Safari 3 beta impressions

As I noted the other day in Safari now officially available for Windows, Apple has released a public beta of Safari 3 for Mac OS X and Windows.

I've been using the beta since then, both in my primary working environment, which is Mac OS X, and on Windows XP, which I use for browser testing. Here are my impressions so far.

New features

Safari 3 contains a number of new features that are either useful to the casual web surfer, great tools for web developers, or more or less eye candy. Here's what I've noticed so far:

I'm sure there's more.

Incompatibilities and problems

I have only found two problems with the Mac OS X version of Safari 3 beta:

Considering that we're talking about beta software it's likely that there are other problems, but these are the only ones I have noticed.

Making Safari for Windows work

As I noted in my original post about Safari 3, I had some trouble launching the beta on Windows XP. Or rather it wouldn't launch at all, but immediately quit with a message saying that Safari had encountered a problem and had to close.

After reading the Apple support forums for a while I found the solution in the thread Safari 3 crashes everytime it opens: create a new Windows account. Once I did that, Safari launched without any problems.

The reason for me having to create a new Windows account is, from what I have read and which sounds quite likely, that I was using an account whose name contained a non-ascii character. I have encountered similar localisation (or lack of it) slip-ups many times over the years, from many different software vendors. Don't they know that there are over six billion people in this world whose native language is not English?

Others have reported problems with missing text in Safari for Windows. That didn't happen to me, but I'm running a really clean copy of Windows XP since I only use it for browser testing. After looking around some more in Apple's support forum it seems likely that the missing text is caused by font problems, as discussed in Safari 3 Beta for Windows - app text not showing.

Safari for Windows impressions

Once I managed to get Safari up and running on Windows, I was very surprised to see that Apple had ported much more than just the rendering engine to Windows. Safari includes most of the Mac OS X look, including scrollbars, form controls, Lucida Grande (the Mac OS X system font), and even the text anti-aliasing that Mac OS X uses.

I can understand if all of that comes as a bit of a shock to Windows users trying out Safari. Personally I would have preferred to see Safari respect windows GUI guidelines and conventions. I think it would have made it easier for Safari to be accepted by many Windows users.

When looking at how Safari for Windows renders Web pages, I didn't encounter any problems at all. As far as I can tell from my testing, it displays Web sites exactly the same as the Mac OS X version. And that's what I expected, since as far as I understand they both use the same (or almost same) version of WebKit. By the way, WebKit Nightly Builds are now available for both Mac and Windows.

Safari for Windows is also very, very fast, just like Apple boasts on their website.

If I used Windows on a regular basis, Safari would no doubt be my browser of choice.

A great release with unfortunate lack of i18n QA

Overall I find Safari 3 beta to be a stable release. The Mac OS X version has worked very well for me so far. Once I removed the incompatible extensions Safari has not crashed or otherwise malfunctioned.

The Windows release is the biggest news about Safari 3, and what everyone is talking about. With that in mind, it's very unfortunate that Apple fell into the trap that so many companies in English-speaking countries do – forgetting to QA on non-English language systems.

I hope they will get the problems fixed ASAP so more people can give Safari a try. It really is a very good browser.

Posted on June 14, 2007 in Browsers, Mac