Scoping Out Apples Safari - 2

Innovative Web browser for Mac is fast, powerful.

Maybe the browser wars arent over, after all.

Last June, Netscape Communications Corp.s expedition into the land of open source bore fruit in the form of Mozilla 1.0, a Web browser that arguably unseated Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer—certainly not in popularity but in overall excellence.

At last weeks Macworld Expo, however, Apple Computer Inc. launched a Web browsing salvo of its own, called Safari, along with a reminder that theres still plenty of room for innovation in this space.

eWeek Labs tested a beta version of Safari, which runs only on Mac OS X 10.2 or later. Safari is based on the open-source rendering engine KHTML. This is the engine that powers Konqueror, the native Web browser of KDE (K Desktop Environment).

The choice of KHTML will likely end up benefiting Apple and KDE alike: Apple has turned over to the KDE Project the bug fixes and performance improvements it made to KHTML, and KDE developers have expressed interest in moving forward with a common HTML rendering back end for both Konqueror and Safari.

KHTML was selected as Safaris foundation because of its leanness and speed, according to Apple, and these were the two attributes that impressed us most in tests of the Apple browser. Weve always been disappointed with the speed of IE on the Mac, and Safari delivers performance thats at least equivalent to that of IE on Windows. Whats more, Safari allowed us to block pop-up ads in the same way that Mozilla, Konqueror and Opera can—and IE cannot.

Safari does not, however, support tabbed browsing. This is a feature available in Mozilla, Opera and the upcoming Version 3.1 of Konqueror, and its one that weve come to view as vital.

Safari does include a number of nice usability features, including a Google search box on the tool bar and a "snapback" button that allowed us to return to an initially typed-in Web address or Google results page.

We visited a variety of Web pages with Safari—including some that have given us trouble in the past when using browsers other than IE—and were pleased with the browsers page rendering. Safari does include a tool bar button for reporting page-rendering problems to Apple.

Another interesting Safari feature is its Activity window, which allowed us to monitor the size, download progress and originating server of every element of the pages we opened. This will be especially useful for Web developers diagnosing page problems.

Safari boasts a thoughtfully designed bookmark system. In tests, choosing the Add Bookmark option from the tool bar brought up a window from which we could name a bookmark and place it either in our tool bar or in one of our bookmark folders.

We could remove bookmarks from the tool bar by dragging them to the desktop, where theyd disappear with a brief puff-of-smoke animation.

We were disappointed not to find any facility for exporting bookmarks, and beyond an automatic import of existing IE bookmarks, Safari cannot import bookmarks, either.

At press time, it was reported on message boards that a bug in the Safari beta could lead to accidental deletion of the users home directory. For more information, go to eweek.com.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.