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If you surf the Web, chances are you’re using some version of either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. Depending on who you ask, and which company has the most recent upgrade, the two are locked in a see-saw battle for Internet superiority. But contrary to popular belief, they aren’t the only games in town. While the two combatants offer great interfaces and features, there is something to be said for taking the road less traveled. There are browsers specialized for everything from text-only surfing to kid-friendly sites to visiting online auctions to getting Web pages via the phone.
There are practical reasons for looking at alternative browsers besides not wanting to succumb to the marketing pressure of the two leaders. Hardware resources, surfing speed, personal preferences or the need to view special characters, such as mathematical symbols, are some of the issues that compel surfers to try a new board. Others look for better browsers for operating systems that are not widely used. Whatever your reason, we’ve offered some choices so you don’t have to give into the Netscape/Windows duopoly. Here’s a sampling of some popular alternative browsers that support Windows and often other platforms as well:
NEOPLANET | NeoPlanet Inc. | www.neoplanet.com
Tired of the same ol’ thing when you fire up your browser? NeoPlanet’s software lets you dress up your browser with downloadable “skins” (interfaces) in themes from gothic to natural. Design your own skins and put them online for others to download. There’s already a library of over 100 skins that others have made. The software requires Internet Explorer, but a Netscape Navigator version is coming soon. NeoPlanet is free to users. It gets its revenues from advertisers and other partners.
OPERA 3.60 | Opera Software | www.opera.com
Opera looks like a cross between a browser, a file manager and a word processing application. It has the prerequisite menu, toolbar, URL box and browser window -but that’s not all. You can open multiple sites within a single Opera interface. For normal browsing, you’ll probably want to blow up a single window to full size, since Web pages are generally designed to be seen in full-screen mode. You can even save your windows when you exit Opera, and bounce back to the sites you had open when you come back.
Opera will import Netscape bookmarks and supports some popular plug-ins. You have to download Sun’s Java plug-in yourself if you want Java. Download Opera for a 30-day timed evaluation, and register for $35 if you want to keep using it. The reminder screen is a little annoying, but the 30-day countdown includes only the days you actually use the product.
NETCAPTOR 5.04 | Stilesoft Inc. | www.netcaptor.com
If you’re really into conducting research on the Web, try NetCaptor. This browser does a better job than Opera of letting you browse multiple Websites at the same time. Each site is opened on a separate tab, allowing you to toggle back and forth between full views rather than having all of the windows occupy your screen at once (as they do in