Safari 4 Beta Released

71 Comments

safari_icon

Safari has come an awfully long way since its conception, and today marks the beta release of the fourth major incarnation of the acclaimed web browser. Version 4 introduces a range of new features and interface improvements, among them speed enhancements, visual history searching and Cover Flow integration.

Safari 4 can be downloaded directly from Apple (s aapl), and is available for both Mac and Windows. This brief introduction will outline what to expect in the latest version, with a particular focus on new features.

Interface Changes

For better or worse, there are numerous changes to the interface style. Most obvious is the shift of the browser tabs to appear at the very top of the window, above the bookmarks and address bar. It doesn’t appear that there’s an option to change this setting, so it will likely require a little getting used to. The ‘New Tab’ button is located at the very top right of the window. This shift in thinking matches that of Google’s (s goog) Chrome browser, and seems to continue a new standard in browser interface design.

interface

A second notable change is the removal of the blue progress background in the address bar that used to appear when loading a new page. This has been replaced by a spinner towards the right-hand side. The spinner changes to a ‘Stop Loading’ icon when moused over, and also functions as a ‘Refresh Page’ button once loading is complete. This switch in progress indication is likely due to the speed enhancements with Version 4.

Speed Improvements – The ‘Nitro Engine’

Many browsers make dramatic claims about speed, but browsing on Safari 4 is the first time I’ve ever noticed such a massive improvement. Page loading, JavaScript rendering and general browsing feels far faster than I’ve ever experienced before. A few claims made by Apple (which should probably be taken as slightly exaggerated) are:

Safari executes JavaScript up to 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and more than 3 times faster than Firefox 3 based on performance in leading industry benchmark tests: iBench and SunSpider.

In addition to superior JavaScript performance, Safari offers top-flight HTML performance — the best on any platform — loading pages 3 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and almost 3 times faster than Firefox 3.

Apple has a speed comparison with other Mac and Windows browsers over at their new features page.

Top Sites

Top Sites is a new feature that shows a dynamic grid display of up to 24 of your favorite web sites. These are generated automatically based on your browsing habits, and as such may take a little time before they offer up an accurate representation of your favorites.

topsites

Top Sites can be edited and moved around easily, with a star in the top right-hand area representing a change of content since your last visit. It’s a simple way to see a visual representation of your favorite bookmarks, without needing to visit them if no recent updates have been made.

Cover Flow

In their attempt to integrate Cover Flow into every possible niche of your Mac, bookmarks are now displayed by default in a visual Cover Flow mode. You can flip through them as you’d expect, and click to open. This is very useful if you’re a visual person as it allows you to select the required site based on its look and feel.

History and Searching

Safari takes control of your browser history and makes it more usable than ever before. You’re able to search through all the web sites you’ve previously visited, viewing them in Cover Flow mode. Not only does Safari search for the URL or title of the site, it also indexes all the page content to allow thorough searching of your previously browsed sites.

search

Searching for new sites is also made easier through an auto-suggestion tool within the browser search bar. Start typing, and Safari will suggest a list of possible phrases for which you may be looking. It provides a ‘recent search’ listing underneath the suggestions, and also offers to convert your web search into a local ‘Find’ command, looking for the phrase anywhere on the current web page.

Full Page Zoom

Taking a page from the iPhone book, Safari now provides better support for zooming into web sites. It scales images and graphics as you zoom in and keeps text sharp while perfectly preserving the page layout. It’s a big step forward in scaling web sites, and removes many of the previous headaches of breaking layouts as you resized text.

Summary

At first glance it would appear that Safari 4 is a great step forwards in terms of usability and function. Some of the interface changes will take a while to become natural, but seem to make more sense in the long term. For me, the most impressive improvement isn’t the flashy Cover Flow implementation or minor changes in design — it’s the speed. I may use Top Sites from time to time, but I’ll benefit from the faster rendering and page loading time on every site I visit.

