Netscape yesterday launched its Netscape 6 browser in French, German, Japanese and English language versions.

The company's Gecko-browser engine, which powers Netscape 6, is capable of running on a number of different platforms - including Mac, PC and Palm. The company claims to have rewritten the browser from the ground up, and to have made significant enhancements to Netscape's suite of Internet applications - including Navigator, Mail, Instant Messenger and Composer. The company has added a number of other features to its revised browser.

The browser engine was developed as an open source project. Netscape claims Gecko to be smaller, faster and easier to download than competing browsers. Netscape says that only those portions of the product users choose to install are actually downloaded - so extraneous software is never needlessly installed.

Customizable The application is customizable - users can configure the browser to keep an eye on their personal calendar, Buddy Lists (for Instant Messaging), stock quotes and sports scores through the My Sidebar feature. The browsers' appearance is also customizable, so end users can alter its look and feel to fit their own personal tastes, or choose from the themes the company includes in the release.

For the first time in a Netscape mail client, Netscape 6 can check multiple email accounts, send and receive instant messages and update a calendar from My Sidebar. The application also enables users to search for words, phrases and URLs in the Web address fields. The application has some privacy control measures built-in, including a Cookie, Forms and Password Manager.

Choice Jim Martin, senior vice president and general manager of Netscape, said: "The one thing we hear over and over from Internet users is that they want real choice. They don't want to be limited to just one browser. With Netscape 6 we broke the mould by creating a new browser that lets consumers choose how they use the Internet."

The browser can also automatically translate foreign-language Web pages onto English. The Mac version of Netscape 6 is expected before year's end.

Netscape is working with Sun Microsystems to deliver its browser in Italian, Swedish, Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and Korean.

Netscape 6 offers full support for the latest versions of Java 2, Net2Phone, Macromedia Flash and RealPlayer.