Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Safari 4, the review

I was wary before downloading the latest release of Safari - v3 didn't wean me away from Firefox, and once Firefox 3 hit the streets, all the speed and memory usage comparisons came to a grinding halt. The fact that Firefox 3 is good at everything I need it to be good at is the real problem now - I will test new browsers, but eventually settle back to using Firefox every day. Well, Safari 4 might just change that.

For starters, the browser is noticeably snappier than Firefox. It loads up faster, loads pages faster, and using it makes me feel posh. The top sites page that welcomes me when Safari loads up gives the browser a cinematic feel; for a few fleeting moments, I am led to believe that I'm doing something less mundane than browsing the WWW. The new tab layout has its detractors, but I like the increased screen real estate. A typical user is not going to notice the slight blemish here or the odd pixel there - they are simply going to get used to the new interface and make the most of it.

In many spheres, Safari 4 has closed the gap with Firefox 3 - search suggestions is one particular area where the new browser has made significant improvements. The suggestions are accurate, and the browser seems to learn from my selections. I do miss the ability to add an engine other than Google as the default, but I am a minority (this is not including Japan and China where Google isn't the search head honcho).

So what functionality of Firefox do I miss in Safari:
- Page Search (using the / key to start searching, hitting Enter to follow a link)
- Extensions
- Web compatibility
  - Hotmail/Live Mail is broken in S4
  - Sites with scripts don't work correctly
  - Flash pegs the CPU at 90% (but this might be a flash issue)
- Import Wizard
  - Let's me share bookmarks, settings, files between Firefox and Safari

All-in-all, this is a great beta, and I'm looking forward to the final release of this browser. If only I didn't have to reboot my computer after the installation, if installing it didn't break Spotlight, and if it didn't act like it had 80% market share, I would add it to my list of favorite Mac applications...

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