Why I Can’t Get Around to Using Safari

Ever since Chrome first came out for the Mac, I’ve been happy using it. Throughout all these years, I haven’t even had the curiosity to play around with other browsers, as Chrome has always been simple, pretty and functional enough to keep me satisfied.

However, when Mountain Lion arrived, Safari became a much more integrated part of the OS, with more integrated gestures, iCloud syncing, and the new sharing options. I finally just had to experience for myself. After a little more than a month using it, here are my impressions of the latest version of Apple’s browser.

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The Good

Although Safari has a clean-cut look that obviously goes very well with the whole OS, I have to admit that what really lured me into switching browsers were just a few features that caught my attention.

System Integration

Integration

Integration

Mountain Lion brought along with it a Safari that feels much more like an organic part of the operative system. You can tweet, message (through Apple’s own messaging service), email and bookmark right from Safari without the need of external plugins or apps.

Coming into Safari, I was very curious to see how these features would work. A month later I can say that they’re all very well implemented and nice to have, but I haven’t used them much and therefore they’re not essential for me.

Reading List

Reading List

Reading List

Reading List is perhaps my favorite feature of Safari, and surely the one that I would miss the most if I stopped using it. Once you send a page to it, Reading List is supposed to save all of its contents for offline reading. While this is a great idea, I’ve found that it doesn’t always save all of the pages that I tell it to, and if it does, sometimes they don’t get correctly displayed while being offline. But when it works, it’s the best thing.

Reader

Reader

Reader

Reader is also a great feature that I’ve found myself using a lot. When you activate it, Safari will recognize the body of the article that you are reading and it will show it to you in a clean, white-ish page with a nice big font and no distractions or ads around it. The problem with it is that it isn’t always available for use, even if the page you’re reading is actually an article. And also, pictures don’t always get displayed on Reader mode.

Reader Not Working

A page where Reader doesn’t work

iCloud

iCloud

Not always…

In Mountain Lion Safari works with iCloud to keep all of your tabs and bookmarks in sync, across all of your iOS devices. I have an iPad and an iPod Touch, so I thought this was an amazing way to keep a unified Safari. The bookmark synchronization works great, even my bookmarks bar is shown up-to-date in my iPad. Tap Synchronization requires iOS 6, though, so if you aren’t using it yet you won’t be able to sync tabs (e.g. you won’t be able to sync tabs with an iPad 1).

The Bad

Problems Loading Pages

Gmail Loading

Gmail Loading Problem

Lately I haven’t been able to use Gmail in Safari. It started by loading my inbox but ignoring any type of interaction, it just wouldn’t load anything past the inbox. I tried everything from restarting my computer to cleaning everything inside the “Reset Safari” menu, and nothing worked. Actually, it got much worse, now this is the only thing I get when I try to access Gmail:

But that isn’t it, I also occasionally get the same bug (where the page loads but is unresponsive) with Facebook, and some features like the chat sometimes won’t even load at all. YouTube also from time to time gives me a hard time loading videos, it’ll just show a black rectangle where the video is supposed to be shown but nothing ever does load, until I restart the browser.

Tabs

Tab Submenu

Annoying Tab Submenu

I usually work with a lot of tabs inside one window, I just have a bad habit of leaving open tabs for use later. While using Chrome, I have no problem with this since no matter how many tabs you have open, all of them will always be shown in your tab navigation bar. However, in Safari all of your tabs after the twelfth one will be hidden inside a “sublist” at the end of the tab navigation bar, making it harder to know where the rest of your tabs are.

Using something like jiTouch or keyboard shortcuts for switching tabs can get pretty annoying when you get to the “hidden” tabs, since you don’t really know where exactly you are located in the list of your tabs, and so navigating around can get pretty confusing.

