Apple's Safari Browser

by Joe Gillespie — Feb 1, 2003

Safari iconI watched Steve Jobs announce Apple's new Safari Web browser on the MWSF webcast and had it downloaded and running on my PowerBook within minutes. Yes, it was miniscule in file size (less than 3 Meg) and it performed like a racehorse as he said it would. As with every new browser or browser version that comes out, I check out my sites to see if anything nasty has happened – like when IE 6.0 came out and I had to modify over 200 pages because it was centring all the text!

Happily, I didn't find any serious display problems with Safari on my main sites, because I don't push the boat out too far. There were minor differences and Flash movies seem to run slowly but on my FunWithFonts site, there were more serious problems. This site uses bleeding edge CSS-P as a test of how well (or badly) browsers cope. More worryingly, Safari's implementation of JavaScript has some critical bugs that can render a site useless if it depends on JavaScript.

Clearly, Apple still has some work to do in this department to bring Safari up to the CSS rendering and JavaScript standards of Mozilla or IE 6. Nevertheless, it looks very promising and the 'bug report' button on the toolbar certainly gives the impression that they will respond to feedback.

Apart from the raw speed and (pretty good, if not perfect) rendering, Safari boasts a few other interesting features. There is a Google search facility right up there in the toolbar, but that's hardly groundbreaking because I've had an even better one on my PC for some time now which also gives a 'Google ranking' for the currently displayed page.

The 'SnapBack' facility is handy. It takes you back to the top level of a site so, if you have drilled down in Google several levels, for instance, hitting the SnapBack button takes you back to the original search results page so that you can go off in another direction.

The BookMark management is better than in any other browser I've seen and other nice little touches include a menu item (and key combo) for emptying the cache instead of having to go through layers of dialog boxes, like most other browsers.

One feature, which I found by accident, and I've never seen it mentioned anywhere else, is the ability to set a minimum type size. I often have problems with other browsers where the Web designer has specified the type in ems but relative to my default type size, it takes the text below the critical 9 pixels below which fonts become unreadable – there just aren't enough pixels to form the characters. Every browser should do this – sub 9 pixel text makes no sense! Mind you, the ability to increase or reduce the text size on a page with just a key press in Safari is very useful in itself.

Sadly, Safari only works under OSX (Jaguar), which I loathe with a passion - but I won't go into that here. So, I'll not be using Safari, except for testing purposes. Web designer have to know about the quirks in all significant browsers and over a million users is significant. I just hope that it galvanises some of the other bloated and buggy browser manufacturers into cleaning up their acts because it shows what can be done when you really try.

Downloads have already passed the one million mark and some other browser manufactures are going to find it very difficult to compete, but even at that, Safari is not going to do much in the overall scheme of things due to Microsoft Internet Explorer's overwhelming dominance. It will have to slog it out with the rest of the 'also rans'.Pity!

Safari 1.0 Beta v51
Features red bar80%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar100%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar85%
Manufacturer Apple Computer
Price Free
Summary Small, fast, elegant, but needs more work.
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