Setting Up Netscape Navigator

Last modified: November 15, 1998
Development stage: Alpha

If you're trying to keep your computer free of any and all Microsoft software, it's really easy with Linux. Netscape Communicator is available for Linux and Unix systems. Some systems (such as Red Hat 5.1) might already have this, because Netscape made the browser free and even opened up Mozilla to open development.

Simple Red Hat Installation

If you're using Red Hat, you can simply download Netscape 4 as Communicator or Navigator (standalone). For Red Hat 5, you can go to the updates directory at SunSITE and get the entire Netscape Communicator suite or just Navigator. For Red Hat 4.x, you can get it at SunSITE as well. The filename will be something like netscape-communicator-4.06-2.i386.rpm, if you're downloading the entire Communicator suite. If you want to get both Communicator and Navigator standalone, I think you'll have to get the netscape-common package as well.

Then to install the file(s) that you downloaded, go to the directory where it was downloaded, and as the root user, type:

rpm -ivh netscape-communicator-4.06-2.i386.rpm

And that should set everything else up in a snap. You should then be able to type "netscape" in an xterm or add it to the *.rc or menu file for your window manager. You won't need to read any further. :-)

There might be a later version of the browser after you read this.

The Hard Way

I'm not sure where Netscape keeps the Navigator 3 that still works with Linux 2, but the file to download for Netscape 4 is right here. It's pretty easy to install.

Andy Smith suggested that you put the Netscape binary in /usr/bin/ or /usr/sbin/ so that you can just type "netscape" from the xterm window, instead of specifying the entire path. Or, you can add it to your window manager's menu file, usually the .*rc file in your home directory (.steprc for AfterStep, .fvwm95rc for fvwm95, etc.).

A more appropriate place to put it would probably be in /usr/local/bin/ so that it would not clutter /usr/bin (which already has a lot of programs that were installed with your distribution). If you have access to the root user on the system, you should install it in those directories; if not, then you'll have to keep them in directories that you have permission to write to (such as ~/bin/, which is the bin/ subdirectory in your user's home directory).

As you may see, this is different from a lot of Linux programs and is already in a binary executable. No compiling is necessary.

Java Problems with Netscape 3.x

I now use the newer Netscape Communicator, but in case you prefer Netscape Navigator 3, Java setup was one problem that I faced until I finally decided to ask questions in #Linux on the Efnet IRC network. I found out that I was supposed to put java_301 in /usr/local/lib/netscape/ or $HOME/.netscape. As you probably know by now, the $HOME variable represents your home directory. The file java_301 goes in a netscape directory!

netscape: '/usr/local/lib/netscape/plugins/java_301' is not an ELF file
ERROR: Not an ELF file
Cant load plugin /usr/local/lib/netscape/plugins/java_301. Ignored.

If your console/terminal screen gives this error when you're starting Navigator, that doesn't necessarily mean that your Java isn't loaded. Anything you put in whatever/directory/.netscape/plugins is to be read as a plug-in, so then Netscape thinks that the java_301 file is an executable, which it isn't. If you don't want to see this error, I suggest that you remove java_301 from the incorrect directory and place it in the correct one. That file is just a compressed archive that is "unzipped" when you are going to use it. I might have misread the README file that came with Netscape after I extracted it, and that could be the cause of my troubles. Oh well, if any of you have trouble with Java in Netscape, this might be the solution. If not, send me the error message and I'll try to help, despite my limitations as a mere mortal.

I've heard some reports that confirmed that there was a bug with Linux Netscape 3.0 and Java. When encountered with most Java applets, Netscape 3.0 just shuts down, no error message, nothing. It just closes. The fix is to download this library ( and put it [] in /lib. Then put the following lines into a script, make the script executable (chmod 755 scriptname). Make sure you don't overwrite the netscape executable.

export CLASSPATH="/usr/local/netscape/java/classes/java_301:."
export LD_PRELOAD="/lib/"
exec /usr/local/bin/netscape "$@"

I have that written to a text file as netscape.script. I put that script in /usr/local/bin so that I could execute it from X. After putting it there, edit the rc file of the window manager you're using in your home directory (or the system-wide window manager rc file if you please). Make whichever references to the netscape executable point to netscape.script or whatever you named it as. Also, if you want to load Netscape Navigator manually, just type netscape.script in an xterm window. More information on Java and Linux is available at


Netscape doesn't distribute plugins with Navigator for Linux/X11 due to some restrictions about using commercial libraries (Motif). So, you'll have to get separate plugins by downloading from people other than Netscape. This way, you'll be able to hear embedded sounds in webpages that have become so popular. One such program that I got to work is Plugger. All I did was extract the .tar.gz file, modify some source code (to point to where the .h files were), and put it in /usr/local/netscape/plugins. The file you put in your Netscape plugins directory should be something like That was a while ago; you might not even have to modify source code.

To set it up, in Netscape, just click on the MIME types it supports by going to the Options menu and going to General Preferences. Click on audio/x-midi in Helpers as an example and you will see an option to use "Generic Linux Plug-in". Enable using the plugin so that you can hear embedded sounds in a page. On my system, when I used a standalone helper application such as wavplay or playmidi, I could hear sounds if I went directly to a sound file, but not if it was embedded as a background sound in a webpage.

Additional Stuff

I am surprised by the response of people to this page! Everyone can pitch in and help, like markmohr. Here was the message he gave, stating his self-found solution:

Well I finally figured out what was wrong and how to install Netscape. 
After transferring the file over to the Linux Partition, I told you that I
used gunzip to unzip it, and what I got from that was just a file called

Well I opened that file in vi and started to read it, and in
it, it tells you the commands you need to use to unzip it and have all the
files you unzip in the directory you have it in.  So I transferred it back
over in its zipped up state and unzipped this time using this command
"#gzip -dc netscape.gz | tar -xvf- " it work all the files came up
and when I typed #netscape from the xterm window bing, bang boom up popped
Netscape Navigator. Now I'll I have to figure out is how to dial out with my 
modem and use the darn thing.

Thanks for all your help and you might want to add to our web page the
command to unzip the zip file.

Keep in touch


Randy Conn wrote in to say, " has a patching program that will convert the freely downloadable 56 bit version of Netscape into 128 bit operation. Then, you don't have to put your name and address into the government database the way you do if you want to directly download the 128 bit version. I have successfully used fortify to upgrade Netscape Communicator 4.06 running under Debian 2.0/Linux 2.0.34&5. A few weeks after using fortify, I found that it exists as a Debian package in the unstable/web section near the end.".

Author's Notes

Many of the problems with Navigator 3 have been fixed in Communicator. Of course, no software is perfect, so there are still bugs lying around. It's especially hard to find and maintain a program as large as Communicator.

Comments, questions, suggestions, corrections? Send them all to joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net.

Copyright © 1997-1999 Joshua Go (joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net). All rights reserved. Permission to use, distribute, and copy this document is hereby granted. You may modify this document as long as credit to me is given.