Netscape Goes Bonkers

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Many of the issues Joel raises are more related to the usability of Netscape 6 than they are to the way it was developed. These usability issues can be easily solved, if Netscape took the time to build them in. Unfortunately, Netscape pushed the product out the door too early based on marketing deadlines (Comdex) instead of deadlines based on software quality. So, many of the things that should have been solved during the normal quality assurance process were neglected. Open source software development is a very intriguing concept, and Netscape has almost made it work by using the Mozilla codebase. Unfortunately, because Mozilla is a true open source project, the kinds of project management you find in commercial software development are almost non-existant. This problem is being addressed by many people in the open source software developmeny community:

Anyway, I agree that Netscape 6 is a fine example of poor or non-existant software project management, but am a strong believer in what open source can do for the software industry. The innovations in Mozilla alone are enough to provide a solid application framework to compete against Microsoft's upcoming .NET services framework. But that's another discussion altogether.

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2000

Answers

Netscape bonkers, but good asides, Joel

There are so many wonderful things hidden inside these boxes, I just love it when I stumble on something new. I'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, but don't always ferret out that they exist for what I do all the time, or what they are.

It was great to find out about alt-D to go to the address bar, the ctrl-[enter] for shift-click (rather than right click/open in New window) for IE.

And especially useful to get dispositive information to keep me from wasting my time on NSv6. No alt-space N? No thanks. And alt-left != back?! Sheesh.

Here's my contribution to the art, now in need of dusting off (after a year? or more) and an update with the latest from Joel on s/w: A dozen tips to save time and space, probably old hat to anyone who can find their way here, but you never know.

(Speaking of usability mistakes... OutlookExpress recognizes email addresses, and URLs, and shows me that it does by underlining them and changing the font color from black to blue. But in a message I'm composing, THEY DON'T WORK. Outlook's do, and OE's do in received messages, or the message once it's sent. But what REALLY sands me is that I can't edit incoming messages with OE - they're carved in whatever, and I have to live with bad, unnecessary, gratuitous and/or annoying quoting, formatting, and so on. Grr.

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2000


It seems its not just Netscape that's ignoring the ubiquitous windoze quick keys. Most Java based apps tend to be guilty on this usability hiccup. I.e. Peter Coads togethersoft & Silver Streams Designer are typical examples. (oh-yeah, Alt+Space N don't work either) I'm continuously being foiled by the lack of consistency between the windows native apps and the "other" apps. One of my rants here is 'God damn it, I haven't seen a decent Java app yet'. But I'm willing to be impressed ;) So Címon you Java guys, get your UIís together ;).

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2000

I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Barrett when he says Unfortunately, because Mozilla is a true open source project, the kinds of project management you find in commercial software development are almost non-existant.

Mozilla certainly has had it's problems, but look at the current state of affairs (www.mozilla.org). For example, you have Tinderbox, which continually runs automatic builds on each platform. If the build is broken, it identifies who checked in the code that broke the build.

Want a bug database? Go to Bugzilla. Code review is required before code can be checked into the repository. Roadmap and milestones? Look here.

So why is Netscape 6 so bugridden? Because it's not Mozilla. It was released prematurely. Mozilla does suffer from *serious* feature creep. I think that's the biggest problem. But for the most part, I don't think you can fault them for poor project management.

-David Eisner (cradle@glue.umd.edu)

P.S. Joel: you need a preview page, ala Slashdot.

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2000


Netscape does have the same problem that Java applets do: they try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to interfaces.

Java severely limits your ability to build an interface that fits in with the native appearance of the client, encouraging you to start with their brand new interface widgets instead. The XML-based interface of Netscape does the same stupid thing.

The biggest effect this has in the applets i've written is that it makes the interface incredibly slow. And building a decent interface, with all the keyboard shortcuts and popup menus you expect, is even slower.

Why do they do this? In the hopes of making an interface that looks the same across different platforms. But a real "cross-platform interface" is one that can be used and liked by people on different platforms - and that requires differences.

It's like localising for different languages. Would people accept English - or even Pidgin English - as a cross-national interface? I doubt it.

-- Anonymous, November 27, 2000


"Java severely limits your ability to build an interface that fits in with the native appearance of the client..."

Just to clarify, the Java AWT uses the underlying native OS to produce an interface. Swing draws its own objects. Swing objects are much more powerful and have many more features than the AWT since it isn't limited by the natice interface. Also, Swing objects can be drawn to appear in any look-and-feel (L&F) desired by the developer. The currently available L&F's include Windows, Motif, and a generic Java L&F. A macintosh L&F is also available for download from Sun's site. Part of the beauty of Swing is that function is removed from appearance so that L&F can be changed easily without only 1 or 2 instructions.

-- Anonymous, December 04, 2000



As a regular user of Mozilla since Milestone 6, I just can't sit back and listen to all this.

Re-writing was done for a few major reasons.

1. Navigator 4.x was a dog. Its UI left heaps to be desired, its rendering was horribly slow, its rendering wasn't really up to calling it a HTML 4 browser, and its DOM Level 1 support was virtually non-existant.

2. You try grafting humoungas changes onto an existing codebase. See the bloat you get. See the increase in download. See the bizareness of not re-wrtiing.

3. A lot of the code that was there was licensed. You cant just say "this is now under an GPL-style license" and be done with it. And the open-source community brings a lot to this project.

Every day at 9pm (NZT - GMT+12) I download the latest build. http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla/nightly/latest/.

Now in the build from December 3rd, there are context menus in textboxes etc.

Anyway, thats my piece. Just try download a Mozilla nightly and see if that makes any difference to your opinion.

The 10mb download (zip. no dlls or registry entries made by installer software.)

-- Anonymous, December 05, 2000


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