My first Safari

Last week Apple unveiled a Windows version of its Safari web browser and since then many of my friends and colleagues have been asking me if it’s as fast and stable as Mr. Steve Jobs claims. I already had IE and Firefox installed on my Vista-based laptop so I decided to add Safari to my collection to see what was so special about the new browser on the block…  

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  June 19, 2007

The browser is hands down the most used app on most computers, and like the OS battle, the browser wars have been largely a battle between three players: Internet Explorer (with almost 79%), Firefox (with around 14%) and Safari (with nearly 5 %).

Safari has, up until recently, been crippled in this contest as it ran only on Mac systems, and its no revelation that Macs make up less than 10% of computers in the world. As such, most users weren't able to run or even have a trial run of the browser. But all that looks set to change as Apple has just released a beta version of Safari for Windows.

Some analysts warn that it's just a strategy to lure users away from Windows. Others however are happy that they can now use the Mac apps they favour without having to change platforms. Some reckon the Safari for Windows release will hurt Firefox more than IE. Whatever school of though you might fall in, the Windows version of Safari was downloaded more than a 1,000,000 times in its first two days of availability. People are obviously intrigued and I'm one of them. 

Apple claims that Safari runs twice as fast as Internet Explorer and ‘significantly faster' than Firefox. Since a faster browser is every user's dream , this makes Safari look like a very attractive alternative.

Apple's browser also boasts some attractive features such as SnapBack. This lets you instantly go back to the top level of a site after browsing deeply into it or create an anchor point to ‘snapback' to after browsing through many links and sites. Moreover,  it has a security feature called ‘Private browsing', which lets you turn off storage of search results, cookies, download history and other info that's normally cached. Very useful indeed. 

I wanted to check out Safari for myself. I always use multiple browsers, for a number of reasons. One reason is some sites won't render properly in one browser but look fine in another. I currently have IE 7, Firefox and dear-old Netscape installed on my home PC and I was excited to add Safari to the bunch.

Downloading and installing the beta took a couple of minutes, however I made sure to create a restore point first; you never know. It was pretty non-intrusive; it did install an icon on the desktop, but interestingly it didn't open the browser after installation.

I tried changing the compatibility settings on the Safari.exe program to run in XP compatibility mode. That has worked for a number of app that didn't work on Vista from the start, but it had no effect here. Okay, maybe - even though it didn't say so in the installation instructions - it required a reboot.

After rebooting, it finally fired up. The interface is the familiar OS X look, which I like very much. Its window frames are not transparent in Vista though. And yes, it is fast. In side-by- side tests, it opened most pages more quickly than IE and Firefox, but not by a lot.

There was one niggle: when you click in the address bar, it does not highlight the whole address as IE and Firefox do, so you can type in a new one without dragging to highlight and delete the old one. Minor, but annoying nonetheless. Also, as with all OS X programs, you cannot resize the window by just grabbing the edge anywhere and moving it. You have to grab it at the bottom left corner, which can take some getting used to.

As promised, it imported my IE bookmarks without any problems. I must mention the way it handles bookmarks is very interesting; there is a ‘Bookmark's tab that you can choose to show or hide. SnapBack also works as promised, and I think I could get to very used to this feature.

I should highlight that the first Safari release had some security problems, but Apple released an update (version 3.0.1 last Thursday to fix the vulnerabilities. One more thing, I highly recommend you read this e-Week article, which talks about the ‘Halo effect' before installing Safari.

In any case, if you do try Safari let me know if you like it and whether you encounter any niggles running it on Windows by e-mailing me at cleona.godinho@itp.com. Also tell me: what's your favourite web browser and why? Do you use more than one web browser? Also, what features would you like to see in your ideal web browser?

I'll be waiting...

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