Minor Details

  • Back button: I’ve found the “back” button to work a bit funny with Safari, especially with pages that hold sessions (whereas in Chrome, the back button on those pages works just fine).
  • Constant page lockups: Ocassionally I get a message that says something like “Pages aren’t loading correctly, in order to open this page all open tabs need to be reloaded”.
Page Reload

Infamous “Page Reload” Bug

  • Link previews: I know there’s a way to enable the status bar so that whenever you hover over a link, the URL that it’s linking to is displayed. However, having that bar always displayed takes away a lot of the aesthetics of Safari, and I much prefer Chrome’s way of having a bar that popups when you hover over a link, and hides after you move the cursor away.
  • Autofill: I have found that Autofill does not always activates whenever I’m filling a form. It’s frustrating having to fill in a form manually just because Autofill decided not to work with certain specific forms.
  • Tab name preview: When you load a new tab from a bookmark, in Safari the tab will be named after whatever your bookmark is called, instead of the default name. This is really annoying in pages where the tab name is used to display some sort of information, like my unread email count in Gmail or the number of notifications on Facebook.
Gmail

Loading Gmail from Navigation Bar vs. From Bookmark

Conclusion

I really wish Safari worked for me. It has awesome features, it looks great and it’s a somewhat functional browser, but for some reason it seems to act up on me a lot of the time. Is this normal? Do any of you Safari regular users have had problems like the ones I’ve described in this post?

I know Chrome isn’t flawless either, I’ve had my share of problems with it (tab freeze, anyone?), but for the most part I have been happy with it. Even though it doesn’t have a lot of shiny cool features like Safari does, everything it does, works. What about you? Which browser works for you, and why?

Editor’s Note: Of course, everyone has their own preference, and I happen to prefer Safari. Look for a followup soon!


  • David

    Different things are important to different people with browsers.
    I much prefer Safari because of it’s appearance. It’s slimmer and more minimalistic, and makes even Chrome look clunky. A huge advantage in this area is the Customise Toolbar option which allows me to get rid of everything I don’t use (even back and forward buttons) to leave me with a very clean bar. I also prefer Safari’s approach to leaving icons out of the bookmark bar. Chrome looks terrible when the bookmark bar is clogged up with blue folders. I regularly reset my browsers so it’s a feature that is not for me.
    And when they are side by side you’ll see Chrome takes up more space at the top.
    Reader is also a crucial difference for me. Readability just isn’t the same at all.
    Then there’s just general smoothness. Zooming in, zooming out for toolbar view. The reading list and the consistency with sharing.
    Chrome is a worthy back up browser for me.

    • David

      I forgot to add, I think your tab abuse might be the cause of some of those problems :P All I know is I very rarely use more than two tabs, and I can’t really relate to your crashing problems. So it’s very possible Safari isn’t dealing with large numbers of tabs as it should.
      If a page is taking forever to load for me, I regularly check it on Chrome, and so far I haven’t found Chrome to perform better on any.

      • David Canoa

        I agree but for me the biggest reason for not changing to anything else is the amount os syncing that exists between the iOS safari an the Mac’s, I mean having an iPhone I find it useful to have all the tabs already synced to it, especially now with cloud tabbing.

    • munchkin

      >”Different things are important to different people with browsers.”

      I absolutely agree. I am not missing anything. And in mac os, Safari is sufficient for me.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Safari’s interface is definitely far superior to Chrome’s. The other fancy features are nice, but I just can’t get most of them to work with my computer. I really wish Safari could get along better with my computer/iCloud account.

  • Tyler

    On my 2011 mbp, Chrome is definitely the faster of the two. I wish safari would out perform Chrome, but it doesn’t. My huge gripe, is for whatever reason, Chrome is much smoother when scrolling pages, Safari is not smooth, and for lack of a better word, jerky. For those wondering, I am running with 16GB of RAM.

    • Chandu

      I agree! Even I feel Chrome pages scroll smoothly where as Safari’s page scrolling is not so fluid.

      Chrome is definitely faster. I wish Google would screw it up and Apple improves safari :p

  • igal27

    I’ve actually found the opposite for a few things you mentioned… I was a long time Safari user, but switched to chrome about a year ago. All in all, have been happy with it, but it has some “quirks” which I don’t find in Safari. Most notably, lately, gmail hasn’t been working properly (on 2 different Macs) with chrome, forcing me to use Safari for this. Also, certain pages don’t load properly (some parts don’t show up at all, or sometimes in tiny print on parts of pages or pop ups), while they work fine on Safari. Creating PDFs is also problematic from Chrome — gives me a bad font warning popup on every PDF created — which doesn’t happen with Safari… This is all really too bad, because I like chrome, but if they don’t fix these problems soon (they’ve been around for quite some time already…), I’ll have to seriously consider going back to Safari as my main browser…

  • Jon Henshaw

    Nice overview. Stability and the “look and feel” is what keeps me on Chrome. Something else to consider is that Safari isn’t Apple’s main focus. While the Chrome browser is at the epicenter of all of their services. They even created an operating system around it! Regardless, I do really like some of the built in features of the latest Safari browser.

