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A First Look at the Safari Web Browser

by Wei-Meng Lee
01/10/2003

Apple announced at MacWorld SF 2003 the Safari Web browser for Mac OS X (which is a different animal all together from O'Reilly's Safari Book Shelf, an online technical bookstore). Safari's rendering engine is based on KHTML, from KDE's Konqueror, an open source project.

According to Apple, Safari is the fastest Web browser on Mac OS X. Compared to Chimera 0.6.0, Internet Explorer 5.2.2, and Netscape 7.01, Safari was the overall winner in tests like HTML page load speed, JavaScript performance, and cold launch time.

Safari is currently in beta. You can download the public beta here .

I will walk through the many innovative features of Safari in the rest of this article. Figure 1 shows the various components of Safari:


Screen shot.
Figure 1. The various functions in the Safari browser

The first striking feature of Safari is the brushed-metal user interface. If you have been using iCal, iSync and Address Book, then you will definitely feel comfortable with the new look. I have been using Chimera and Internet Explorer, but Safari's new look is certainly a nice change.

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Bookmarks

Let's start with bookmarks. Besides adding the URL of your favorite Web pages into the Bookmarks menu, you also have the option to add them into the Bookmarks Bar. The Bookmarks Bar is located just below the Address bar, which makes it easy for you to access frequently accessed Web pages.

Screen shot.
Figure 2. Adding a bookmark.

Managing bookmarks is also easier in Safari, thanks to the re-engineered Bookmarks viewer:

Screen shot.
Figure 3. Using the Bookmarks viewer.

The Bookmarks viewer allows you to group your favorites into folders and shuffles bookmarks easily by drag-and-drop. You can easily move a favorite to the Bookmarks Bar by dragging and dropping its URL into the Bookmarks Bar item in the Bookmarks viewer.

Screen shot.
Figure 6. Using the Bookmarks Bar.

Google Integration

Safari also incorporates the most popular Web search service, Google. Instead of going to Google.com, you just type in your search text into the Google text box:

Screen shot.
Figure 5. Safari features built-in Google support

SnapBack

One of the common problems with Web surfing is that you often get lost in the numerous links available on a page. Visit a page and you can easily get distracted by the various links; before you knew it, you have lost the original page that you actually want. Safari features a SnapBack feature. SnapBack provides a one-click jump back to the Web page that you have originally visited using a URL or accessed via a bookmark.

Screen shot.
Figure 8. Using the SnapBack feature.

Progress Indicator

One trivial feature of Safari is that the Address Bar is also a progress indicator. As the page loads, the Address bar is filled with blue background color. Quite a visual treat, but I find it actually very useful in updating me on the progress of the page download (as compared to the viewing the progress at the bottom of the browser, as in IE).

Screen shot.
Figure 7. The Address bar doubling as a progress indicator

Simplified File Downloads

Safari makes file downloading a pleasant affair. Unlike other browsers, which leave behind a mess of bin and gz files when a file is decompressed after download, Safari automatically expands a compressed file after download so that all you need see are the files ready to install.

Screen shot.
Figure 8. Simplified file downloads.

Even though Safari is still in the beta stage, it is quite stable and works pretty reliably, giving me no unexpected errors. I only have one disappointment (and I am sure I am not alone in this), and that is I am sorely missing the tabbed browsing feature, which is available in Chimera. Hopefully, tabbed browsing will make it into the final product.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.


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