December 9, 1996 10:00 AM ET

Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1 can hold its own
By Jim Rapoza

  Stage two of Microsoft Corp.'s World Wide Web browser launch is here with Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1, which will let companies with a large number of Windows 3.1 systems choose IE as their browser standard. Being released this week, the free 16-bit Windows 3.1 browser not only has much of the same look and feel as its 32-bit cousins, but it also compares favorably with them in its ability to handle advanced HTML features such as floating frames. This new browser also has been designed to be used with Windows NT 3.51 systems.

In PC Week Labs tests, Internet Explorer 3.0 stacked up well against market leader Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator 3.0 for Windows 3.1. Both browsers support JavaScript and Secure Sockets Layer 2.0 and 3.0, but both lack support for Java and ActiveX. Microsoft is planning to release a beta of Java for Windows 3.1 before the end of the year.

Areas where IE 3.0 has an advantage are in its support for VBScript and in its mail client, which is more flexible than Navigator's built-in client.

While IE 3.0 is similar to the Windows 95 client in many ways, it still lacks some of that model's features. We found the newsreader very basic, and the screen for managing favorite sites was less intuitive than in the Windows 95 version.

Also included in the browser are a dialer and TCP/IP stack, and there is a connection wizard that helps novices find and connect to an Internet service provider.

Microsoft officials said a new version of the Internet Explorer Administration Kit will be released soon that will allow company administrators to customize the Windows 3.1 browser.

The browser can be downloaded at www.microsoft.com/ie.

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