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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One feature that Safari is still lacking, that both Firefox and
Camino have, is the ability to restore a set of tabs from a previous
session. Sometimes it happens that I quit my browser by accident, or my
computer crashes, and I'd like to be able to easily restore what I was
doing. Safari would just rather forget what I was doing and will instead
just take me straight to my home page. In order to keep up with the
competition, Safari must add in this feature.
Update: An astute reader pointed out that Safari does have this feature,
although it's under the View menu. Coming from Firefox, this was
not at all intuitive, and I wish that Apple had built-in an automatic
dialog box, à la Firefox.