Innovations and Drawbacks in Apple's Browser
I've always been a Firefox man myself. But with all the attention given to the just-released version of Apple's Safari, Version 4 Public Beta, I thought I'd give it a spin. And after using it for a few days, there are five things that I love about it, and five things I just don't like. Read on for my list, but before you do, remember: Safari is available for install on Mac and PC. I'm not suggesting that you switch to Safari 4, but don't knock it until you try it—or at least, read about it.
Good: It's Flippin’ Fast.
Apple's new so-called Nitro Engine is no joke. In just about every web page that I read normally -- mostly news sites and blogs -- Safari 4 was way faster than my usual browser of choice, Firefox 3. The formatting and image rendering was snappy. The pictured chart is Apple's chart, not ours. See here for more details on their testing methodology.
Good: Top Sites
This feature, laying out all of your most frequently used sites in a photoboard-style setting, is a pretty neat trick. I imagine that once this gets combined with iPhone-like touch screen technology in future computers, that this will allow users to swap around their favorite sites by using finger gestures. That could turn a bookmark list into something more than just a list of text.
Good: Cover Flow Search History
Like Cover Flow in iTunes, using this interface makes it easier to find that one elusive site that you found the other day, simply by glancing at its layout. There's also a convenient search button at the top right of the screen, just like in iTunes.
Good: Totally Compatible with Greasemonkey
Good: Zoom in/Zoom Out
It's really convenient to be able to make the entire page render in a larger or smaller font for better readability at the click of a button. Simply click the large or small a/A at near the address bar, and off you go. Font rendering still stays crisp, clear and easy-to-read. Yes, Firefox zooms as well, but not quite as easily.
Bad: Above-Address Bar Tabs
While both Google's Chrome browser and independent Opera also have browser tabs at the top of the window, above the address bar, I find this more difficult to use and also annoying. On my Mac, I was constantly clicking Safari's menu items instead of getting the tabs that I wanted. Also, they didn't seem to always respond as quickly as the old-style tabs did.
Bad: No Easy Option To Restore Tabs*
One feature that Safari is still lacking, that both Firefox and
Bad: Options are hidden
Many of the aesthetic features, like the aforementioned upper-positioned tabs, can't be obviously altered, or turned off. Further, previous version features, like the blue status bar within the address bar, have disappeared entirely. But fortunately there's an easy way to restore them, simply by typing a few commands into the Terminal. Here's how you can put back your tabs below, get the blue bar back, and turn off the predictive searching. Why can't these options be built in to Safari's menus?
Bad: Not Nearly As Many Plugins As Firefox
While Safari does have the ability to run Greasemonkey scripts, there still aren't as many plugins available as compared to Firefox. One of my newest favorite Firefox extensions is TwitterFox, an extension that allows you to read and write Twitter “tweets” with a simple toggle click to show/hide your messages. I've yet to find an equivalent for Safari.
Bad: No Easy Mouse-Over URL*
While this is a minor point, I do miss the mouse-over URL display