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NetFront 3.1 for Pocket PC
Updated April 2004 by Lisa Gade , Editor in Chief

Sony Clié owners have had the pleasure of using NetFront 3 which is bundled with NX, NZ, UX and TH55 models, but Pocket PC owners have been stuck with Pocket Internet Explorer. Looking for a better browser than Pocket IE? Check out NetFront from Access Systems. Why do you need a better browser? The version of Pocket IE included with Pocket PC 2002 PDAs is sorely lacking. It emulates Internet Explorer version 3 on the desktop, and many popular web standards and web technologies have been developed since IE 3 came out several years ago. While Pocket IE supports HTML 3, JScript, Cookies and SSL along with GIF and JPEG graphics, many users want more. Pocket IE for Pocket PC 2003 PDAs supports more standards and is faster than its predecessor, but it doesn't do as good a job of laying out pages as NetFront. If you own a Toshiba e805, you can get a special version of NetFront 3.1 that supports VGA browsing (no hacks or additional software required).

Standards Supported

NetFront supports HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 Basic and 1.1, cHTML, WML 1.3, CSS 1 & 2, JavaScript 1.5, dynamic HTML and some DOM, SSL2.0/3.0, TLS1.0, Cookies, and GIF, JPEG, PNG, MNG image formats. ActiveX and Flash plugins are supported. Not bad!

Features

Besides supporting most current web standards, NetFront lays out pages very well compared to Pocket IE. The pages more closely resemble what you'd see using a desktop or notebook computer, thanks to the excellent rendering engine and support for CSS, Javascript and dynamic HTML. NetFront supports both horizontal and vertical scrollbars, but if you hate side-to-side scrolling you can turn on the Smart Fit option, which eliminates horizontal scrolling while still doing a decent job of maintaining page layout.

One of the most interesting features in NetFront is that you can have up to five windows open simultaneously (most PDA browsers don't support multiple windows). You can tab through open windows, which is handy for web applications that require multiple windows.

NetFront allows you to zoom pages, scroll using the stylus (you can drag the page around the screen), has Favorites, history and common browser functions like Back and Refresh icons. You can download files and applications from web sites, and browse pages offline using the AutoCruise feature.

NetFront has lots of prefs so you can set Cookies, cache size, how long to keep URLs in history, whether to use/display tables, images, Plug-Ins, CSS and JavaScript, Proxy settings and more. You can even change the User Agent string, so that you won't be turned away from sites that require a specific browser.

If you need to use web-based Java applications, you can purchase NetFront bundled with JV-Lite2 VM, which runs as a Java plug-in.

Netfront screen shot

Speed and Compatibility

Pocket Internet Explorer for Pocket PC 2002 PDAs is a pig. IE for Pocket PC 2003 is considerably quicker. NetFront is faster than IE for PPC 2002, and does a better job of rending complex pages quickly. NetFront and the PPC 2003 version of IE run equally fast, but NetFront does manage to render pages better using more web standards and technologies in the process.

NetFront runs on Pocket PC (including older SH3 and MIPS models), Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003 PDAs. I've tested it on a large variety of Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003 models and it ran great.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a better browser than Pocket Internet Explorer that renders pages more accurately, supports all major web standards and offers flexible layout options, then NetFront is for you. While it isn't the cheapest piece of PDA software at $25 to $30 US, it's worth it if you do serious web surfing. I only wish it supported landscape browsing!

Access Systems: www.access-us-inc.com, www.access.co.jp/english/index.html

You can purchase NetFront from Handango. $24.80 for browser, $29.80 for browser & JV-Lite2 Java Plug-in


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