Safari 4 – Some Initial Observations

Safari 4 Beta Apple released the public beta of its Safari 4 browser (which was made available for Windows users two yrs ago) yesterday. I’ve been using Safari 3 ever since it released but the usage is limited to WordPress (which, after its recent upgrade, looks much better on Safari than on Firefox), Apple Trailers, Flickr and few other infrequently-visited sites.

Safari 4 boasts of ~150 features amongst which there quite a few new ones…that is to say, new to Safari! Firefox, Chrome and Opera users will find these ‘new features’ quite ubiquitous. As is my habit, I’ll list out a few ‘sore points’ that make the Safari 4 experience a bit dampening (IMHO, of course):

  • Placement of the tab-bar at the top is a definite turn off. Took me a while to realize it was at the top!
  • Quite often, when the browser loses focus (say because of a popup), the habit is to click at the top to re-focus it. Here, I ended up opening a background tab!
  • ‘File’ and ‘View’ menu icons at the top-left corner (beside the ‘report bugs to apple’ button) don’t have a mouseover tooptip. Took me a while to realize what were they.
  • The ‘Stop’/’Reload’ button is hidden into the address bar…almost too well. Normally one would expect the ‘go’ button there.
  • The ‘Show Top Sites’ feature is a copy of Opera’s Speed Dial!
  • ‘Open New Tab’ button is well-hidden. Should’ve been more prominent.
  • One still can’t launch a saved bookmark from the Bookmarks menu item. Of course, with the ‘awesome address bar’ even bookmarks show up when we start typing the address but what if I’ve forgotten the website and only remember it only by the name I’d saved it as!
  • User doesn’t have the option to add sites to the ‘Top Sites’. Only by visiting it frequently does it appear there! There should be an option to bookmark a site as well as add it to the top sites.
  • There is no way to ‘turn off’ the suggest feature in the search box

Safari 4 has a few improvements over version 3 though. The UI, for one, is much more sleek and more Vista-like. The rendering engine has been tweaked to deliver a bit more juice while loading pages methinks. Some sites that didn’t load fully in 3 now load fully in 4 and that too very quickly.

As CNET correctly observes, the lack of a proper community is one of the biggest drawbacks of Safari. It being proprietary software, free add-ons are never available and nor there would be a conscious effort on the part of developers to design usable add-ons for it.

I’d return back to the good ol’ version 3 for now and maybe pick up 4 again when its out of beta and those little niggles are ironed out. Firefox 3 has been so good a browser that I’ve totally given up using Opera and use IE7 very sparingly. Safari 4 has to be something special to break-into that duopoly as of now 😎

Update: Random Genius has some nifty ‘tweaks’ that will turn off the new features in Safari 4 and restore the older functionality that users miss so sorely. The post is about making these changes on a Mac but scroll down to the comments and you’ll find info as to how to make the changes on Windows. Alas! by the time I read that, I’d already uninstalled 4 and re-installed 3 😐

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