Head over to the download page and give Safari 4 a try for yourself. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

71 Comments

Tom Z

I downloaded Safari 4 Beta for Mac last night and really liked it. However, this morning I started to have a problem with my Mail Application. I could not get new mail, even though they were on our email server. I would have to choose the Rebuild command in Mail to get my new mail. Tried checking all my settings. Deleted the account and then set it up again. Had all our IT guys looking at the mail server. Could not figure it out. Then I started thinking about how Mail uses part of Safari to render html emails or something like that. I then realized that my mail had stopped working last night right when I had installed Safari. So I used the Uninstall APP (thanks for providing that Apple!) and as soon as Safari 4 Beta Mac was uninstalled, my Apple Mail started working again. If anyone has a work around or fix, let me know, because I like the new Safari and would like to keep using it.

Tom

I downloaded Safari 4 Beta for Mac last night and really liked it. However, this morning I stared to have a problem with my Mail Application. I could not get new mail, even though they were on our email server. I would have to choose the Rebuild command to get my new mail. Tried checking all my settings. Deleted the account and then set it up again. Had all our IT guys looking at the mail server. Could not figure it out. Then I started thinking about how Mail uses part of Safari to render html emails or something like that. Realized that my mail had stopped working last night right when I had installed Safari. So I used the Uninstall APP (thanks for providing that Apple!) and as soon as Safari 4 Beta Mac was uninstalled, my Apple Mail started working again. If anyone has a work around or fix, let me know, because I like the new Safari and would like to keep using it.

Nick

From what I can tell, installing the Safari 4 beta breaks back-to-my-mac. I can’t imagine what the connection could be, but none of my machines can connect properly to the BTTM service after installing the beta.

Mike N.

@hmm

Could be, though iTunes can run cover flow perfectly on my machine. Might be an ATI compatibility issue.

Thanks.

hmm

@Cody
@Mike N.

Top Sites may not work because of certain graphic card requirements (32MB and up, compatibility, etc)

D.W.

I hate the tabs on top. It’s extra real estate for the eye and mouse to traverse — un-necessarily. Apple should please restore the tabs on bottom — or make it a user-selectable preference. Please, Apple: tabs on bottom not top of the menu bar.

chimpy

@Anthony:

SnapBack is still here – do a search with Google search box in the toolbar, and when you click a link, the SnapBack icon appears in the box.

Мързеливец и Co. - Safari 4

[…] накрая ще дам един линк към ревю направено от TheAppleBlog. Покриват интересните новости като CoverFlow за Bookmarks и […]

Cody

I am also using XP and both the Top Sites button and Cover Flow are missing?

I tried to do a clean install by uninstalling Safari 3 and still the same problem.

Any ideas?

Mark Hines

Although claimed by Apple as fastest browser, I dont think its qiute that fast! I have used many other browsers and feel that google crome is the fastest of them all. By the way they have added new features such as “cover flow” which I like very much.

Andrew Bednarz

Im very impressed so far, though cringed when I realised that my 1Password and keywurl plugins wouldn’t work anymore. Thankfully 1Password already has a beta version out that works with Safari 4. Living without keywurl until it updates is going to be tougher though.

Jer

I am concerned that the additional rendering potency will just make it easier/more-profitable to include those annoying and distracting video-ads that keep being increasingly placed within web pages. If Apple really wanted to ’empower’ the user there would be a video object disable feature for user-chosen web pages on the new Safari. Though, i’ll certainly give the new version a spin on my mBookpro17.

Gazoobee

Wow. There’s a pingback at the top you might want to delete.

“Pingback by Safari 4 Beta is out for Download and Apple is Over Promoting it” … leads to a “LiveCrunch” blog that is just full of purposeful inaccuracies and venomous anti-Apple bashing.

This guy actually publishes quotes from Apple’s promotional materials THAT HE’S ALTERED and then knocks them down for things they don’t even say. Weird click-whore stuff there and the author is anonymous, the coward.