  • http://blog.aquizone.net Patrick Aquilone

    I have an interesting problem with the bookmarks. I use XMarks and one firefox everything looks great. I have organized my bookmarks with subfolders and separators. In addition, it backs them up so that I can get them at work or on any of my computers.

    Safari does work with XMarks, but seems to keep thinking that I want my bookmarks sorted. So it periodically will autosort my bookmarks thus moving my order and removing all separators (although once it put them all on the bottom). Then it syncs into XMarks and I have to spend a day or more fixing it. In addition, it will remove some bookmarks. Not sure if it is thinking it is a duplicate, but it will remove some of my bookmarks when it does the sorting thing.

    I have tried everything but Safari just seems to think it knows better and it does not. The only solution is to not use XMarks but since I have been using this since it was FoxMarks and am a premium user that is not likely to stop.

    If it is any consolation, Chrome does the same thing but only on my MAC. I can run Chrome with XMarks on a Windows and all seems fine. The minute I fire up on MAC it does a sort and messes up my bookmarks.

  • Wilhelm Deussen

    Evernote Clearly is a great chrome plugin that does exactly what Reader does on Safari, only better.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Funny, I just downloaded it yesterday. Still haven’t tried it out yet, though.

  • B30

    So you have loading problems with some webpages, huh?
    Tip: Don’t try to open so many pages at once!

    I always use Safari, never had such problems, but I also never open 9 pages and more simultaneously.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      That’s the thing, I’m just used to working with a lot of tabs, I know it isn’t good for system performance but it didn’t use to be a problem at all when I used Chrome. Why should I limit my tab usage when I know that it can be high without causing too much trouble?

      • Mashi

        The max amount of tabs I have open ever is when I’m perusing my 9 Monday webcomics. Other than that, 2 to 4.

        Why so many tabs for normal browsing?

    • Brian

      Why should Jorge have to change his browsing style b/c Safari is a POS?

      Safari is more attractive. Chrome is more… everything else.

  • http://www.deerme.net/ Sheryl

    Safari served my browsing needs perfectly for years, and now I find it nigh-unusable with its latest update and the changes made. I rely heavily upon feeds and not even being able to go to the feed address when I want to subscribe to one is ridiculous. Let me at least go to the address to grab it for Google Reader! Some of my time management extensions apparently store their data via sites or cookies; I learned that the hard way when clearing the browser data wiped out my extension preferences… *not* an issue that existed until Safari 6.

    Now, Chrome is my default browser. It works smoothly and quickly and lets me focus on my browsing experience rather than on my browser.

  • Jayson Powell

    My biggest problem with safari is its handling of large numbers of tabs. I use safari in combination with Reeder to go through my (probably too long) list of rss feed. I use Reeder to quickly skim the articles and I open any I wish to spend more time on in safari. On a normal day this amounts to around 50-60 tabs by the time I have gone through all of my feeds. It can then be a nightmare to try and go through all of them. This really only seems to have become a problem since the implementation of the new version of webkit. Recently I have taken to going through my feeds in chucks, i.e. skimming a third or so of them, going to safari and reading or watching what I wanted to, and then going back to Reeder to skim another third of the feeds.

    Another self-imposed problem for me is my refusal to install flash. I find it interesting that a lot of websites will not load an html version of videos unless I switch the user agent to that of an iPad. This is one of the main reasons I keep chrome around. It is very good at using the flash plugin baked into the browser and then cleaning up after it when closing the program down.

    But it just looks so much better that chrome. As has been mentioned before, chrome interface is simply too busy for me. It looks very out of place on Mac OS X (ridiculous skuemorphic applications ignored).

