After attending the keynote address of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, I downloaded the public beta of the Apple Safari 3 Web browser both for Mac OS X 10.4.9 and Windows XP. (It also runs on Vista.) It runs reasonably well, although its features aren’t drastically different from what’s already available with Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7.
I installed Safari 3 easily on both the Mac and the PC. Both versions of the browser look basically the same except for the Windows menus that appear within the Safari browser window. On the Mac, they appear in the Mac OS X menu bar. Macworld’s first look noted one curious thing: Safari for Windows only lets you resize the window using the lower-right corner rather than any window edge, which is common of Mac applications.
As far as how sites look in the Windows version of Safari 3, I didn’t notice a marked different in photo rendering; however, Safari’s text looked darker and blurrier than the same text in Firefox and Internet Explorer. (See the full article at PC World for screenshot comparisons.) We also noticed that Bank of America’s site, which requires you to confirm a SiteKey image for authentication, didn’t display correctly in the Windows browser. On the Mac version of Safari 3, however, the SiteKey page appeared just fine.
Safari 3 automatically imports Internet Explorer 7 and “Netscape/Mozilla” bookmarks. I was also able to import bookmarks using Safari’s Import Bookmarks command. As with Firefox, I could drag and drop folders of bookmarks in an easy-to-use bookmark manager. Weirdly, hitting Control-A didn’t work for selecting all bookmarks. (Control-A did work to select all the contents of a Web page.)
Apple says that the Windows version of Safari 3 is up to twice as fast as IE 7 and 1.6 times as fast as Firefox—according to Apple’s data using third-party testing software. We haven’t yet put Safari through its paces in our own page load tests to measure that claim, but we can say that in today’s browsing world, factors like site design and the speed of your connection have a much greater effect on how long it will take a page to load than your choice of browser.
We did run some informal tests for memory usage, and here, Safari came in last. In our informal tests, we started each browser with a blank page and then loaded two specific sites. Safari used an average of 45MB of memory at the end of the tests, significantly more than other browsers. Opera 9 used only 27MB, while Firefox 2 used 31MB and Internet Explorer 7 used 34MB. On a PC using less memory, you may feel this pinch. I personally didn’t.
On the subject of security: Safari doesn’t use Active X and so avoids the spyware scares that plague Internet Explorer. However, it’s not immune to other browser exploits the same way Firefox isn’t immune. For now, Safari is probably under the radar, although a researcher claims to have already found a potential vulnerability.
In the end, Apple’s announcement of a Safari that runs on Windows is big news with big potential for integrating with the PC versions of iTunes and QuickTime. It’s a working browser but with a few flaws, and it currently lacks the plug-in ecosystems that Firefox and Internet Explorer enjoy. However with a presence on the Mac, Windows and soon the iPhone, that may change.
This story, "PC World: First impressions of Safari for Windows" was originally published by PCWorld.