Blog Post

Apple Releases Safari 4

Safari 4

Apple (s aapl) today stripped the beta tag from, and released, Safari 4 into the wild. Safari 4, which has been in beta since February, offers a host of features and enhancements to what Apple claims is the “World’s Fastest Browser.”

Safari 4 features an updated user interface, and numerous under-the-hood enhancements, all of which contribute to a great new browser, built with the user in mind. If you’ve been using Safari 3, this is a fantastic update you’ll definitely want to install immediately. If you’ve been using the Safari 4 beta for the last few months, some changes have been made, and stability has improved. No matter what browser you currently use, Safari 4 is a gorgeous app that puts the content up front and gets out of your way while you surf.

Safari 4 Top Sites
Safari 4 Top Sites

Top Sites

safari4_topsite-pinTop Sites is one of the more notable features, where you can view up to 24 of your most visited sites, via a slick 3D wall of page previews, in one window — making it much easier to get to the sites you visit most.

If you prefer to use Top Sites as your start page, which you can do in the General tab in your Safari preferences, you can “pin” specific pages so they’re always available, no matter how often you visit them. You do this simply by hitting the Edit button at the bottom of the Top Sites page and clicking the little pin icon in the corner of each page thumbnail.


Searching in Safari has seen a few feature updates. You can use the new Search bar, which auto-completes terms, offers suggestions, and displays a list of recent searches for you. Pretty standard stuff. But here’s the cool part: Let’s say you want to search for a site you’ve been to in the past, but can’t remember where it was. Simply visit your Top Sites page and use the Search box at the bottom. Safari will search through your history and display thumbnail previews of the search results via Cover Flow in the browser window — making it much easier to find what you’re looking for. The Cover Flow feature also works with your Bookmarks.


Apple has added a few options to the Customize Toolbar preferences. You can now add buttons for Top Sites, Bookmarks Bar, Site Information, Email Page and more. To make room for these buttons, Apple has removed the Stop/Reload button and made it part of the URL bar, as seen below.

Safari 4 buttons
Safari 4 buttons

For those who were using Safari 4 beta and didn’t care for the Tabs-On-Top feature, you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy when you find the Tab bar has been moved back to its Safari 3 location below the toolbar.

While browsers have had the ability to reduce or enlarge text for a long time, Safari 4 goes one step further by allowing you to zoom an entire page in and out, keeping the content and overall look of the site the way it was intended. Of course, you can also zoom the text only, and support for external style sheets is available, so you can choose your fonts, sizes and colors for all web sites.

A few other nifty features of Safari 4 include inline viewing of PDFs without cumbersome plugins, the ability to “clip” a web page to create a Dashboard Widget of the page, the ability to save images directly into your iPhoto library, and mail the contents of a page (in its full HTML glory) with the click of a button.

Safari 4 Under the Hood

The new JavaScript engine (Nitro) in Safari 4, which boasts speeds four times faster than Firefox 3, four-and-a-half times faster than Safari 3, and eight times faster than Internet Explorer 8, was noticeably improved over previous Safari versions — especially when loading JavaScript-heavy pages such as my iGoogle page.

Page rendering speeds have also been improved by up to three times, according to Apple’s statements. Not having any scientific data to back up my claim, I’ll say that it is fast. Very fast. Considering Safari 4 will run as a 64-bit app under Snow Leopard when it’s released in September, Safari with its Nitro JavaScript engine will be speeding along at a pace that will leave other browsers envious.

Safari 4 also boasts support for HTML 5, for the use of offline technologies, and some pretty cool CSS 3 effects such as animations, fonts and media effects. It’s also the only browser I know of that supports ICC color profiles out of the box, so images appear in the browser as they were intended to.

Of particular interest to web site designers and developers is the ability to invoke Safari 4’s Web Inspector to get a closer look at the underpinnings of a web site. You can view the CSS and HTML code, script and database information, as well as beautiful graphs displaying site statistics, such as image size. As you can see in the screenshot below, somebody really needs to optimize the MacBook Pro image!