  • Ric

    You’ll feel Chrome faster of the two, simply because you’re not “browsing” twenty tabs; you just “opened” twenty tabs, and leave eighteen of them idle.

    Safari treat every opened tab as a THREAD; that means webpage rendering and script tasks for those 20 tabs share CPU and memory equally. But Chrome treat every opened tab as PROCESS. Each tab got it’s own process ID, Virtual memory pages, and CPU priority. When one tab is switched to back, it will be treated as “background application” by the system, and the resource will be swapped out of physical memory if necessary.

    Chrome’s strategy has both Pros and Cons. The good news is: For uses who tend to open lots of tabs and leave them idle like you did, the most focused tabs will get more resources, and you’ll feel it “faster.” But the bad news is: you’ll get very, very, very expensive context switch penalty when you swap an idle tab back to the front. Imagine switching from PowerPoint to Photoshop and then to Xcode. That’s what Chrome did when you switch between tabs.

    The conclusion: Chrome is a resource monster. To be precise, Chrome ARE resouce monsterS. If you think Safari eats lots of memory, Chrome will take more, and sneakily hide acquired resources among seas of virtual memories. It’s not obvious in the activity monitor, but when you working on a resource limited machine, or working with multiple applications and even VM, you’d better quit Chrome before you do anything else.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      That’s interesting, and I’d heard similar things before, but I’ve never really experienced any resource problems while using Chrome, even though I am usually running a Windows virtual machine (through VirtualBox) and a number of other small-ish apps (Twitter, Evernote, Wunderlist, Spotify, etc.) along with Chrome. And I have a Unibody White Macbook, which we all know isn’t a monster of a computer.

      • Richard Liu

        You didn’t feel resource problem, because all applications you’ve mentioned are not CPU-intensive type.
        Any application that requires human interaction is considered “idle” for a computer program’s standard. Try transferring files to NAS over Gigabit Ethernet, batching convert images, and compressing large files in the background. You’ll notice significant overall “Through-put” drop with lots of Chrome tabs opened.

  • Ethan

    my only problem with safari is going back to a previous page. it just freeze for one/two secs and then it open the page. with chrome everything goes smooth.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Yep, that also annoyed me a lot. Especially since most pages wouldn’t load properly after hitting “Back”.

      • ethan

        I think is because safari reload the page just in case something has been updated..which seems quite logic in a way. the apple logic I don’t like sometime. let me decide if I want to reload that specific page, damn.

  • goblin

    Apple made a mistake to make full Safari 6 exclusive to OS X 10.8. You cannot expect to gain more users by withholding features that already exist and are free in competition (like tabs syncing), punishing Windows & older Mac users by not being able to experience their new idevice feature won’t stop them from turning to Google.

  • http://llucas.org Lucas Churchill

    I don’t know why, but I don’t have acess on the inspect elements in Safari 6 :/

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      To access developer tools you need to activate developer mode. It’s under Settings->Advanced->Activate Dev Mode

      • http://llucas.org Lucas Churchill

        WOW, thank you very much :D

  • http://bernardo.me Bernardo Farah

    My issue has been that I need to go back a few tabs at times (that I’ve closed) and cmd+shift+t doesn’t do the same thing as it does in Chrome. cmd+z will bring back the last closed tab, but past that, I’m forced to use a dropdown menu. Doesn’t work for me.

    Also, having a Windows machine, the tab sync across Google Chrome instances is pretty amazing.

  • Jay

    I have never liked Safari, Chrome is my favourite browser. Ive tried to get myself to use Safari, but i still just cant get myself to like it.

