Netscape 6.1, the latest update to the Netscape browser suite, was released today. Nearly nine months after the ill-fated release of Netscape 6.0, the 6.1 release promises enhanced stability, functionality, and a host of new features.

New features include:

Third part programs that are optional include: AOL Instant messenger, Java 2 support, Winamp, RealPlayer8, Flash, Net2Phone, and HP printing services. Netscape 6.1 is available for download from http://home.netscape.com/computing/download/index.html.

My thoughts after using it for a half hour now (including to post this article) : It's a component based installer now, which means you pick which of the third part apps listed above you want to download, and it only gets those. For once, it actually works; I choose to install only Flash and Java2 along with the browser suite(Mail/News, Composer, Address Book), and that's all I got. It only slaps a single AOL icon on your desktop now as well, which is nice.

It seems to have the same snap that the 0.9.2 release of Mozilla did in displaying heavily nested tables. Most standards support is right around what the 0.9.2 and 0.9.3 releases of Mozilla had as well. The default theme is much nicer than the 6.0 default theme, and the Net2Phone and 'Shop' icons on the toolbars are removable, which was another beef I had with 6.0. The cookie manager, automatic form completion and sidebars are all here as well, each looking a bit more polished than their Mozilla cousins.

Overall, a vast improvement over Netscape 6.0 - but that wasn't much of a stretch. Although Mozilla 0.9.3 will remain my suite of choice for now, I feel a lot better about recommending the latest Netscape suite to friends and family. What do you think? Share your experiences and opinions below!