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Win98 Integration? What's the Deal?

by SANDEEP HUNDAL | If you followed the Mozilla.general threads you must have by now realized that the IE 'active desktop' has a lot of fans and haters. But of course most of us don't like using MS IE, so what can we do, and more specifically, what is the Mozilla.organization doing? For this, Bill Law from the Mozilla team is here to help. (Ed. note - This interview occurred last month, so some of the information is out of date. We have an update from Bill at the bottom of the page.)

SH: So what's the main thing you're trying to do Bill ?

BL: Ok, here's the short version: IE 4.0 and the various platforms on which it's integrated, especially Windows98, give the user lots of places to interact with IE and Microsoft's version of the Internet. We'd like to give Mozilla users equal footing. So the goal, more or less, is to let the user have the choice to deploy Mozilla everywhere that Windows "suggests" using IE. In addition, we're going to try to streamline Mozilla startup so that one can more quickly open Mozilla browser windows.

SH: How is this done ?

BL: Much is accomplished by setting up Mozilla as your default browser. But there's much more that we can do to make Windows Mozilla-friendly. For example, with Mozilla as default browser, "Start->Find->On the Internet" will launch Mozilla. Unfortunately, it takes you to a Microsoft IE search page. By doing a bit more work, we hope that users will choose to go to Netcenter's search service, which is more Mozilla-friendly.

SH: What other work is being done and what details can you give us ?

BL: Additional work will be done by Netscape's installer team and our "dialup client" team. The first step is to identify all Windows' "hooks" into IE and figure out if/how Mozilla users could benefit from modifying these so that they use Mozilla instead of IE. That's the work I'm doing this week (and have been doing for a little while). At the end of the week, we aim to have a prototype of a new "desktop integration" preferences panel for the Windows version of Mozilla. This will present these hooks in nice, easy-to-understand terms and permit the user to selectively enable/disable our modifications to them. We hope this interface will work out better than the simplistic dialog that pops up at installation and browser launch. The next couple of weeks will be spent implementing this preference pane into the product, along with other hooks needed to get Mozilla to utilize them properly. We will also be providing a "fast path" to preferences so that we can have a "Mozilla" icon to the Start->Settings menu. It just doesn't sit well to have only IE's settings in the Control Panel (identified as "Internet", no less). For our user's that icon is not "the Internet," Mozilla is!

SH: Cool ! How can others help you out ?

BL: Tell us what Windows/IE hooks they've run across and how Mozilla might fit in. Oh, and also alert us to surprising things that aren't really obvious at first glance. For example, it seems the "Address Toolbar" does auto-completion based on what you typed into IE's location bar, even if it's going to launch Mozilla to display the URL. More specifically, we need to know about all the registry nooks and crannies in which IE stuff is stashed. For example, if somebody knew if/how the registry stored the icon displayed next to URLs in the Address Toolbar, then we might be able to replace that with a lizard.

SH: How hard/easy do you conceive the module to be?

BL: I'm not being worked nearly so hard as you might imagine. This feature isn't nearly the effort as we're expending on smart-browsing/Aurora features. My teammates are leading the charge on that front. I might be the one that gets to work on the residual bugs that seem to inevitably crop up. I hope that gives you a feel for what's going on. I hope we can soon share our full spec on the Windows integration features. New code should appear shortly, in any case. *****

Update: Bill has updated us and reports that the new "ui" is in and the rest of the code is being worked on now and will go in shortly. The FE teams are busy wrapping up this and other feature work such as the new "Aurora" smart-browsing stuff and helping out with the recently shipped (and upcoming) 4.5 releases.

--Sandeep Hundal lives and attends university in London, U.K. He recently finished a one year internship with DEC.

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