Apple's New Safari 4 Beta  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , ,

Like every new browser released of late, the Safari 4 beta, released Tuesday, claims faster HTML and JavaScript performance, powered by a new JavaScript engine called Nitro. Safari, however, claims to be the world's fastest browser. It's not, but in real-world service it's close enough not to matter.

Safari's main competitor is Google's Chrome browser, whose ultrafast JavaScript speed is one of its bragging points. A couple of the Safari beta's major interface changes too seem to take a page out of Chrome's playbook. As in Google's browser, tabs have moved to the very top of the window. And perhaps the biggest change in Safari's look—the Top Sites view of your most accessed web pages—resembles Chrome's handling of new tabs, which ultimately derives from Opera's. But Safari 4's implementation of many new features brings the added elegance and clever interface ideas we've come to expect from Apple.

One instance of these is the incorporation of Cover Flow in the browser's history list. Sure, it's little more than eye candy, but it's both stylish and useful at the same time. Another highlight of the new Safari include its Smart Address Field, which jumps on the smart-address-bar bandwagon pioneered by Firefox 3 and has been emulated by every browser release since—Internet Explorer 8, Chrome, and Opera. Add to this its revamped Smart Search Field, greater support for emerging Web standards, full-page zoom, and new tools for developers, and you can see that the Safari team has had their hands full.

Setup and the new look

I had a minor temporary issue when installing the browser on my Vista test machine, with a dialog box asking me to uninstall or repair the installation; clicking the latter got the browser up and running in short order. The download is bulkier than Chrome's, at 26MB versus just half a megabyte; then again, Safari offers more features. Mac users should note that the installer requires OS X 10.5.6—10.5.5 won't do. When you first run Safari 4, you'll see a new animated splash screen featuring the Apple logo, complete with inspirational music.

If you've upgraded from an earlier version, you'll next see the new Top Sites page consisting of a curved 3D grid of images of your most frequently visited websites. An Edit button lets you remove any of these thumbnails, and you can drag any of the minipages to a spot of your choice, and "pin" it so that it always appears in that spot. If a site in your Top Sites group has new content, a blue page dog-ear with a star will show up in its top right corner. In some ways I prefer Opera's handling of this: It only adds sites you specify to the speed dial thumbnails, but I can see Chrome and Safari's rationale that people are more likely to use the feature if it's automatically populated.

Unlike the bare-bones Chrome, Safari does bring a very handy sidebar, which you can show by clicking the book icon a the top left of the window. You can switch the sidebar's function between History, Bookmarks, Bonjour networking, and an RSS reader. Any of these sidebar choices take advantage of the scrolling Cover Flow view in the top half of the main center panel, while the bottom half offers a simple list of the links. You can adjust the relative height of these two panels with a grab bar in the center of their divider – for example, you could have either one take up the whole area. The mouse wheel scrolls back and forth through the Cover Flow images, or you can use a slider beneath the images.  (story Link)

This entry was posted on Mar 1, 2009 at 12:40 AM and is filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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