The latest edition of Microsoft's (425/882-8080, www.microsoft.com) free Web browser--and Outlook Express 4.5, its free e-mail client--dispenses with fancy bells and whistles in favor of small but important productivity improvements. We especially like the Page Holder feature, which lets you store a page outside the main browser window, and Form AutoFill, which lets you automatically complete online forms.
Internet Explorer 4.5 will bring a new Print Preview feature that lets users view what a printed page will look like and offers controls for changing headers and footer, fitting a Web page to one printed page and shrinking extra-wide Web pages for printing.
One Macintosh analyst and beta tester said IE 4.5 is a good Macintosh browser. "It really adds to the Macintosh user experience rather than differentiate from it," said Peter Hartsook.
Communicator 4.5 was previously tied with Navigator 2.02 as the fastest browser I had used up to now, but, get this: IE 4.5 is faster with the images turned on than either of the Netscape products is with them turned off. With the images turned off, it simply blows Communicator into the weeds.
I found much to like in past releases of both IE and OE, but never quite enough to lure me away on a regular basis from my longtime personal standards, Netscape Navigator and Eudora Pro. But the new 4.5 versions may finally have done the trick: Even though this posting marks the end of my formal testing, I'm planning to leave both of them as my default choices (though I still miss a few features from Navigator and Eudora).
I've been playing with the most recent versions of IE and OE, unveiled last week at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. They're terrific. I say this with some reluctance because I clung to Netscape Communicator -- the suite that includes the Navigator browser and the Messenger e-mail client -- even when IE and OE supplanted Navigator and Claris Em@iler as the default Internet software on new Macs last year. No longer -- Microsoft has finally won me over.
If you take the fastest result for how long it took each browser to load each site, it is clear that both browsers loaded all seven sites in roughly the same amount of time. With my results IE downloaded all the sites with a best time of 216 seconds, while Communicator finished second with a time of 220 seconds.
Loading times are slightly faster than the older version, but Communicator loads some types of pages faster, and IE loads other types faster. The difference is loading from the cache. IE still has instantaneous access (including clicking and scrolling) so is light years ahead of Netscape here.
Making a Choice -- In the end, I find myself using Internet Explorer 4.5, mostly for the same reasons I did seven months ago - Communicator has too many minor annoyances that bog down my Web browsing.
While most new applications become "fatter" and demand more resources, Microsoft's latest release of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh does just the opposite. Version 4.5 includes a bevy of enhancements, is easier to use and install, and improves performance substantially over earlier versions and Netscape Communicator 4.5 -- thanks to a smaller memory footprint.
Prodigy will also be one of the first national ISPs to distribute the newest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Version 4.5.
Even Microsoft's Bay Area-based team of Mac software developers had something innovative to bring to the party. Ben Waldman, who leads the group, showed some small but extremely useful tweaks to the company's Internet Explorer Web browser. It's apparently not a natural part of the Mac operating system, but some of the improvements -- notably in printing -- looked handy.
Explorer 4.5 is now twice as fast; images dragged to the desktop are translucent when being moved and automatically have thumbnails; an auto-fill button fills out common Web forms with personal information; and Web pages are modified when printed. Users can also get a configurable print preview.
The new products for Macintosh from Microsoft included Internet Explorer 4.5, Outlook Express 4.5, and a new section of the Microsoft Web site called Mactopia, which aims to make Macintosh users feel more welcome in the Microsoft world.
That's right boys and girls, Microsoft has officially sent out Microsoft Internet Explorer v4.5 and Outlook Express v4.5. For those who are wondering why they waited till today?!? Well if you're a Mac user.... SHAME ON YOU. Today is the start of MacWorld, an event held twice a year that's soul focus is to showcase the latest in MacOS hardware and software.
Ben Waldman, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh business unit, announced additional features in Internet Explorer 4.5 and Outlook Express 4.5 that he said were available only in the Mac version. Microsoft purchased a $125 million stake in Apple in August 1997.
"The Apple-Microsoft partnership is real, with real benefits," Waldman said. The audience's initial reaction to Waldman was lukewarm, but after he demonstrated improved image capture and page printing and automated fills for HTML forms that request personal information, the crowd was clapping nearly as passionately as it had for Jobs
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x. This was the first Macintosh browser to really do a halfway decent job of supporting CSS.
Restyling for print
Let's now look at a real example of alternate-media stylesheets. In order for these examples to work, you'll need to be using MSIE5/Win or MSIE4.5/Mac.
Explorer 4.x was much, much better with CSS support, especially Internet Explorer 4.5 for the Macintosh.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 (free; 425/882-8080, http://www.microsoft.com) is the most friendly and feature-rich Web browser available for the Macintosh, and the version 4.01 update fixed many nagging problems that existed in version 4.0.
Internet Explorer now supports Dynamic HTML and the W3C's proposed standards for CSS1 Cascading Style Sheets and Document Object Models.