Apple has unexpectedly dropped Safari 4 beta as a free download, and the main selling point is "fast" ... oh, and a lot of "stunning" new eye-candy in true Apple style.
It's been a quiet month from Apple. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, all we've seen from a hardware perspective has been an upgrade in the graphics processor on the bottom-of-the-line MacBook, and in software, the actual release of iLife and iWork 09.
But this morning, quite unannounced (read, no rumors or leaks) Apple released a beta version of Safari 4, which, as you'd expect from the Apple marketing department is being billed as 'the world’s fastest and most innovative web browser for Mac and Windows PCs'.
So what's in Safari 4
, and why do you need it?
While Apple may not have explicitly mentioned Chrome in its press release, the new UI in Safari 4 says lots about it. The "Tabs on Top" feature, for instance, 'makes tabbed browsing easier and more intuitive'...and 'borrows' one of the best ideas from Google Chrome. (Put simply: Apple has yet again broken its own user interface guidelines and is using the unified application title bar for tabs. Not a bad thing, as the feature is a space-saver, but another example of UI-reinvention that's going to infuriate some people.)
Apple has also integrated other OS X technologies into Safari 4, like Cover Flow so you can visually flip through your bookmarks or history, and 'Top Sites' for a visual preview of your frequently visited pages.
In a nod to Firefox, Apple has beefed up its browser bar too. Now, when you start entering a URL you'll get a full list of history, bookmarks, and your most-visited website based on the text you've entered. There's also a 'Full History Search' which searches through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently views pages too.
The Full History Search is actually reason enough to upgrade to Safari 4. You access the search via the Bookmarks window, and, after typing in a search term you'll get a full history based on your bookmarks and history. It's a powerful new feature, and one that I can see myself using frequently.
The Windows version of Safari has also been given a complete makeover and now sports a new 'Windows-native look that uses standard Windows font rendering and native title bar, borders and toolbars so Safari fits the look and feel of other Windows XP and Windows Vista applications.' This solves one of the biggest complaints Windows users had with Safari -- that fonts looked "fuzzy" (because they used a port of the Mac font smoother, which is softer than Windows' Cleartype), and that Apple had plonked a Mac GUI look and feel into Windows (something Mac users decried Microsoft for 15 years ago when it did a direct port of Microsoft Office for Windows to Mac, complete with Windows interface.
If that's not enough for a free download then other features you might like include full Page Zoom, for a closer look at any website without degrading the quality of the site’s layout and text, and a built-in web developer tools to debug, tweak and optimise a website for peak performance and compatibility.
For some the new interface changes may be all too much. If that's you, and you want to revert back to the Safari 3 look and feel, you can still do it and keep Safari 4 performance. Caius Durling has put up a page documenting all the hidden preferences
like moving the tab bar back to below the address bar and reinstating the blue progress bar that loads behind the URL.