8. Mozilla is the open source browser that serves as the base for Netscape 6.x, and it is usually two to four versions ahead of the current Netscape release.

I've been using Mozilla daily as my second browser since version 0.9.2 was released last May. I've found that it works well for me and just keeps getting better with each successive release. However, this was the first time I had tried the OS X version (I have been using Netscape 6.2 in OS X).

Installing Mozilla for Mac OS X was a snap. I just unstuffed the compressed file, mounted the desk image, and dragged the Mozilla folder into my Applications folder.

Mozilla 0.9.8 for 0S X starts up a lot faster than the legacy OS version - about four times faster than Mozilla 0.9.7 does on my WallStreet PowerBook.

It is also very fast at loading pages - at least it feels faster than iCab, Netscape 6.2, or OmniWeb, the browsers I have experience with in 0S X.

Since I have an extensive frame of reference from using Mozilla in OS 9.1, I was eager to see if the substantial speed improvement I had noted in the OS X version was unique to the latter, or whether version 0.9.8 would be speedier across-the-board. I'm happy to report that it is.

To test, I tried a startup of Mozilla 0.9.7 on my WallStreet running Mac OS 9.1. It took 27 seconds.

I then installed Mozilla 0.9.8. It's not as slick and fast a process as the drag and drop installation in 0S X, but it's still no hassle. Just double-click the installer and let it do its stuff. It took a couple or three minutes to run the installer.

I started up the program, let it assimilate the Preferences and Bookmarks from my earlier version, and then optimize itself. I then quit the program and restarted it. It took 17 seconds, or more than one-third lopped off the startup time of the previous build. Please note well that this is on a 233 MHz G3 machine, and the times cited will improve on faster Macs.

Now, since Mozilla 0.9.8 had been so fast loading pages in 0S X, I wanted to see if it would carry over to the legacy version as well. I decided to do a shoot-out comparison loading several pages I visit frequently using iCab, which has historically been the fastest browser in such tests, as a control.

Please note again that the cited performance statistics are on a 233 MHz PowerBook over a slow 26,400 bps dialup Internet connection. Here are the results:

iCab 2.7.1

Mozilla 0.9.1

Applelinks home page

42 sec.

21 sec.

National Post home page

77 sec.

75 sec.

Environment Canada radar image

20 sec.

14 sec.

ramseeker home page

60 sec.

55 sec.

Low End Mac home page

20 sec.

32 sec.

I was impressed. The performance on the Applelinks home page was especially scintillating, and Mozilla brought up my online banking pages with what felt like (untimed) a similar dramatic improvement in speed. On the other pages cited, the improvement was less spectacular, but Mozilla 0.9.8 still bested iCab at least marginally on all except the Low End Mac Home Page. I ran the test several times to make sure this latter result was not an anomaly, but it wasn't. iCab was consistently faster loading Low End Mac.

Other improvements noted over previous builds are that Mozilla now scrolls the National Post home page, which seems to present a major challenge to some browsers, much more quickly and smoothly than previous versions did (although iCab is still the champion here), and Finder response, window opening, etc., seems snappier as well.

Like Netscape Communicator, Mozilla offers an all-in-one package with browser (Navigator), email (Messenger), and HTML authoring (Composer) modules in a single integrated application package. I have mixed feelings about this, and I use other applications for email and HTML editing, although I installed these modules in order to keep an eye on how they are developing. It is possible, however, to do a custom install of just the Mozilla navigator browser module if you prefer.

I already liked Mozilla, and I like version 0.9.8 even better. IMHO, Mozilla, backed up by iCab, leaves little excuse for using Internet Explorer (which I am personally boycotting because it's Microsoft software). Mozilla is now demonstrably the fastest Mac OS browser (at least at loading most Web pages), available for either the legacy OS or for OS X. Netscape 6 (currently based on the relatively ancient Mozilla 0.9.4) will eventually benefit as well.

New in Mozilla 0.9.8:

  • Hebrew and Arabic now supported on Mac OS systems that have the proper language pack installed. Pasting is busted (Bug 119877) and there are still some open issues related to keyboard input and UI fonts. (Bugs 119860, 119882, 120048, 120334, 121126)
  • Thanks to the new nsITheme API, the classic theme now has native looking widgets on Mac OS X.
  • There are several address book improvements.
  • You can now print individual cards (this has been broken for several milestones), print cards from any address book, or print the contents of an entire address book.
  • Much improved performance. (For details see the test results.)
  • You can now export to txt, tab and csv and LDIF.
  • The address book now has quick search.
  • Cards with addresses in the USA have a new Get Map button in the card preview pane which creates a map for that address at mapquest.com For details on how to customize the address book's quick search and Get Map features, see Hidden Addressbook Prefs.
  • Mozilla supports MNG again.
  • Dynamic theme switching works again. You can (usually) switch themes without restarting the browser although there are still some bugs.
  • Mozilla no longer reads favicon.ico images by default, although Mozilla still reads page icons defined with the tag. Set the following pref to turn the feature back on. user_pref("browser.chrome.favicons",true);
  • Files automatically downloaded by clicking on a link are now renamed to the correct name when the download finishes.
  • DOM Inspector is now included on Mac OS builds.
  • The new Page Setup dialog allows setting margins, page orientation and page scaling. Use the following codes to customize page headers : &T - Title, &U - Document URL, &D - Date/Time, &P - Page Number, &PT - Page Number "of" Page total.
  • On Mac OS, downloaded files that are passed off to a helper application are no longer deleted when Mozilla exits.
  • Composer is now able to generate CSS inline styles instead of deprecated HTML elements and/or attributes (see Composer

Mozilla 0.9.8 is freeware

System requirements:

  • Mac OS 8.5 or later
  • PowerPC 604e 266 MHz or faster processor, or G3/G4
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 36 MB of free hard disk space
  • QuickTime
  • You must have Mac OS Runtime for Java (MRJ) version 2.2 to run Java applets with Mozilla. If you have Mac OS version 8.5 through 8.6, you may need to upgrade your version of MRJ. For an upgrade, go to the Apple MRJ update download page.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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