@ Mathew Bookspan: The memory footprint has been reduced by about half (over Safari 3) on my machine, maybe you should check again.

Tom Reestman

I’m running the Windows XP version and Top Sites and Cover Flow are working just fine.

Speed is incredible.

I will likely appreciate tabs in the menu bar on my MacBook, since it saves vertical screen space. But on this XP machine with a larger screen I’d just as soon have them where they were. Still, I get I’ll get used to it.

What I will not get used to is the stupid move to Windows’ own anti-aliasing. Apple’s is much better. Luckily, that garbage is the first thing I turned off.

I do not like that I can’t get rid of the page and gear icons on the address bar. Drag them off, they come back. What’s with that?

I miss that I could just double-click the tab bar to get a new tab. Now that the “tab bar” is also the window’s title bar, double-clicking it maximizes the window. Bummer. I’ve settled on Control-T instead.

I also miss just grabbing a tab anywhere to move it. Again, because it’s now the window’s title bar, I must grab a tab by it’s little handle to move it. Definitely gonna take some getting used to.

Having the native Windows look of the window was a wise move. In some ways, I actually think it’s uglier, but it makes sense. Besides, the rest of the interface is just as clean as ever, which I really like.

I’m anxious to try this on my Mac, but I’m pretty impressed with the Windows flavor so far.

Gazoobee

One funny quirk I’ve noticed is that TopSites seems to go around any blocker plug-ins. Some of the pages in TopSites seem to be pop-up windows that I never actually saw in my browsing for instance.

Also, I use an Safari AdBlock, (because why would you want to look at ads when you don’t have to?) It still works fine in Safari 4, but the page thumbnails in TopSites all have still the ads on them. Interesting.

Victor

well it’s definitely fast. For those of you who care. I’m sure appleblog or someone else will get to benchmarking safari vs other browsers. But I benchmarked it using sunspider real quick and unscientifically vs the previous webkit build and the most recent one.

Safari 4 got 908.2ms
Webkit previous got something like 1072ms
Webkit most recent got something around 978ms

Safari just got put in my dock over webkit.

David McDougal

I am not a real fan of this beta. I know it is a simple thing, but the tabs on the top are really messing with my head. I am so used to Firefox and the old safari being under the address bar. I have been using omniweb recently, and that sidebar thing is even harder.

Bridget

I found that the beta was incompatible with GrowlMail (Mail.app would open for a few seconds, then quit itself). Anyone else have this problem or find a fix? Disabling GrowlMail didn’t do anything.

Anthony

I’m really disappointed that they choose to remove the snapback button, it is one of those features i really love and used regularly. I keep finding myself going up to go back, now it’s really going to be frustrating having to hit the back button 2 or 3 times to get back to where i started

Jeffrey

Edit: It’s not important to have the Edit button pressed in Top Sites to do this as far as I can tell.

Jeffrey

Top Sites can also be edited to your liking. There is only one site that didn’t work with this process for me. Remove any sites you don’t want in your top sites. Sticky the rest. Leave the edit button pressed. Now, with top sites open, start typing the url of the site you want to add. If it shows up as a Top Hit already, click that to go to it. Return to your top sites to see it added. If it does not already show up as a Top Hit. Click it to visit the site, then return to Top Sites. Click edit. Start typing the site address, and then click it as it now shows up as a Top Hit. This should add it to your Top Sites now.

Mike N.

I’m a bit disappointed with the windows version. I don’t have the the ‘Top sites’ button and cover flow is also missing. I guess it hates my win xp. =(

The speed though, is insane.

Matthew Bookspan

Nice article David. I installed it this AM. My big concern is the lack of tab process management. I was really hoping Apple would copy Google Chrome here by making each tab its own process. Also, Apple still hasn’t addressed the memory issue with Safari. Frankly, it is still a memory pig. We’ll see how this progresses as they release more betas.

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