Part II of my review of Apple’s Safari browser on Windows XP.

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In my first review I listed the good and bad of my experiences running the Safari beta on Windows XP. Following are some updated or new comments and findings.

First, as a Firefox guy I noted that I liked the Safari interface better than Firefox’s. The look is better than the Modern Pinball theme I was using, and I like the layout of menus, bookmarks, etc. Well, I looked over available Firefox themes and found iFox Graphite, which matches (a little) the Safari look. Then I modified Firefox’s layout to match Safari’s. Take a look at the top picture of this post to see a comparison of the two interfaces. In my opinion, Safari’s is still much cleaner and nicer overall, while Firefox’s looks a bit like it was cobbled together, yet the fact that I could get Firefox pretty close relatively easily is a testament to its flexibility.

OK, now on to the bad and the good…

The Good

  • Text rendering! I mentioned in my last post that in just a day and a half I preferred Safari’s font rendering to Firefox’s (well, Windows’). I can state unequivocally that it goes beyond that now. It’s not simply a matter of Firefox looking pixelated, it’s a matter of the fonts not being rendered as intended. In short, I’m of the opinion that Microsoft made the wrong compromise. What I’ve discovered, without even trying, is that it’s not about ‘fuzzy’ versus ‘not’, but rather ‘correct font proportions’ versus ‘not’. Microsoft modifies the font proportions in rendering it, and I had no idea how much simply presenting it correctly (albeit with some “fuzz”) would make it easier on the eyes over time. Click the second picture starting this article for a comparison. Check the loops of the “a” (in the article’s title), and the “e” (in the first link). In both cases, Firefix lengthens the characters while leaving the crossbars in place. You get characters that look bottom-heavy. In Safari, the font is rendered with the crossbar close to the middle, as intended, so the characters are in proper proportion. Other characters get similar treatment. Looking at this one picture wouldn’t convince me (or you), but a ton of reading over three days sure has! I don’t like reading Firefox that much now. Truthfully, this is kind of a bad thing because unless Safari corrects a few issues I can’t see me leaving Firefox, but it will take a while to get used to its “ratty” text now.
  • Snap back! I hadn’t played with this much before, but it’s a great feature. From a Google search when you click on a link, or from a regular URL address bar when you click a link, you’ll see an orange circle with an arrow appear at the end of the bar. This is the snap back button and it takes you to the original address or search from where you began. This is handy! Further, you can use a menu command to set your own snap back point, so that you can “wander off” and yet easily get back where you started. Nice!
  • Blogger picture upload works. I noted before that I couldn’t get Blogger’s picture upload dialog to work. It’s working now, and I’m not sure why. I’ve summoned it many times on two different machines, so perhaps a Preferences setting addressed it. Also, I installed the 3.01 release today, which was about security fixes, but maybe that addressed it as well.
  • Safari loads Bonjour, Apple’s implementation of ZCN (Zero Configuration Networking). Almost every printer uses Bonjour, so when I added it to Safari’s Collection bar and selected it, sure enough, my printer showed on the right-hand pane. When I double-clicked it I got a nice graphical page showing me, among other things, how much ink was left in my cartridges. Big deal, you say? Well, for me it is a big deal because the HP utility to show me this has never worked, so I’ve never been able to see remaining ink for this printer. Now I can! Amazing how an Apple technology solved a problem HP couldn’t seem to address in Windows XP. No, I wouldn’t switch to Safari for this, but it was worth mentioning.

The Bad

  • Blogger Quotes do not work. The quotes button that I use for formatting pull quotes in articles tells me the formatting cannot be done. It says “TypeError: undefined”. Not sure what that is supposed to mean.
  • Yahoo! beta Mail. I use Yahoo! Mail and check it occasionally via their beta web interface. It doesn’t recognize Safari, but lets me continue, and when I do it draws the interface then says “An unexpected problem has occurred (wrong version)”. If I click OK a couple of times, I get in and it seems to work OK, but with some screen redraw artifacts. This is likely as much a problem with Yahoo! as Safari. Clearly the evils of mixing two betas. 🙂
  • Doesn’t remember window position. When I launch Safari it opens a smaller window in almost the middle of the screen. Not sure why it won’t remember the last position. Gotta be an easy bug to fix I would think.
  • Can’t save images to other than ‘C’ (or ignores my USB device). At home I wanted the save images menu item to go to my external USB drive, but it will not save there. The menu item does nothing. Selecting any location on my C drive works fine, however.
  • Preference to open app links in a new tab in the current window does not work. I have the preference checked, but when I click a link in Xnews, instead of opening in a new tab it opens a new window instead. This new window opens with the same unremembered position as when I launch the app for the first time.

Conclusion (again, so far)

I like Safari, and it seems likely the bad issues above will be addressed before beta ends. However, the problem with launching bookmarks into new tabs is still the biggest single issue I have (read my first review for that description). I suppose this should also be easily fixed, but I’m concerned it’s not even there to begin with. I’m also frustrated at all links being underlined, and hope I can shut that off. To me it’s very annoying. But I love the speed, the elegant interface, and the wonderful text rendering.

And so ends part II. I’ve written enough, time for more reading…

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