America Online v3.0-Beta Version

America Online v3.0-Beta Version
Company: America Online, Inc.

Adam Karneboge

Note: This review was written based on AOL 3.0 BETA Software. Changes made to the software in future beta versions are not included in this review.

When I got accepted as an AOL 3.0 beta tester last month, I was ecstatic! I went to download the beta software right away. Let me tell you that I am nothing but pleased with AOL 3.0. I have been so disgusted with America Online v2.7, but this made it a whole different experience! America Online has talked about better Macintosh software, and now they have shown it.

The Art gets Smart.
Yup, that’s right, no more annoying “Receiving parts 1 of 2. Please wait…”. America Online 3.0 introduces a new feature called “Smart Art” – that is, it loads artwork in the background, while you are navigating through AOL. When you go to a new area of the service, you will see “generic” icons with a caption that tells you what each button does. Art will continue to come in as long as the area is open on your screen, but you DO NOT have to wait for the art to completely appear. You can continue to navigate around AOL while the art comes in. If you close a window before the art is completely downloaded, it will simply “pick up where it left off” the next time you return to the area.

The AOL 3 artwork has been completely redesigned, with new icons, and new backgrounds which are very eye-pleasing. The artwork is definitely better, and it loads faster. I compared the loading time of the “Smart Art” and AOL 2.7’s art loading (with a 28.8 connection), and I found that AOL 2.7 took 3 minutes to load the Macworld artwork, while the Smart Art took less than 1 minute. BIG improvement there!

My Buddy!
Another long-awaited feature are Buddy lists, which allow you to see who comes online. You enter the names of all your online friends into a buddy list. When they sign on, their screen names appear instantly in your Buddy List window — you can send Instant Messages to your friends the second they arrive online! By setting Buddy List Preferences you can control who can add you to their Buddy List. This is probably my favorite feature with AOL 3.0, as I have found it to come in very handy many times.

Enhanced E-Mail
America Online 3.0 has a completely redesigned e-mail interface. There are new icons, signature files, a filing cabinet, and probably the best feature of all- a spell-checker. The Address Book has also been completely revamped, and lets you store more information about each person or group that you add. You can drag and drop information into or out of the book.

Catch a Wave!
The separate Web browser is a thing of the past! AOL Version 3.0 for Macintosh includes a completely integrated version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (Version 2.1). The Web browser is simply another window in AOL. The feature was still under development when I tested it, but I can tell you that the browser is FAST, and it is HTML 3.2 compliant, and it supports all of the latest HTML tags. The Web Browser is also very customizable, unlike the one included with version 2.7.

Other Improvements:
• The Tool bar: AOL 3 now provides a tool bar with access to many of the most-used features of AOL. You can also unanchor the tool bar and hide it if you want.
• Drag and Drop Support: You can now drag and drop items to the desktop, to e-mail, and to Instant Messages! Grab the sender’s name from a piece of e-mail, and drag it to your address book! No more retyping long Internet mail addresses!
• Hyperlinks: Drag a Favorite Places heart into an Instant Message or e-mail. If the recipient is using AOL 3.0 (for Macintosh or Windows), they will get a “hyperlink” that they can click to go right to the area.
• PowerPC Native: The installer will determine whether you’re running a Power Macintosh or not, and install the correct software for your machine. Your processor will run in “native” mode no matter what type of Mac you have.
• New Location Information – When you’re not signed on to AOL, choose “Setup” from the Welcome screen. AOL 3 has improved the look and feel of the “Location” settings, and added a lot more options. One of the best features here is the ability to redial an AOL access number repeatedly if it’s busy. Also, the millions of modem settings files are now gone. Modem information is now stored in a compact form to save hard drive space.
• New Preferences: AOL 3.0 is more customizable than ever! The preferences now allow you to change the fonts, chat sounds and any other setting you heart could desire.
• Software Search: One of the most pleasing things that I found was that the software search now searches the Macworld software libraries too. Now you can finally find all the issues of My Mac!
• Apple Guide Support: Almost every area of AOL has the little “light bulb” icon, and if you click on it, you are taken to the “America Online Guide,” an Apple Guide Extension. The guide is extensive, including everything from how to get online to E-mail, everything is there.

The Summary
I have only begun to touch the surface on AOL 3’s capabilities. With the new artwork, e-mail, an integrated Web browser, and a host of other new features, AOL has made it a lot easier to get online, and enjoy it. A direct internet connection is still the best choice if you want unlimited time, unrestricted access, and a faster connection. But if you want an easy way to send e-mail, surf the internet, or even join in on a friendly chat, America Online is the way to go! Hold onto your hats people… America Online is back, and it’s better then ever.
-Adam Karneboge

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