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AOL Explorer Beta = A Better I.E. October 11, 2005

Posted by Leita in Browsers, Design, Flotsam/Jetsam, Internet.
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I am posting this using AOL’s new external browser. No cringing, please. It’s not bad at all. Here’s a brief overview.

Packaged with AIM’s beta Triton (bloated, but I like it, especially the XM Radio) was a sneak preview of AOL’s branded IE6 browser. I was surprised. For once, AOL developed a tool that is not obsolete two years before its debut. The layout is clean (i.e., it’s not Netscape) and there are several thoughtful extras but is it better than Firefox? No, but much better than IE6 and Netscape. (Think: “Pimp My Browser.”)

Tabs, Toolbars and Other Doodads

AOL Explorer tab rollover exampleMouseover a tab and view a thumbnail preview of the page unless it’s flashed) Tabs are draggable, too and to open a new one there’s a wee [+] box on the left side of the tab bar for those who can’t manage typing ctrl+T. Roll over the Back button to reveal the current tab’s history with thumbnail for those of us who burned out our short term memory in 1989.

Right click and select Power Browsing for a small list of helpful functions including “Add Your Own Menu Item.” I inserted two favorite bookmarklets (WordPress Link This and Press It, of course). “Add a Link” worked but using the same window to delete the link made the browser crash. Forgivable for a beta, but makes adding an image to a post difficult.

Located on the left edge is an editable 20-ish pixel wide toolbar with default links to AOL/AIM mail, Favorites, Channels, Feeds, History and AOL Search. At first it looked AOL-specific–the side panel menu offers only AOL links–but after adding the tab “Make A Panel” any link can be added. Kind of like Firefox’s Bookmarks Toolbar Folder with a smaller footprint. Big problem: some of the default tabs cannot be removed (“Bad AOL browser, bad!”)

Working in WordPress

Clicking on Link and Image buttons in Post causes a script error popup. (I haven’t seen one of those in a looong time.) Close the popup three times by clicking on the [x] and it disappears leaving the intended box open and functioning.

Images upload but cannot be drug into a post, only after inserted. Adding the image above was annoying. I uploaded it, moused over the image to reveal its path and typed it in manually. Another way is to right-click, Copy Shortcut, click the Insert/Edit Image button, close the error box three times then paste. Bleah.

What I miss

Easy image inserting, of course. Also, the multi-search, editable dropdown search bar – it’s there but only for AOL’s search function. Fair enough since it’s a branded browser, I suppose. I didn’t think I’d miss it at first, but I’ve already reached for it twice this morning. Grrrr

What could’ve been left out

“Fun Stuff” – aka Trick Your Cubicle Mate. Locate it by right clicking>Power Browsing>Just For Fun:

  • I Need Glasses – Fuzz up the page and scare your coworker
  • I Need a Mirror – Everything’s backwards
  • Flip My Monitor Over – Upside down.

Will She Use It?

Perhaps.

It doesn’t scream out “I Am An AOL Browser;” some of the gadgets are useful and for once, AOL didn’t build a tool intended solely for newcomers (except for the Fun Stuff). It won’t lure me into uninstalling Firefox, but I’m not such a snob to feel the need to dismiss any other attempt to build a decent browser.

It’s as easy to spout “AOL sucks” as it is “Microsoft sucks,” but as a previous AOL member (does anyone remember their DOS version?) I don’t ride that bandwagon. I’d rather encourage all of them to build better products. Just a scant few years ago AOL decided to drop Rainman when it should’ve been scrapped 10 years ago. So yeah, I am pleasantly surprised. When bigguns like AOL attempt to improve something as standard–non-standard?–as IE, it draws a line in the sand. That’s what needs to happen. I’m good with that.

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Comments»

1. SlammerJammer - October 24, 2005

Nice review… I actually use it as my default. Check out the favorites and RSS integration in their latest beta. It’s pretty slick functionality.

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