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Web Development with PHP, HTML, CSS, & JavaScript

Safari 4 beta Released

Tuesday 24th February 2009

Today marks the release of the latest version of Apple's web browser, Safari 4 beta. As a web developer, Safari is an essential program for any computer that I'm working on. Even though it's not my browser of choice, I need to test any site on Safari, as it represents the user agent of choice (or circumstance) for Apple users, and Safari holds almost a 10% share of the market. So it would be incredibly negligent to discount it, as it is likely that it will come back to haunt you, especially with Apple's emergence as a "hip", young brand and the reliability of their computers compared to Windows based PCs and laptops.

As with any new browser release, there's lots of hype around the new features and speed of this version, the last one of which was Internet Explorer's version 8 beta release in January (which I unitnentionally managed to ignore, it just seemed to pass me by) and Google's Chrome release back in September 2008

By and large, Safari renders web pages (xhtml and css) very similarly to Firefox (Firefox's Gecko based engine recognises web standards pretty much identically to Safari's webkit). Although there are some obvious differences, including Safari's much better, clearer rendering of images, and the very noticeable anti-aliasing of text (making it look bolder, which people tend to either love or hate).

New Features

Among Safari 4 beta's features are a number of pretty user interface enhancements, including "Cover Flow", which presents full-page previews of your history and is reminiscint of the iPod feature that shares it's name. There is a similar Full History Search, and "Top Sites", which presents your favourite/most visited sites as thumbnails as a landing page, quite like the opening page on Google's Chrome Browser. Also similar to Chrome is a change to placing tabs on the top of the screen (on the title bar) as opposed to between the address bar and viewport, and Malware and Phishing Protection

In June 2007 Apple introduced a Safari 3 release for Windows, and now with this latest version they make a more obvious attempt to break into Internet Explorer's monopoly of Windows based machines, with the self explanatory "Windows Native Look and Feel" feature. Designed to provide users with a "consistent Windows experience", this even uses standard Windows fonts, although there is the option, if you so wish, to use instead the more traditional anti-aliased fonts of Safari.

Performance

One of the more important aspects of this release, in fact the most important aspect, is performance. Safari 4 beta claims that it's new Nitro engine can load HTML pages 3 times faster than Firefox 3, and almost 5 times faster than Internet Explorer 8 beta. It also apparently executes Javascript a whopping 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7.

What I'm particularly interested in though is the rake of new developer tools, touted as more than a match for the Firebug extension for Firefox, and the support included for CSS3 effects and CSS3 fonts, which makes Safari the first browser to do so. Now I'm off to download the new version, take it for a test drive and hopefully get to grips with it over the next couple of days. And judging by Safari's track record, I doubt I'll be disappointed. I hope not, anyway.

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