Apple Safari 4
Apple Safari 4 is more than just one of the fastest web browsers for Windows and Mac.
- Extremely fast page rendering,
- Too soon to make a definitive judgement
Safari 4 has come out of its short beta period to blossom as a remarkably attractive and well featured modern web browser. For Windows users, Safari has previously been something of an also-ran behind Firefox and IE, but with Safari 4, the browser could catch up on XP to Windows 7 systems too. Safari 4 is extremely fast in its page rendering thanks to the refined WebKit engine, and offers some genuinely useful user interface elements which make finding sites quicker and browsing a more comfortable experience.
Apple's web browser has been around for six years, and with Safari 4 we find a stable, mature web browser with both excellent speed and standards compliance.
Safari debuted in Mac OS X 10.3, but many people today will be familiar with Safari as the web browser for the iPhone. For the principal two personal computer OSes in the world, we now have Safari 4 for Mac and for Windows, the fastest and most feature-packed iteration yet of this relative newcomer.
But being an Apple app, more features doesn't immediately equal more user complexity. Open Safari 4, and the main window is automatically populated with Top Sites, a wall of thumbnail pages based on your browsing habits. Clicking on any of these brings you directly to your site, making a good visual aid to quick browsing.
You can also manually assign what sites will appear in this space, and the thumbnails you see are updated regularly, to reflect up-to-date content on your favourite sites, all in miniature.
To customise the layout, you just click the Edit button in the bottom left corner, and select either the X to delete or a pin symbol to ‘fix' any displayed site.
Safari was one of the first web browsers to include tabs to allow easy switching between different pages within the same window. Safari 4 beta, released earlier this year, put those tabs above the address bar, increasing space available to view page content below.
This had the side effect of removing the easy reordering of tab positions just by dragging. It also made complete window reposition somewhat more challenging, as grabbing the window by its top bar could cause an inadvertent switch to the page of the tab you picked up.
Apple may have listened to the critics; the tabs are now firmly back below the navigation bar, in what must be said is a more visually elegant arrangement.
Also changed since the beta is the way that page-load progress is indicated.
Safari 3 and earlier used to colour in the space behind the address with an expanding blue bar - a sight familiar more to iPhone users, due to the slower loading process - while Safari 4 beta relied on just a spinning cogwheel (which also doubled as a Stop loading button, since the usual discrete Reload and Stop buttons had been removed).
Now in Safari 4 we have a graphical device at the end of the address field which shows ‘Loading...' and also spins a cog as the page completes.
With a typical broadband connection, you won't be looking at the loading icon for long, though. We found Safari 4 to be quick — very quick in fact — in its page rendering. For many sites we visited, pages would appear just as quick as clicked.
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