Safari on Windows Falls Short of Top Browsers

Review: eWEEK Labs' review of Apple's beta of its Safari Web browser for Windows finds it to be on par with Internet Explorer, but a good distance behind Opera and Firefox.

When some people travel to a new country, they immerse themselves in the culture and live much as the locals do. However, other travelers try to make their new locale as much like back home as possible. And if it were a traveler, Apples beta of its Safari Web browser for Windows would definitely fit in that second category.

The first thing one notices when firing up the beta of Safari 3 for Windows is how much it looks as if it is on a Mac system. For Mac users moonlighting on Windows, this is probably a good thing. But Windows users may find it harder to carry out common tasks when using the Safari browser on Windows.

However, even experienced Mac users may find some frustration when using Safari on Windows, as the customization and extensibility options for Safari on Windows are currently much lower than they are on the Mac.

/zimages/7/28571.gifA demonstration of Safari on Windows at Apples WWDC upstages Leopard and the iPhone. Click here to read more.

And thats saying something. Even on the Mac weve found Safari to be much less extensible and offer fewer customization options than competing browsers such as Firefox or Opera. Based on this beta, if we had to rank the major browsers right now, Safari would be about on par with Internet Explorer but still a good distance behind Opera and Firefox.

Installation of Safari on Windows is a breeze, with options limited to questions such as, do we want to install Apples zero configuration networking tool Bonjour? Once completed, we were off and running with Safari just as if we were on a Mac.

And thats where some of the problems come in. For example, in most Windows browsers users can single-click in the address bar and have the entire URL highlighted and quickly removed by typing a new address. In Safari on Windows, a single click merely puts the cursor at the end of the address, meaning users who want to type a new address will have to drag over the entire current URL.


Another issue that users may run into, especially server administrators and developers, is Safaris unforgiving stance toward unsigned or expired SSL certificates. In browsers such as Firefox, when going to sites with these certificates a warning pops up, but users still have the option to continue on. However, in most cases Safari will simply not open that Web site, forcing users to another Web browser.

Safari has most of the standard features that users expect of a current-generation browser, such as tabbed windows and an integrated RSS reader. A nice feature in Safari that may be new to some Windows users is private browsing, which when turned on makes sure that no cookies or history information is stored while browsing.

Another cool Safari feature is SnapBack, which makes it possible with one click to jump back to an initial page in a Web site or an initial search results page after digging deep into a site or search links.

The Preferences dialog in Safari is simple and streamlined, which for most users is a good thing. However, more advanced users will find themselves wanting more when it comes to extending and configuring the browser, especially those used to the many options in Firefox and Opera.

/zimages/7/28571.gifBugs are found in the Safari for Windows beta. Read about them here.

On the Mac, one way to get a few additional configuration options is to launch the debug menu, which is done with a simple command in the Mac terminal. While it is possible to get the debug menu on Windows, it is a much tougher chore, especially for less experienced users.

To enable the debug menu for Safari on Windows, we had to navigate to a hidden folder found at C:\Documents and Settings\"your user name"\Application Data\Apple Computer\Safari and open the Preferences.plist file in a text editor. Then we had to add the following to that file:


After these steps, we restarted Safari and then had the Debug menu, which provides options such as changing the browser user agent profile (for example, making it appear to be IE to Web sites).

Another common way to extend the capabilities of Safari on the Mac is through AppleScript. A search through Mac user sites turns up lots of useful AppleScripts for adding functionality to Safari. Problem is, those AppleScripts wont run on Windows. This will most likely change in the future as this was a similar problem with iTunes on Windows but users have since come up with ways to extend iTunes on Windows using JavaScript.

Since this is still a beta, users should be careful in how they use this browser, especially as reports on security problems for the beta have already surfaced. In general, especially for a beta, performance was good, though in the current generation of browsers, performance is overall good and differences in speed tend to be very small.

Users wanting to test out this beta of Safari 3 for Windows can download it at

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