Not a week goes by without a dozen or two intranet-related product announcements - although many of the products are merely repackaged Internet tools, or repackaged enterprise network tools with a TCP/IP stack added. Nonetheless, this corner of the industry is moving at a breakneck pace, and with the official release of Netscape Communicator, there's a lot to be enthused about.
The great Communicator? Netscape has been touting itself as a reinvented company focused on intranet and internal business network needs for quite a while now. Still, I think that it's only with the release of Communicator that Netscape is starting to show that it really does understand the problems of intranet sites.
Communicator has a much-improved Web browser. More importantly it also has a very nice e-mail system. This mail program includes a variety of capabilities that were previously available only in stand-alone packages.
Platform shenanigans. On the other hand, Netscape's vaunted cross-platform orientation isn't all it's cracked up to be. As a member of the Netscape developer community, I received the latest CD-ROM in the mail.
It included a mislabelled preview release of Communicator. Upon installation, the program promptly told me it had expired - I could only use it to get a newer copy. A visit to the Netscape site revealed that the Macintosh version hasn't been released yet.
The Windows 95/Windows NT version, of course, is all over the Netscape site. Although Netscape continues its rhetoric of support for multiplatform sites, the reality is that Netscape is on the Windows bandwagon.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced that Mac, PC, and Unix versions of Internet Explorer 4.0 will all be released on the same date. (Having said that, I will quickly note that announced ship dates mean almost nothing in this industry - particularly from Microsoft!)Interface overhaul. Eventually, I got a working copy of Communicator and explored its capabilities. Most striking is that Netscape has greatly improved the overall browser interface.
The new look is great; Navigator was get- ting very long in the tooth with its original appearance.
The bookmark capability is greatly improved, too. Now you can have the program auto- matically keep track of which sites have new material - a much more useful capability than most push technology.
Bookmarks are also part of the new "profiles" capability, a terrific new feature for intranet use, particularly on shared systems.
If you have central machines that multiple temps share, for example, each person can have their own pro-file, which includes an e-mail address and mail aliases, as well as personal bookmarks, on a single shared copy of Communicator.