Safari 4 Web Inspector
Safari 4 Web Inspector

Firefox, with its plethora of extensions available, has been my browser of choice for a long time. But Safari does offer one thing that Firefox just can’t seem to catch hold-of in Mac OS X — speed! Safari 4 just blows the doors off even Firefox 3.5 beta. And it does offer some customization capability via InputManagers (not supported by Apple, by the way). Overall, if you can live without dozens of extensions for Firefox, Safari is by far the best browser for the Mac.

Safari 4 is available now as a free download for Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later and requires that you install Security Update 2009-002. You can download Safari 4 from Apple’s web site.

83 Responses to “Apple Releases Safari 4”

  1. Safari 4.0… wow, what a flop. I mean– it crashes every time I try to open a new tab… it hangs up on me every 10 minutes without doing much… I mean come-on! If the fix is not available soon I will moving all my links and settings to Firefox. I love Safari… but this is just frustrating as hell. I wish I had a way to restore the previous version. Argh!!!!!!

  2. Wow– what a flop. I mean– it crashes every time I try to open a new tab… it hangs up on me every 10 minutes without doing much… I mean come-on! If the fix is not available soon I will moving all my links and settings to Firefox. I love Safari… but this is just frustrating as hell. I wish I had a way to restore the previous version. Argh!!!!!!

  3. @deviantdj: The reason tabs on top sucked for me is that it made the tabs unusable with a tablet. When i click on a tab there’s always a slight movement to the left or right depending on how fast i move the cursor up there. In the old tabs this was a non-issue, but in Safari 4 I always ended up moving the windows a little to the left or the right, and the tabs was never selected. I had to stop everything I was doing and concentrate on clicking the fracking tab with a firm, steady hand instead of just “gesturing” over it.

    Also, moving the tabs were awful. Instead of just grabbing it and dragging the thing around I needed to stop, select the desired tab (if there was too much opened, which is almost always the case), and click the handle thing to drag it. AND, I have to be careful and not go too fast, or I could close the tab on the side.

    I installed Safaristand just to make this browser usable by having the thumbnail sidebar, and abandoning the title/tabbar altogether. So i see this news that the tabs on top are gone as a sign that Apple came to her senses. I won’t miss it for a bit.

  4. I can’t really relate to the People who Report that Safari crashes a lot. I have had it in use now for 2 full work days surfing lots of pages simultaneously. I haven’t had a single crash since the update. Although I experienced lots of crashes with Flash involved in the latest beta.

    All those complaining, I suggest cleaning all profile data and temporary files since there seem to be more than just minor changes since the latest beta.

    I use lots of Alpha and Beta Software and most of the crashes after an update relate to “dirty” profile data…
    Just my 2ct

  5. ggunit911

    Safari 4 crashes a lot now. Back in the beta it did not even crash this much. On my Mac OS X it crashed 5 times in 2 minute. On windows it crashed 3 times in 1 minute for me. I have always liked apple but safari in my opinion is a disappointment and had a lot of potential.It is not the worlds fastest browser on windows. I did benchmark tests such as v8, Sun and Google chrome beat safari 4. On mac however Safari is the fastest

  6. michael johnson

    please, please, please at least give us the option to use TOT again. I didn’t realise how much I’ve come to like it until it’s gone!

    apart from that it seems fast and stable. nice

  7. mike sanders

    constant crashes endless loading times what is this?? how do I get back to the beta version, this is the worst apple product I have ever experienced. I hope this is not the future of new products, this is crap.

  8. Switched to Safari 4 from Firefox on account of the significantly improved speed, and the bookmark tab folders thing is really getting to me. Here’s the problem: in both Window’s and Mac’s menubar, if you click on a drop-down option, like File, and then move your mouse over to Edit, File automatically closes and Edit opens. In Firefox, folders in the bookmark bar work the same way – and really, why shouldn’t they? Safari UI designers apparently have other ideas though. Why the hell wouldn’t they support a predominant UI behavior? I’m not the only one for whom Safari behaves this way, right?

