BOOT CAMP 245 (01/10/02)


Alternative Browsers, part 1


Surfing the Internet and sending and receiving emails has become virtually effortless thanks to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express and for the majority of PC users they do a very good job. They come in for a lot of stick but the fact remains they’ve established credible standards upon the chaotic Internet; they’re easy to use, reasonably reliable, very well featured and they’re free!


Unfortunately they have become victims of their own success and because they’re installed on over ninety percent of the world’s PCs they’ve become a target for sad and disturbed individuals who devote vast amounts of time and energy concocting viruses and worms to exploit vulnerabilities in these two programs.


Internet Explorer is also very large program and it can get quite sluggish and twitchy on older PCs and when it does crash it has a nasty habit of taking Windows with it. Both programs have also been around for a very long time and have become a bit staid – if nothing else a change of scenery is always worthwhile -- and whilst they’re both very capable for routine tasks there are a few areas of web browsing and emailing they’re not so good at. If you have disability, such as impaired vision or reading difficulties you may find the Microsoft offerings hard going. 


They’re just some of the reasons why you might want to change and over the next two weeks we’re going to be looking at some popular alternative Internet browser and email ‘client’ programs.


Although both IE and OE are tied in quite closely with the Windows filing systems there’s absolutely nothing to stop installing another browser or email program and trying it for size. In almost all of the programs we’re going to be looking at there’s no need to alter any of your present settings and these programs will run alongside your present Internet and email software. If you decide to make the switch most of them will import data, like Favorites, Address books and email account settings from IE and OE and if you don’t get on with them, you can easily revert to your original setup. A couple of other tips, only install and run one alternative program at a time and before you begin it is wise to backup your message folders and the address book, and make a note of your connection settings, just in case something goes wrong…


MOZILLA, freeware, 11Mb,

(Windows 95/98/SE/ME/NT 4.0/2000/XP, MAC, Linux)

Mozilla is currently the most popular alternative browser after Internet Explorer and Netscape and upon closer inspection you may notice a number of similarities with the latter. That’s because the two are very close related. Mozilla is based on the Netscape ‘engine’ but there are enough differences and enhancements to make it a new program in its own right. Top features include ‘switches’ to turn off pop-up/under ads and window resizing, you can set it to show multiple ‘tabbed’ web pages, the email and newsgroup program is built in and its appearance can be customised with downloadable  ‘skins’.  



K-MELEON, freeware, 4Mb,

(Windows 95/98/SE/ME/NT 4.0/2000/XP)

Keeping it in the family, K-Meleon is also based on Netscape components but this time without the frills. It has been dubbed Mozilla ‘lite’, it is very fast and retains useful features like the pop-up switch but it’s not as good at managing bookmarks and there’s no History feature, so you can’t easily revisit web sites.



OPERA, $20 to $40, free trial 11Mb,

(Windows 95/98/SE/ME/NT 4.0/2000/XP, MAC, Linux)

Opera has many devoted fans and until recently it was unrivalled in terms of speed, control and functionality, like the facility to turn off pop-up ads and windows, and it’s especially good at handling lots of open browser windows but most of these features are now available in Mozilla. Unfortunately it’s not exactly free, there is a trial version but it has banner advertising. Prices start at $20 with a student discount.



LYNX, freeware, 2.7Mb,

(Windows 95/98/NT, Unix, VMS)

If you’re not interested in the multimedia content of web pages – pictures, graphics, animations and so on – then Lynx is definitely worth trying. You may have used it already; it’s a text-only browser and is used in a lot of libraries and schools in the US. Without all of the images it’s lightning fast and the text content of web pages loads in a fraction of the time it takes with a normal browser. It’s quite basic (most functions are controlled from the keyboard) but if you’re only interested in text it’s well worth a try.



If you suffer from any sort of disability there’s a wide selection of browsers and add-on utilities for Internet Explorer that could make your life a lot easier. There’s a very useful guide to specialist browsers at:


Next week – Alternative email programs





Browser windows carrying advertising messages that open automatically -- sometimes several at a time -- when visiting web pages



The visual appearance of a computer program: cosmetics, colours, shape and layout etc., which can be changed -- like the cover of a mobile phone -- to reflect the users mood or personality



‘Tabs’ allow fast and easy access to multiple open web pages




What’s the first thing you see when you open your Internet browser? At a rough guess around half of you have stuck with whatever default was chosen by your internet service provider or Windows, the other half use the Tools > Internet Options (General tab) in Internet Explorer to change it to a frequently used search engine or a favourite web site but here’s something really useful, a home page that you can create for yourself, filled with links to your favourite sites. It’s the Cheatsheet Creator a personalised home page generator that lets you add up to 20 links, include headlines and weather forecasts and you can customise the background colour, typeface and style or set it to make a random choices for you every time it is opened. Full instructions can be found at:


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