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More blocking applications

May 06, 20044 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMozilla

* Netscape and Mozilla offer big advantages over Outlook

Last week we looked at third-party add-ons to Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer to stop (or at least greatly reduce) spam and pop-ups (see editorial link below). Now we’ll consider replacing them with applications that have spam and pop-up controls built right in.

A decade ago, Netscape popularized the Web and dominated the market with its free browser until Microsoft added Internet Explorer as a freebie in Windows. AOL bought the company, and Netscape browser fans feared the worst, but AOL didn’t kill it on purpose or by neglect, and appears to be pushing it strongly again.

Mozilla is the open-source brother split from Netscape to continue development outside AOL control. The Mozilla group functions like a free research group for Netscape, and new advances from Mozilla appear in Netscape regularly.

You can download Netscape 7.1 and Mozilla 1.6 free. They offer full browser/e-mail/newsreader/IM suites, and Mozilla also separates out a fast, lean browser named FireFox and an e-mail application named Thunderbird.

Some caveats: Neither Netscape nor Mozilla include a calendar, to-do list or notes sub-applications in their e-mail programs. Their features match up with Outlook Express, the scaled-down e-mail client included in the Windows operating system. And unfortunately, some Web sites and administration tools still demand Internet Explorer, so you may not be able to switch completely to Netscape or Mozilla.

To me, there are two huge advantages in Netscape/Mozilla. First, the browsers support tabbed pages within a single instance of the browser. This means you can see multiple open Web pages without littering your screen and task bar with multiple copies of IE. Even better, you can group the windows on display and open them all at once, a great feature for people who want to check out several news sources because they now need only a single click to open multiple Web sites.

Second, the e-mail clients let you disable HTML message viewing. This HTML block stops any program execution, such as a virus, and reports back to spammers about valid e-mail addresses. This also blocks images from appearing automatically in the preview pane that will get you in serious trouble with your boss. You can set a text-only view in Outlook Express, but I can’t find that setting in Microsoft Outlook.

Only Mozilla’s Thunderbird e-mail application offers a way to “sanitize” images when displaying them in HTML so you can keep text formatting but remove the images. That’s a feature Microsoft Outlook added in the 2003 version, and doesn’t block messages selectively but blocks them all.

Netscape/Mozilla handles browser pop-ups as well as STOPzilla handled them in Internet Explorer. Before, pop-ups appeared on every screen on some Web sites. Now just one or two appear per day. Both Netscape/Mozilla have a configuration setting to control or block pop-ups. You can allow certain sites to display pop-ups, such as sites with pop-up password windows, and you can get notification when a pop-up is blocked so you can allow it to display.

Spam controls use the type of linguistic weighting score popular today with many vendors, including InBoxer (tested last week) and POPfile (a spam-control add-on we use). InBoxer had better success immediately, but within two days of tagging messages junk or legit Netscape/Mozilla were just as effective. One configuration click tells Netscape/Mozilla to add outgoing e-mail addresses to the whitelist of accepted addresses so replies aren’t blocked. This feature alone may push us to switch to the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail application to go along with the Mozilla FireFox browser we already use.

Like Microsoft’s Outlook and Outlook Express, Netscape/Mozilla e-mail lets you set up multiple accounts. You can create a local folder structure to handle each mail account separately or support all mail in one set of local folders. Message filtering rules are simple and flexible, letting you funnel mailing list messages (and important newsletters) to the appropriate folder.

If you want a better browsing and e-mail experience, we suggest using Netscape/Mozilla. If you really love Outlook and Internet Explorer, get the add-ons to control spam and pop-ups. But you’ll be paying extra money to get what Netscape/Mozilla give you for free.