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Browsin' on the BeOS

One of the first questions people ask about the BeOS is "Does it have a web browser?" Until recently, the BeOS had only one browser, NetPositive (which many people refer to simply as Net+). Although NetPositive was developed by Be as a stop-gap measure until other browsers were developed, there are a number of users who enjoy it greatly. We all know that Caesar isn't one of them! The good news is that the playing field has recently expanded to include a total of four (and a half) browsers for the aspiring Be master to choose from. The purpose of this article is report on the state of affairs, and hopefully show some of you BeOS hold-outs that we got it goin' on. This isn't going to be a platform comparison of any sort. I know that the BeOS isn't going to attract any users on account of it's browsing prowess (just yet). However, I hope to show that, on the web browsing front, things are getting to the point where you might not feel the need to boot into the Windows OS too often. Heck, that is the point of the Honey Jar, now, isn't it?

The contenders are: BeZilla (Mozilla m8 for BeOS), Opera (v3.60 Beta/3), NetPositive (versions 2.1.1 and 3.0d3), and lynx. Okay, most of you would never consider lynx (in fact, it is rumored that PeterB is the only lynx user left), but it's still an option. Since some of you are bound to ask - no, there is no Internet Explorer for the BeOS, and I highly doubt that there ever will be... 'nuff said. Let's take a quick look at what what's out there, starting with the browser you get right out of the box.

NetPositive (2.1.1 and 3.0d3)

A browser bundled with an OS? Who woulda thought? Frankly, there's not much to say about NetPositive (or Net+ when we're trying to save space). It's the browser that comes with the BeOS, and if you've got the BeOS, you've probably used N+ at one time or another. I personally like it. Sure, it crashes occasionally, or doesn't render a site correctly, and doesn't support Java, or some other little detail. But as far as just a meat-and-potatoes browser goes, I think that NetPositive doesn't get as much credit as it deserves.

Not many people know about a beta version of NetPositive that is still worth mentioning. True, it's several months old, but it has two features that aren't present in 2.1.1. The first is JavaScript, and the second is filters. NetPositive 3.0d3 is a beta release, and should be treated as such. However, with these extra features, you might just want to give it a shot. To be sure, it's a sign that Be is still interested in improving its bundled browser.

How far do they need to go to get this beta stable and Net+ into the version 3 genre? Well, I never did have much success with Net+'s JavaScript implementation - I often got crashes or unexpected behavior. Rumor has it that Be is working with a 3rd party to get JavaScript fully supported for a later release of NetPositive. It's not entirely clear if this support will be provided as a service by the OS, or on a per-application basis. Another downside of this beta is that it does crash far more frequently than 2.1.1. This is due partly to its untested feature set, and partly because it is based on the less-stable 2.0 (rather than 2.1.1). In short, yep, it's still beta software. But, if I'm not mistaken, Netscape Communicator 4.61 sure does feel like beta software, too.

Now, while it might sound like I'm discouraging people from trying 3.0d3 out, that's not the vibe I'm trying to give. The one reason that 3.0d3 is worth checking out is the filters. Sick of seeing an ad from a site? Right-click, select "Add Filter", then choose how broad a filter you want. Simple, and it even works quite well. If I wasn't so attached to Opera, I'd use this little gem more often. To summarize, NetPositive 3.0d3 isn't a very stable browser, but if you just like plain text-and-image pages and want to kill off those pesky ads, then you should give it a chance.