Apple Safari 3 Public Beta for Windows

Apple Safari 3 Public Beta for Windows passes Second Acid browser testHey you! Apple Safari 3 for Windows is the new browser in town. Safari is upgraded with enhanced Windows-specific features and complete web standards compliance. Making it only the third browser (after Opera 9.20 and Mozilla Firefox Gran Paradiso (aka Firefox 3) Beta) to render the Acid 2 test flawlessly. Overall Safari 3 for Windows really impresses me. This in spite of the obvious (and odious?) comparisons with Mozilla Firefox.

You have to remember that Safari 3 Beta for Windows is constantly evolving. As I discovered while putting the finishing touches to this review. So the version tested (Safari 3.0.2) will probably be updated by several consecutive releases by the time you read this review.

Compatibility-wise Safari 3 for Windows runs fine on Windows XP SP2 (32- and 64-bit versions). And on Vista Home and Business Premium editions. But fails outright on Windows Server SP1 with consistent memory address read errors! This despite swapping out the 2 GB DDR1 RAM with another piece from a different batch.

Apple Safari 3 Beta keeps on running despite crash dialogSafari 3 Beta for Windows was released on 6/11/07 and within hours browser exploitation hacks were discovered. Apple released an updated version 3 days later on 6/14/07. Luckily I run Windows XP English, and haven’t had to experience the instability that XP Multi language users seem to experience. But I still managed to crash Safari several times. The first when visiting a secure (https) site and attempting to print the screen contents to PDF Creator. The second (no, I didn’t learn my lesson) was direct to the printer. The third and most recent was attempting to download a Safari for Windows plugin. Oddly during each crash, Safari continued to work in the background even I couldn’t get rid of the annoying, on-screen debug or exit dialog box or open new tabs.

The browser defaults to a cool brushed metal surface that I find soothing. Even as other commentators feel its dated in this ear of Vista’s liquid Aero interface). Since user attention remains focused on the page viewed. Instead of the browser skin. But menus are still a bit confusing for this Windows user. The developers have included the Firefox shortcuts Ctrl+T to open a new tab. But have skipped the URL suffix shortcuts.

Apple Safari 3 Beta history adds to desktop clutterSafari 3 also lacks Session Restore in the Firefox (good) or Internet Explorer 7 (fair) mould. Instead you either choose to save all open Tabs as a single bookmark (as in Firefox and Internet Explorer 7). Or you can view the History for previous sessions organized by date from the History menu. I think Apple slipped up on the user interface here. The History session sub-menu displays page titles for sites visited in ascending order. That’s fine if you typically browse 10 sites a session. But when browsing over 40-50 sites being presented with this huge scrolling list is unnerving. I also wish that each history link opened in a new tab instead of the active tab.

Actually this open in active tab phenomenon occurs across Safari 3 for Windows! Here I was inside my web mail account. And decided to view my bookmarks. In both Firefox and Internet Explorer, bookmarks (or Favorites) bar opens separate from the active tab. But Apple’s all-in-one interface opens everything in the active tab. Which is soo Netscape 3’ish. But the History > Page Snapback (Ctrl+Alt+P) feature redeems the browser. Letting you switch between the previous and current pages. There’s a separate menu item to mark pages for snapback too. But this setting doesn’t persist beyond the active session.

Safari is somewhat secure. When its private browsing feature’s enabled, nothing is recorded for browsing and search history, cache and downloads. Only the back and forward buttons work. But while you can remember user names and passwords, unlike Firefox there’s no Master Password. And despite a check box to enable saving names and passwords, the Edit button was grayed out. The Reset Safari option that’s similar to Firefox’s Clear Private Data will selectively clear browsing history, cache, cookies, passwords, et cetera. Pop up blocking is quite effective. I run all browsers past sex sites where there are layered pop-up and pop under advertising windows. Safari 3 for Windows did no better or worse than Firefox or Internet Explorer. The best browser for visiting such ad-centric sites remains Opera.

The version tested also didn’t display Favicons in either the active tab. Or for saved bookmarks. And because Apple delights in being contrary-wise, the tab close button is on the left instead of the right like Firefox and Internet Explorer. Too often I accidentally closed tabs when trying to grab and move their position. And no matter what I tried I couldn’t get the mouse wheel click function to work.

Apple Safari 3 Beta menu customization dialogTo open links in a new tab you have to press Ctrl while clicking a link. Or you drag a link into the tab bar area to open it in a new tab. There’s also limited menu bar customization. In this context limited is the add-in options Apple provides. And in the Beta I couldn’t remove any of the default buttons. But I could move them horizontally within the bar. And all the pop open message and setting windows are independent of the browser. So you can keep on surfing even as you customize settings. Although I wonder why I need such a feature 🙂

Safari 3 Beta in-line search really highlights the termThe inline find is cool. And goes beyond the usual highlight. An shadowed slowly blinking pop-up box appears in-page around text that best matches your search term. Other instances are highlighted in white. Overall the feature implementation is way better than the competition.

There’s RSS support built-in. But the link opens in a conventional tab or window. And Safari 2 add-ins are incompatible with this version. The sole ‘cool’ feature is a slider to change the displayed feed derails in an in-tab side bar. There’s also a download manager built in. And an Activity window so you can view page rendering status. As for the claim of Safari 3 for Windows being the fastest web browser on any platform. I can’t comment about Mac and Linux. But on Windows XP, Safari 3 performed much than Firefox (crawled), Internet Explorer 7 (timed out) and Opera (stop-start-timeout) on a slow 52 kbps dial up connection when opening the GMail home page.

I think this’ enough invitation for you to download and use Safari 3 Beta for Windows.

Stay Safe and Secure!

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