  • Egon’s Ghost

    I’m fairly split between Chrome and Safari. Chrome is definitely faster and in my experience seems to have less quirks then Safari. And although Chrome doesn’t play as well with some OS X apps that offer web support services, most services are easier to access within Chrome. Notably, Chrome actually has integrated more services support, even native apple OS X apps compared Safari (which is just weird, maybe something is broken in Safari?) For a humorous exercise, you can actually highlight a URL, go to services in Chrome and look up via Google in your default browser (which just might happen to be Safari), it’s enough to make you go cross-eyed. XD

    Another upside to working with Chrome is the browser integrated app framework – Google’s web based ecosystem is what’s helped make Chrome such a highly functional and well meshed system; no matter where you happen to be, or what OS your working on, “it simply works” – for the most part…

    Being fully integrated into the Chrome web store, or alternatively, Google Play, it’s a breeze to explore everything from extensions to games to applications. IMHO this type of interface is where Apple has failed miserably. One of the reasons why the App Store and iTunes exist separately from Safari may be user preference for other browsers in the first place, incidentally they happen to do a much better job of highlighting their products and apps in a centralized environment then Apple does. A simple example of this is searching extensions for Chrome vs Safari, it’s much less of a chore and almost fun with Chrome – with Safari it’s more like a cruel joke (seriously, not even a search bar!). I realize that these last gripes are mostly web interface, but seeing as they directly impact the usefulness of the browsers being used, Chrome wins handily in this department. Granted, sites like Appstorm do an excellent job to help bridge some of the gaps.

    The thing I most like about Chrome is it’s simplicity and general ease of use across platforms. Though Safari is generally more polished in appearance, there are some abrasive things like tab management, jagged scrolling, occasional page freezes (just try visiting a Google support forum), and other such wonkiness pointed out in this article, however, that isn’t to say Chrome doesn’t have issues as well.

    I find Chrome’s poor gesture support a major annoyance, Chrome relies entirely on webpage support vs a being native behavior within the browser. Going backward and forward works selectively on some websites, notably google friendly pages, but not so much in apple oriented sites (try apple.com and then visit the google developer or app marketplace sites) – it would also be nice to have a page sliding animation when gestures works. Begrudgingly, I was forced to switch to Safari last month simply because it was functional on my MBPr 2012, whereas Chrome kept hitting a roadblock. Even with 16MB of RAM, Chrome was a memory vampire, it just dominated the system and sucked it dry, eventually leading to a full system freeze (heck, even my 4 year old Samsung netbook with only 2MB of RAM never had this issue on Windows 7). Though it was never entirely clear, Mt Lion may have been partly to blame with the Chrome issue, or maybe it was a problem specific to the Retina MBP. Regardless, Google’s failed to fully support either fully when the new product came out – an entirely forgivable situation if it didn’t take 3 months to solve. I’m still a bit wary to use it, particularly if I’m using it for research and have several other apps open, however the last series of updates (either Chrome or the OS X 10.8.2) seemed to take care of a lot of issues.

    Finally, it really sucked being forced to transition because I could easily sync my bookmarks and passwords between computers and even Chrome on iOS. Native cloud syncing has only just arrived for Safari, but it only work with iOS 6 on idevices, not cool.

    All in all, I’ll probably find myself slipping back into the comfortable shoes of Chrome, but I’ve just been too lazy to transition back at the moment. Who knows, Safari has potential, but it’s still got a long way to go.

  • Jay H.

    I switched to Mac when Vista came out. On Windows I used Firefox and Opera.
    Chrome didn’t exist at that point.
    Ever since being on a Mac I’ve been using Firefox and Safari.
    (I never liked Chrome’s UI at all)
    Firefox didn’t last long for me on the Mac. I’ve been exclusively Safari since Leopard.
    Safari has all the plugins I need, doesn’t crash often/if ever, feels fast & responsive, and has a good UI.
    I groan silently whenever I have a reason to launch Firefox.

  • eraqee

    I use Chrome and Firefox on a daily basis. Some websites do not display on Chrome so I use Firefox, just in case!!

    I have a few extensions that are compatible with both browsers so the experience is very similar. There are some extensions that work better in firefox and vice-versa, which I think is pretty weird.

    For example, the adblocker extension on Firefox is way better than its Chrome counterpart. It blocks all the annoying ads on facebook, but no so much on Chrome for some reason.

  • Mashi

    There’s a lovely little add-on called Ultimate Status Bar that is housed on Apple’s Safari Extensions gallery.

    Also wow cut down on your menubar items.

  • Zaid Syed

    I’m a Safari user, and these things don’t happen to me. I don’t se reader much since I have AdBlock installed, but I do find a few bugs. For my needs, I’m pretty sure Safari is the best.

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