Safari 1.0

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Fast
  • includes a pop-up blocker
  • simple interface
  • integrated Google toolbar
  • easy bookmark management
  • features tabbed browsing and autofill.

Cons

  • Lacks advanced security or customisation settings
  • no way to customise default toolbar search engine.

Can Safari fill Internet Explorer's shoes? That's the question on everyone's lips since Microsoft dropped out of the OS X browser arena in June. Apple released Safari 1.0 Beta in January, and is now offering shipping version 1.0, which fixes rendering problems that dogged both betas. The OS X-only browser shares its open-source foundations with Konqueror, a standalone browser and the file manager for the Linux KDE Desktop Environment. Apple says it improved on the tiny Konqueror kernel to meet its goal -- the fastest Mac Web browser. We think Safari meets this claim, and in informal testing, it's faster than both Internet Explorer and Camino.

Safari lacks Camino's ease of use and the advanced customisation or security features of Internet Explorer for Mac or Opera. Try Safari if you're really sick of Internet Explorer -- it's free, after all. But if secure browsing is your concern, you should hold off or consider Camino.

Setup and interface
You can update the Safari beta to 1.0 using Mac OS X's Software Update to automatically update -- the beta versions did not have built-in auto-updating. If you don't already have Safari, it's a 6.2MB download. A drive image automatically mounts on the desktop and launches the Installer program. When you first open the browser, it automatically imports your IE favourites and some settings, including the home page, but Safari also sets itself as your default browser without asking. How rude! The browser's spartan toolbar features only forward, back, home and refresh buttons, as well as a plus-sign button that adds the current URL to your bookmarks or acts as a stop button while a page is loading. Apple integrates a Google search field into the Safari toolbar (a nice feature since Google's own toolbar isn't compatible with IE for Mac), but you can search only Google from that field. We prefer Opera's drop-down menu of search choices. However, Safari's search field does offer a drop-down menu listing recent searches that provides quick access to previous Google search results. Bookmarks live in the Bookmarks menu, while a select few are in a tiny toolbar below the address bar, and that's all you'll find -- Safari really maximises page real estate. If you add more bookmarks than can fit on the bar, a double arrow appears indicating a pop-up menu for the rest, just like the Finder's toolbar. Safari's best interface feature arrived in Beta 2: tabbed browsing. If you've used the tabs in other browsers (such as Camino or Netscape) or at Apple's own Web site, Safari's tabs may appear to be upside-down and cause some confusion. However, they do let you open multiple Web pages without cluttering your screen, and the tabs automatically adjust in size to accommodate multiple Web sites, and feature handy close-window X's in the corners. There's even a new preference menu just for tabs. To open a new tab, press Command+T (or click File > New Tab), or Command-click to open a link in a tab. Command+W closed the tab. There’s also a series of keyboard commands for opening and selecting a tab, opening a link in a new window and selecting it, or opening a link in a new window behind the current window. Unfortunately, unlike Camino, Safari doesn't provide a key command for switching between tabs -- Command+tilde switches between actual Safari windows and all other open windows in a specific application, but it doesn't work on the tabs.

Features
Apple says Safari's speed is its premier feature -- and indeed, this browser offers few additional tools. Most notably, Safari lacks any advanced security settings. You can block third-party cookies and some Web scripts, but you can't, say, enter specific Web sites from which to accept or reject cookies, as you can with both Opera for Mac and IE. You also won't find any controls for passwords, certificate authentication or encryption (beyond asking for a prompt when you're sending an insecure form). Those are standard security and privacy features in IE, Camino, Opera and almost any other browser for Mac or PC. Safari Beta 2 added an advanced settings toolbar, which gives us hope for the future. For now, though, it lets you only choose a style sheet and change your proxy settings. One thing we're extremely happy to see: the preferences menu adds an autofill menu -- autofill is a tool that remembers previously typed information, such as your name, address or address-bar URLs. The autofill tool integrates with Apple's Address Book, not the Keychain password manager. Safari does, thankfully, include a pop-up blocker that, like all such browser tools, stops ads as well as some legitimate pop-ups (most notably, ZDNet’s video pop-ups). Happily, Safari makes it incredibly easy to toggle the feature on and off; simply press Command+K or click the Safari menu and choose ‘Block pop-up windows’. Possibly Safari's only true innovation is the SnapBack button found in both the address bar and the Google toolbar. When you surf deeply into a Web site or search results, the orange button appears at the right of the search or URL field. Click it, and you'll pop back to the last URL you typed or to your list of Google search results. It's handy but not life-changing; IE lets you click and hold the back button to bring up a short history of visited sites, with much the same effect. Safari does simplify bookmark management, however. You can drag a bookmark onto the Safari bookmarks bar, as in IE, but Safari lets you rename the Web page so that it's easier for you to remember. The 1.0 version adds syncing of bookmarks between Safari installed on multiple Macs using iSync -- handy for PowerBook or iBook users who also have desktop Macs. You can also click the plus button next to the address bar to add a bookmark. A book-shaped button opens a new page where you can easily drag, drop and rearrange your bookmarks, and even access your address book. Annoyingly, this page always opens over your current Web page. We'd much prefer a bookmarks sidebar drawer like that of Camino or OmniWeb, or even a new window.

Performance
As for Apple's claims of cheetah-like speed, we found Safari occasionally blazingly fast but inconsistent. Our informal tests showed that Safari loaded most graphics-heavy pages (such as Shockwave.com or even Apple.com) far quicker than Internet Explorer for Mac. Safari is also faster than Camino, although by less of a margin. We also found Safari's launch time to be faster than with IE and only slightly faster than Camino (the free version of Opera for Mac forces you to view a start-up dialogue, delaying its overall launch time). The browser never crashed in our tests and can now render pages that the beta version had trouble with. We also didn't see the stalling of the beta versions. We encountered only minor bugs, usually related to JavaScript errors, although less so than the beta versions. Overall, Safari performed well.

Service and support
Apple doesn't offer any formal support for Safari -- that is, you won't get free telephone or email support (not unusual for free and beta software). But we did find a fair amount of helpful information in Apple's online knowledge base. Version 1.0 installs nearly five dozen Safari articles in the Mac OS X Help system.

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