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Among the top five browsers in today’s web-browser market, Safari, from Apple Inc, has a small yet dedicated bunch of users across the world. As of April 2012, the Apple Safari browser accounts for 6.5% of the web-browser market share, according to W3C global stats. While a majority of users run Safari on the Mac OS X and iOS platforms, Windows users are also exploring Safari as a viable alternative to other popular browsers of today. Does Safari have what it takes to challenge the likes of Chrome, Firefox and IE? Read on to find out.

Apple Inc. came out with the first version of Safari in January 2003. Since then, the company has released four more versions, the latest being Safari 5.1.7. In April 2012, Apple also released a developer’s preview of Safari 5.2 with interesting improvements over its predecessors. A key feature to look out for, in Safari 5.2, is the ‘iCloud Tabs’, which lets users sync tabs across multiple Mac OS X or iOS devices. This follows closely on the heels of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome introducing a comprehensive ‘sync’ feature to synchronize tabs, browsing history, bookmarks, settings etc. across multiple devices.

Installation and Interface

Coming to Safari 5.1.7, installation is easy, though time-consuming. The package comes without an uninstaller, so you need to use the ‘Add/Remove programs’ feature in Windows in order to uninstall the browser program, which also takes time, relative to other browsers. If you are an existing Safari user facing any trouble with the Windows version of this browser, get in touch with an expert for the same or browse the online troubleshooting forums.

Safari’s swanky User Interface (UI) doesn’t fail to impress, with the ‘History’ page displaying thumbnails of previously visited pages, laying them across as tiles one behind the other. To look through them, drag these tiles either from left to right or the other way round, depending on which thumbnail you’re currently on. The ‘Top Sites’ tab displays thumbnails of most-frequented websites Safari picks up based on usage patterns. You can choose to view ‘History’, Top Sites’, or another home page on startup.

New features in Safari 5

An interesting feature in Safari 5 is the Safari Reader, which enables a seamless reading experience within the browser itself. When you load a single or multi-page article or gallery, click on the ‘Reader’ option in the ‘View’ Menu. If Menu bar is not displayed then press and hold ALT key for a second. You can also press CTRL + Shift + R to activate the reader.

The page content loads in a separate viewer overlaid on the existing webpage, with a scroll bar and options to zoom in & out, and print or e-mail the article. Needless to say, the webpage in the background appears tinted, so it doesn’t interfere with your reading. Moreover, the reading pane does away with the gazillion distracting ads and dynamic content on the webpage, retaining only those links embedded within the article.

On the flip side, there are no buttons to share content on social networking sites and you cannot view reader comments associated with the article, when using the reader. Apple would do good to improve upon these features to further streamline its’ Safari browser. Hopefully, we will see something in the next version!

Safari 5 supports many HTML5 technologies, CSS3 web fonts and animation; in fact, it was the first browser to support HTML 5 audio and video elements. Safari also boasts a faster Nitro JavaScript engine and improved hardware acceleration for the Windows version. This means better support for and faster loading of webpages with high dynamic content. In this sense, Safari is a forward-looking browser.

With Safari 5, Apple has latched onto the ‘extensions’ bandwagon, providing users the option of installing third-party apps within the browser. In terms of security, Apple promises these apps cannot access any information on the computer or communicate with websites not specified by the app-developer. Additionally, the browser includes auto form-fill and DNS pre-fetching features, in line with other leading browsers, notably Chrome and Firefox. Both features intend to speed up your web surfing, cutting the time taken to fill in the address bar and load the web-page, respectively.

Scope for improvement

There are a few aspects that need working on, for Apple to retain, if not, increase its bite of the browser market pie. First and foremost, it needs to improve Safari’s malware blocking capability, which is currently only 13% compared to over 90% by IE8 and 92% by IE9. Secondly, you cannot quick-view a link address, by default, before opening it, which is also a loophole in terms of security. This is because the Status bar is not enabled by default.

Unlike Chrome and Firefox, the Safari browser does not support address bar based web search, nor does it display recently viewed sites. On the interface front, the browser does not support Aero Glass, so whether you use Windows XP or 7, it would look just the same. Finally, Safari loses out on browser speed and stability when compared to Google Chrome, more so with installed add-ons.

What’s my take?

With several modern features, Safari is definitely worth giving a try. The ‘Reading Pane’ is the most saleable feature, unavailable as yet, on other browsers. Better support for HTML 5 and a faster JavaScript engine are other plus points. Whether you stick to this browser for extended usage depends entirely on your satisfaction with its’ speed and stability. Need help with customizing Safari on Windows?

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Posted by Peter George

Peter George is a Technical Editor (Content Development) at SupportMart Technical Services. It is an independent software support provider, specializing in 24/7 support services for computer software and related applications. We offer third party Microsoft Support, Antivirus Support, and Browser Support. Brand and warranty independent support are the hallmarks of our service.

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