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Wednesday 27 September 2006 - Avant Browser 11: In the wild (so to speak)
Avant Browser 11: In the wild (so to speak)
By Steven Burn

Click to enlargeOn August 6th, I wrote a first glimpse of the brand new Avant Browser 11 series, and to be honest, I was a little less than happy with it. Over the weeks since then, I've noticed alot of improvement.

The first "official" release (build 5), whilst still having it's quirks, is a vast improvement over the previous releases of the 11 series. Previously for example, you were unable to use the standard Windows favourites that were supported in every earlier release of Avant, support for these have thankfully been restored (though it's not set to use such by default). Without this, I'd have had to have dropped Avant 11 and gone back to an earlier version as it would have been too much hassle to keep them in sync (I frequently transfer them between machines).

So what does the new 11 series bring with it?. The most popular addition (for myself anyway) is without a doubt, the support for user installable toolbars. No longer do you have to wait for Avant's developer to add support for them. Though some still do not work of course (SiteAdvisor and ImageShack being two of them), though this will be resolved when we update the help files.

As with earlier 11 releases however, no information is present for the average Joe on how to actually add the BHO's, toolbars and buttons etc, short of dropping by the forums and asking us. Again, this will be resolved when we update the help files.

The other major addition to Avant is the online storage facility. Though not popular with myself, this facility allows you to store your favourites, RSS feeds, groups and settings, in Avant's online storage server. This is apparently to allow you to have your configuration in front of you, regardless of which computer you are sat at, assuming of course, it has Avant 11.x installed on it. Personally, I prefer my USB key (aka flash drive) for this, but thats just me.

The downside to the online storage facility of course, is that it does not allow you to keep your favourites in sync with the standard Windows favourites, as the export facility didn't work when it was tried. This also applies to the other settings and information (e.g RSS feeds) thats stored online. Once it's there, the only way to access it, is via Avant itself.

The 11 series also brings a new "Auto Fill" feature with it, that allows you to store your passwords etc, doing away with the need for such things as Roboform. From what I've seen on the forums concerning this feature, it's still in need of a little improvement, with quite a few users reporting it not working too well.

Also present in the new version, is the RSS reader (first introduced in the 10 series). For those not familiar with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, these are simply stand-alone webpages that are viewed in RSS clients, that allow a website to keep you upto date, without your having to view the website in question constantly. Detailed information on RSS is available here.

Earlier releases appeared to work quite well for RSS feeds. Unfortunately, when trying them in build 5, only a few worked properly, with the rest displaying the website instead of just the feeds contents.

Unfortunately, build 5's major downfall as far as my experience of it thus far goes, is it's tendancy to freeze for a couple of minutes, when loading site's such as Digg, VersionTracker, Arul John, and quite a few others. The freezing is not as bad with scripts and ActiveX disabled, but is a major PITA when enabled (which atleast for scripts, is a necessity for some sites). I've reported this as a bug and am hopeful it will be resolved in a future update.

An additional drawback, whilst not Andersons fault, is the loss of skins that were hosted by GetSkinned.org. This site was hacked some time ago, and from what we've seen the webmaster of the site doesn't appear to have bothered restoring the files, so the majority of the Avant skins have been lost. A few of the moderators on the Avant forums (namely Sara), have started uploading them to the new skins site, hosted on the Avant server, but there's still a lot of work to be done, especially as there's been new introductions to Avant, meaning the older skins need to be updated.

I've only touched on a few of the features within Avant in this writeup, and this is deliberate, as I'd like to leave a few things for you to find for yourself (well, that and it take too long to cover them all).

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