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.
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Once the installation has finished, and you've gone through the rigmarole of restarting your PC, you'll be able to start using the Safari 4 beta. Unless you've specified a home page, the main window will be black - something we can only hope Apple changes in the final release as it looks plain wrong.
To set your website as the home page, you need to click the Sprocket icon to the right of the Safari home page and click the Preferences option the drop-down list. You can then enter a new web address as your desired home page.
At first glance, Safari is a plain-seeming browser, but, as soon as you start typing in web addresses or entering a search term, things pick up. If you were already using Apple Safari as your web browser, the Top Sites tab should already be populated; if not, you might want to start by having a look at what Apple deems Popular.
The tab on the right of the links options immediately below the web-address bar in Safari 4 proffers a drop-down list of sites such as eBay, Amazon, Craigs List, Flickr and so forth. You can optionally view these as a succession of tabs that runs across the top of the browser window. If you find these less-than-inspiring, press the + button and, rather than being offered the option to add items that are Popular with you rather than Apple, you get a list of Top Sites.
Much like Google's Chrome browser, this list is displayed as a set of visual thumbnails of sites you frequently visit. The thumbnails are 'live', meaning that you can see what's currently on the main page, rather than being shown what was uppermost on your last visit. You can flick through these if you're using a touchscreen display or zip through them with a mouse. The experience is similar to the Cover Flow feature in iTunes or on the latest iPods and iPhone.
In any case, Safari remembers what you looked at, the pages you visited on each site and records useful keywords so you can easily call up previously-visited information.
Another useful addition is the RSS feed at the far end of the address bar. Where a site has an RSS (really simple syndication) feed so you can receive updates in your email inbox, clicking on the blue RSS icon gives you options for which feeds you get.
Similarly, the News button in the links bar lets you view updates from a range of publications and websites. As with the Popular list, a tabbed view is available, and it's also possible to customise your settings.
We like the fact that you can view the stories here by source, date or title and can specify whether Safari displays related stories on the topic or a simple list of articles from a range of sources. An 'article length' slider lets you adjust this to suit.
We've yet to find a way to activate and deactivate the sources on offer to make them more UK-specific, for example.
The Settings tab offers a comprehensive set of customisation options. You can also launch the Private Browsing feature and clear the History so that other people using the PC can't follow your web trail.
Preferences extend to how frequently the History cache should be cleared out, whether Safari should use a particular style sheet standard, the text encoding, Auto Fill for passwords and usernames at secure sites, and so on.
While it's too soon to say whether Safari will become our browser of choice, our first impressions of a highly user-definable experience and a neatly ordered information repository in which items are quietly logged and can be called up again whenever we need. We'll give you a fuller review in due course, once we've run some more formal tests to establish whether it live up to its claims of being speedier and more innovative than the rest of the browser bunch.
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