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AOL Review Continue

However, like Moses, the Macintosh user cannot enter into this Promised Land. It is ironic that AOL started by providing Internet service for Macintosh, but until just recently has not upgraded its Mac product beyond 1996's version 5.0.

The new AOL for OS X actually does give Mac users first access to new features (providing they are using OS X or Jaguar operating systems). Perhaps the most significant is the integrated Netscape Gecko web browser.

Criticism of AOL has traditionally revolved around access issues, technical support, and its perfectly horrible web browser which failed to support even AOL's own partner sites such as Pogo.com. Even after AOL acquired Netscape in 1998, its browser remained a weak point, with no Netscape technology integrated before now. The New AOL for OS X Gecko browser is first-rate and seems tremendously fast, but that could be my imagination.

Another new feature launched first for Mac users is host-based Favourite Places, a portable version of AOL's popular "bookmark" feature which allows access to favourites from any computer, similar to AOL's host-based address book.

The main complaints against AOL for OS X are its bugginess and its tendency to hog system resources. As always, there are far too many windows, many with a will of their own, refusing to "remember" user-supplied formatting and placement.

Mac users who want to hedge their bets and stick with classic AOL 5.0 still can benefit from the features held in common by all three versions:
seven screen names and e-mail accounts per master account
2 megs of web storage for each screen name (these cannot be shifted among SNs, but can be linked) with built-in FTP
newsgroup access to AOL's proprietary groups and also to Internet-based newsgroups (with the ability to filter junk posts)
the ability to easily set up invitation-only discussion boards and private chat rooms
web mail through "AOL Anywhere" (www.aol.com)
easy access to AOL's integrated dial-up telephone numbers, allowing one to almost effortlessly change dial-up numbers within a local area or from city to city
For all its shortcomings, AOL is still Number One for a reason, and that reason is ease of use. It's almost effortless to install and run, and with 24/7 customer service at no extra charge, is ideal for the novice or the timid.

Yes, you will experience freezes and peak time "slows". Yes, one-third of the time the tech support person will appear to be a babbling idiot. Yes, the confusing array of screens will inevitably give you a migraine. But by the time you confirm these truisms, you will have made friends with other subscribers and will probably be reluctant to leave.

 

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