Safari 4: One Web Browser to Replace Them All

June 14, 2009 Updated: June 15, 2009
Safari 4 lets users view their bookmarked Web pages and full Web history in a format that is easy to use and navigate. (Courtesy of Apple)
Safari 4 lets users view their bookmarked Web pages and full Web history in a format that is easy to use and navigate. (Courtesy of Apple)

With the release of Safari 4, Apple may have spelled the end of Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE). Not only is it fast, but it offers several features that are sure to set new standards.

According to Apple, Safari 4 is more than three times faster than both IE and Firefox when loading HTML Web pages. When loading JavaScript, it is eight times faster than IE, three times faster than Firefox, and 4.5 times faster than the previous version of Safari.

The quick load times are attributed, in part, to the new Nitro JavaScript engine found at the heart of this browser. It also supports HTML 5 and advanced CSS Effects, allowing for more fonts, graphics, and a significantly richer Web experience.

The software has just recently been made available for a free download for both Mac and Windows PCs. Just three days after it was released on June 8, Apple reported more than 11 million downloads of Safari 4—six million of which were from Windows users.

Safari’s New Clothes

Aside from groundbreaking speeds, the new Safari incorporates new features that are sure to become user favorites.

The Top Sites menu in Safari 4 lets users view a layout of their most visited Web sites, which can be accessed with a click. (Courtesy of Apple)
The Top Sites menu in Safari 4 lets users view a layout of their most visited Web sites, which can be accessed with a click. (Courtesy of Apple)
When you first open Safari 4, you are greeted by a curious grid of Web pages. This is the “Top Sites” page. It displays the front pages of your 12 most viewed Web sites.

A similar feature—soon to become part of your daily Web-browsing routine—is the new “Cover Flow” search page.

What really makes the search page different is its presentation. It displays a spread of the Web pages in the same way Mac Leopard lets users quick view pictures. It can display your full search history, bookmarks, RSS Feeds, or other options which are found listed at the bottom of the page.

These functions enable users to view Web pages at a glance—greatly reducing tedious browsing.

Thankfully, these Mac-like features are also available in the Windows version of Safari 4.

Another thing PC users may notice missing is the toolbar normally found at the top of the page. Apple has placed these options in two small, tabbed menus at the far right of the address bar. The result is a cleaner looking page and larger workspace. If, however, there are Windows users who’ve grown accustomed to the old browser format, Safari 4 has an option to keep the classic look, while still enjoying a faster Web experience.

Of course, in addition to a sleeker format and increased browsing speed, Apple has also designed the Safari 4 to be a safe browsing experience. Apple designed this browser with phishing and malware protection, and features what it calls Private Browsing. Safari doesn’t save or cache any personal information you enter or pages you visit, so you can safely surf even on a public computer.

So what are the downsides of Safari 4? I haven’t been able to find any. However, it did seem that the Top Sites menu was taking a bit too long to display the front pages of the Web sites. Yet they could still be opened quickly, whether or not the image loaded.

All in all, Safari 4 makes Web browsing a much more enjoyable experience. The extra features place a great deal of extra control at the user’s fingertips, while the quick load times make browsing much easier and more enjoyable.

Follow Joshua on Twitter: @JoshJPhilipp