Safari 3, a Taste Of Leopard Today

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Blazing Performance
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Apple had a little surprise for us at WWDC, in the latest release of Safari. While Safari 3 is still in beta, it is available for download and testing, and already has most of the features that the final version in Leopard will have. While the Safari we all know was good, this new one is even better, as I found out after taking it out for a spin.

What it does

Safari does what all browsers do… but its latest version brings new things to the table. Being faster than the previous version is something that has become standard from Apple software and Safari is no different. The search function has been changed significantly, as has the tab control and last but not least, the resizable text fields are very, very nice. A lot of changes have occurred behind the scenes as well, with many sites that did not work previously now working fine.

Faster

The previous version of Safari was fast, when compared to the other browsers, but this version is even faster. Apple advertised the speed of the browser on its site, but I just passed over that thinking that it was for the Windows people that never had a chance to work with it before. Much to my surprise Safari 3 is actually faster, which I wasn't really expecting. Of course, after a full day of using it, the novelty is starting to wear off and at this point it is starting to feel normal, but firing up Firefox does wonders to improve the memory.

Inline Search

The search in Firefox has always been better than the way it was handled in Safari. Fortunately that is not the case anymore, and with the Spotlight twist, the new find in Safari blows away anything any other browser might have. Not only are keywords highlighted, but the page is also dimmed a little for better contrast. Even better, when you use the previous and next buttons the highlight will have an animated jump, instantly drawing your eyes to it.
Once you find what you are looking for, the overlay can be removed either by clicking or by hitting Escape.

Tabs, tabs

Safari 3 lets you organize tabs by dragging them around to reposition them, but what you really want is the ability to organize tabs outside the window, which you can now easily do. Tabs can be dragged out of and inside windows, effectively moving a tab from one window to another. You can also drag tabs out as individual windows, when you decide that a tab simply won't do. This gives you a lot more freedom when it comes to dealing with clutter and accidentally opening a tab in the wrong window.

Another great feature that has finally been implemented is keeping track of your sessions. Now when you open Safari after a crash, or when beginning a new day's work, you have the option to restore all the windows that were open during the previous session. Moreover, should you accidentally close something, you have the option to open the last closed window. Both of these options make accidents and getting back to work incredibly easy. The only thing that is missing here, and that is sorely felt, is the ability to pen the last closed tab. Sure, if you close a window with multiple tabs, it will open it again with all the tabs intact, but if you only close one tab, it won't help. What does it give here?

Text fields and Inspector

While these two features may not be for everyone, it is certainly great to have them when needed.

The ability to resize text fields when they are too small or too big is nice for those situations when you need to see more or less. This doesn't happen very often, and I have to use this feature because of need, but it is still nice to have it there just in case. The only place where it would prove itself invaluable would be when visiting the shadier parts of the web where design is just a four-letter word.

The Inspector is a tool for looking at the details of various elements of web pages. While it is not of any use to regular users, developers should find it a small godsend that lets them do their thing much easier.

Stable

While this is just a beta, and not intended for mass consumption, Safari 3 is incredibly stable and bug free, at least so far. Everything is working as it should be, everything is fast and I have had no issues whatsoever. That having been said, not everyone is experiencing the same thing, and there have been multiple reports on the web of the program not installing or not working properly. This is most likely due to various safari enhancers that may conflict with the program since they were meant for previous versions, but I have none and have had no problems.

The Good
Let us get a head start on the improvements we were expecting to see Leopard coming.

The Bad
Still a beta with all that it implies. Safari itself seems to work fine in itself, but it has issues when third party applications are involved.

The Truth
If you were waiting for Leopard to take advantage of some of these new features, you can try them out today, if you are willing to put up with the beta gremlins.

Here are some screenshots, click to enlarge:

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user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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