Netscape Communications plans to start beta testing Navigator 4.0 late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter for release before the end of the year, according to company officials.
In addition to a revamped mail system, Navigator 4.0 will include style sheets and new font features, according to Jeff Treuhaft, a senior product manager at Netscape speaking in Paris at the Fifth International World Wide Web Conference last week.
Navigator 3.0 is still under beta test and will be launched in June.
The style sheets offer standard commands to replace proprietary extensions that browser makers have incorporated into HTML. They are aimed at ending a tug of war over control of the Web that threatens to pull it apart, according to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) officials and industry insiders.
As things stand now, a page that looks fine when viewed with Netscape Navigator can look garbled when viewed with another browser, says Hakon Lie, a researcher at INRIA, the French research institute that hosts the W3C in Europe, and principal developer of the style sheets.
The style sheets aim to help fix this problem by developing a standard set of commands to dress up the presentation aspect of a page, such as fonts, colored text and headline sizes.
"There's momentum behind the style sheets now -- we've got buy-in from the commercial vendors," says Lie today, here for the Web conference.
Netscape decided on using the style sheets following discussions two weeks ago with some of its competitors, which are also fellow members in the W3C consortium, Treuhaft says.
The new font features in Navigator 4.0 will be derived from Adobe Systems technology, Treuhaft says.