Apple’s Safari browser remains an incredibly popular choice for Mac users everywhere, and is highly regarded for keeping up to date with the latest advances in web technology. Personally, I use and love it for the simplicity offered – it’s fast, lean, and feels like a clutter-free window to the web.
On the first day of WWDC, Apple announced the release of Safari 5, the latest incarnation of their browser. Today we’ll be taking a quick look at what’s new, and whether it’s worth getting excited about.
The feature the Apple are giving the most publicity is “Safari Reader”. This simple addition automatically figures out when you’re reading an extended article on the web, and provides a small “Reader” icon in your address bar.
Click it, and you’ll see a simplified version of the page – free from ads, navigation, and other website graphics. It’s great to have this integrated in the browser, but something similar (as it turns out, in fact, the same) has been around for quite some time.
Readability is a bookmarklet that does exactly the same thing, with a few more options. Apple actually used this open source code for the feature in Safari, so it’s definitely nothing new! It’s great to have this type of functionality integrated into the browser, but if you’d like a wider choice of options (font style, size etc), definitely take a look at Readability.
A feature that hasn’t received a great deal of publicity as yet is the addition of support for extensions. Similar to Firefox’s Add-Ons, this will allow developers to tweak the Safari browser, and make their own modifications and additions.
Apple will be putting together an official central repository for extensions “later this summer”, but in the mean time you can take a look at what developers are working on over at Safari Extensions on Tumblr.
Safari doesn’t default to supporting the use of Extensions just yet, but it’s a cinch to enable it. Head into Preferences > Advanced, and check “Show Develop menu in menu bar”. From the “Develop” menu that displays, you can click the line that says “Enable Extensions. Easy!
Apple have been really pushing for the adoption and use of HTML5 in recent weeks, with the notable launch of a page showcasing a series of impressive demos using the new technology.
It’s great to see so many new HTML5 features being implemented in Safari 5, but web developers still need to deal with the struggle of these standards not being supported by other major browser releases. Hopefully this release of Safari will see other browser developers push a little harder to catch up.
Performance is always one of the major factors when deciding upon which browser to use, and it seems that every release has a different company touting their software as the “fastest browser in the world”. Apple aren’t pushing that claim so strongly this time, but still share an impressive set of performance charts:
These are always somewhat subjective, but you can rest assured that Safari is certainly up there with the best when it comes to a snappy browsing experience.
A few changes and announcements made by Apple recently have made their competitive stance with Google clear. This has long been the case with iPhone/Android, and increasingly so with Google Chrome and Chrome OS. I’m sure that Apple will keep this competitive rivalry amicable, and we won’t see any negative effects as Mac users.
It has shown itself further in the latest release of Safari, with the browser now adding another search tool to the roster of supported engines; Bing. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, particularly after Apple announced support for it in iOS4 for the iPhone.
Ultimately, it’s a good thing for Mac users. A greater choice of search engines to use is always welcome!
My Favourite Mini Addition: Re-Open Last Tab
I’m perfectly aware that various plugins have been available to help with this for a few years, but it’s about time that this feature was natively supported. It’s incredibly simple, but phenomenally useful.
If you closed a tab accidentally (let’s be honest, it happens all the time), all you need to do is hit Cmd-Z, and it will be re-instated just as it was. Get used to using it, and you’ll be amazed that it wasn’t included sooner!
What Do You Think?
On the whole, I’m really happy with the tweaks and additions present in Safari 5. Apple has solved a few of the niggles I had with previous versions of the browser, and added a handful of great new features. Although the “Safari Reader” feature doesn’t really build anything new on top of the existing functionality in Readability, I can see support for Extensions leading some brilliant new additions to the browser.
What do you think? Is it a worthy upgrade, or are there a few other features that you would have liked to see?