  9. Ok…i will confess :O) My second post were late, i was tired, and safari misbehaved…..until i emptied the cache (blush) iknow. Safari works like a charm now, but i did have a crash with the message that the Flash plug-in caused the crash. So here is my BIG question, was this not one of the new features in safari??, anti plug-in crash feature?.

  10. Why is it that when something new comes out.. everybody just wants to whine? There are so many great features, as explained on the website and in various blogs. I’ve used it and it’s waaay faster, waaay cleaner, and has more to it than ever before. All you see is the tabs issue.. which, in the grand scheme of things; is such a small, subjective, inconsequential matter that it makes your entire discussion a waste of time. Live with it, “space-loving tabs-on-top folks”.

    Jeesus.. go outside or something.

  11. nimmo

    Taking away the Safari tabs on top is a huge loss to many consumers. (For those that didn’t like it, I’m sure you’re competent enough to simply click a preference setting and change it as in the beta.)

    Given the amount of our lives we spend in browser windows, maximizing useful screen space is just as important as maximizing the space in my tiny New York apartment. I have never rejoiced to much in response to software as when Safari 4 beta came out. Like a kid in a candy store. The easy ability to remove the usually-useless address bar with command pipe is great.

    But the best improvement: Tabs on top, getting rid of useless title bar grey space!!!

    Now they took it away. Please bring back the tabs on top option. Please!

    Honestly, it can’t complicate the software much to default to the old wasteful bottom tabs and include a preference box for the rest of us space-loving tabs-on-top folks.

    In the meantime, I’m back to Firefox, and hoping for Chrome soon.

  12. Martino

    I have had a couple of crashes at startup which is not a good sign, but my gripe is that any customizing of the toolbar is lost every time Safari 4 is closed.

    That’s a real pain.

  13. SBrookie

    Why no option for tabs on top?

    I just spent the last few months getting used to it again and now i have another load of space taking up my screen. What’s that about!

  14. Yeah, I miss tabs-on-top, too! I was fully expecting to see it as an official option in prefs … no such luck. Holding out for a hack else I have browser remorse :(

  15. Skeptic

    I like the Top Sites idea because it notifies me of website changes, letting me quickly scan the blogs and news sources I frequent to see if there’s anything new instead of having to check each one by one. But for this I’d just like it to keep the sites fixed, instead of suggesting new ones. Is there a way to deactivate this and let me only keep the 12 or so that I’ve “pinned”, instead of always cluttering up the space with new “suggested” top sites?

  16. One more vote for tabs on top. I enjoyed that feature from day one. Between the lose of that and the reports of this new non-beta release crashing, I’ll stick with the beta for as long as possible.

  17. Martin Henk

    Please please give me an OPTION for the tabs on top! I’ve been surfing for the last 15 minutes and all I can see other people angry about the change.

    I LOVED the TOT feature, it was the one thing that made me switch from FF. Never going back, but still would be nice to have an option for it :(

  18. Mixed feelings for the Tabs On Top feature.

    Fact is, there are numerous usability issues with Apple’s solution to this (emphasis on Apple – Opera’s solution under Jon Hicks seems much better). Most were identified by Gruber in this article at Daring Fireball.

    From my perspective, the information hierarchy seems correct with Tabs On Top, but I’m accustomed to looking and clicking below the URL bar for tabs. But I would adapt to Tabs On Top if Apple gave me the option to do so.

  19. Daniel W

    Seriously, apple, bring me my TOT back. They were the greatest space and time saver refinement ever, with out it my page looks cluttered and old-fashion. Please please please put it as an option!

  20. Wow, I’m really surprised by the response for the Tabs On Top feature. When Apple first released the beta, everyone was complaining about how difficult it was to use. I guess folks needed just a bit of time to get used to it. Now we all want the feature back – though I would like it as an OPTION.

  21. I agree with the majority of posters about the tabs on top feature. This was a major feature for me. As a web developer I usually work with 30-40 tabs spread over several windows. With tabs on top it was way easier to move them around.

    Now if you have a (single tab) window, you can’t just dock it to another one – instead you are forced to open a second tab to be able to drag the page to a new window. What a complete waste of keyboard and mouse clicks…

    In contrast I actually like the new small progress indicator.