Review: A first look at Safari

Safari iconThe big news at the end of Steve Jobs’ Keynote at the WWDC, was the release of Safari 3 for both Mac and Windows. Observers were quick to note that Apple’s aim was to stake its claim to a bigger share in the browser market. As Steve Jobs also pointed out, Safari will be the iPhone’s browser, so offering it for Windows feels like a natural step to take. Overall, a number of improvements were made to this latest version of Safari. However, it’s fair to point out that this is still a Beta and a number of issues can still arise until the official release. Let’s take a look at Safari 3 Beta.

Apple hails Safari has the fastest browser, both in terms of launch time and html and JavaScript performance. We did find however that it took much more time to load under XP than Vista. The classic dark grey interface will be immediately recognizable to users, but its Mac-ishness might slightly put off new users. It certainly stands out from the rest of your applications. We really liked the new tab functions, and how they can be smoothly dragged around your interface. You can also drag a tab out to view it as a separate window, or move tabs from window to window.

Safari interface in WindowsBy clicking on the RSS tag in the URL bar, you can get a view of all the posts in a feed, which you can present chronologically and get a detailed or a title view. We were also impressed with the “Inline Find” function. Click CTRL+F to reveal the find bar under your bookmarks bar. Once you type a word in the find bar, the whole page will immediately turn a shade of grey except for the word itself. If there is more than one iteration of the word, you can scroll through them thanks to the arrow buttons on the find bar.

Safari claims to be one of the safest browsers around and supports SSL 2 and 3 and TLS as well as the basic set of proxy protocols like HTTPS or streaming proxy (RTSP). We found the name of one of the security features, “Safe Browsing”, misleading. Instead of actually upping the security of your Safari it instead limits the features of the browser by disabling history, autofill or searches. Perhaps it should have been called “Private Browsing” instead. Another element that left us frustrated was the search bar. It effectively works with Yahoo and Google but as of now doesn’t let you add any more search engines.

We experienced a number of crashes while testing Safari, particularly on XP, and noted that the browser does use up a significant amount of memory at start-up, around 60 MB to be exact. Also, we found that some popular pages (like Google or Digg!) do not render properly with Safari; a case of not being totally standards compliant perhaps? While it’s great to finally open up Safari to the PC crowd, the unstability of the browser makes you wonder if it wasn’t rushed out for the WWDC. Some interesting features, but on the whole, Safari is no match for the fully armed Firefox on PC yet.

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