Netscape Communications has quietly released Netscape 6.1, the latest version of their integrated suite of Internet software that includes Web browsing, email, HTML editing, and instant messaging. Major new features in Netscape 6.1 include support for multiple email accounts, offline support for IMAP accounts, integrated instant messaging, a forms manager for automatically filling forms, and flexible search functionality built into a user-customizable sidebar. Netscape 6.1’s interface is also new and features support for themes that change the look of the application. More important for many people who attempted to use Netscape 6.0 are performance and stability improvements – in our testing after a day of use, the application installed properly (in comparison with Netscape 6.0, which was implicated in hard disk corruption for several of our editors) and hasn’t yet crashed. That said, Netscape 6.1’s interface is slow, clumsy, unnecessarily modal, and non-Mac-like. For instance, the Preferences dialog box is modal but resizable, defaults to a too-small size for its contents, and doesn’t remember the disclosure state or selection of the preference categories. Netscape 6.1 requires a PowerPC 604e running at 266 MHz or faster, with at least 64 MB of RAM and Mac OS 8.6 or Mac OS 9. A preview release of Netscape 6.1 for Mac OS X is available, but lacks the Default Downloader Plugin and Java, plus using the spelling checker in Mac OS X may cause a crash. Netscape uses a small active installer that downloads just the necessary modules, so be prepared for a multi-megabyte download once you start installing.
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