Apple's new Safari takes a page from Chrome

The latest version of the Safari browser looks a lot like Google's Chrome, but with unique gesture support on the trackpad.

The new version of Safari combines the search and location bar, and adds gesture support for tabs on Mac TrackPads. James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple unveiled a new version of Safari today at the company's World Wide Developer's Conference here. The browser takes some visual cues from the competition but manages to maintain its unique take on browsing.

Not unlike Google's Chrome, Safari 6 ditches its search bar in favor of a unified search-and-URL location bar. As with Chrome, and optional in Firefox, the search-location bar clears up a significant chunk of the ever-dwindling browser screen real estate. You'll have more room for extension icons, basically.

During the WWDC keynote this morning, Apple's new head of Mac software engineering, Craig Federighi, said Safari 6 has the fastest JavaScript engine of any OS, though he didn't provide any comparison benchmarks.

The new Safari also synchronizes tabs from iCloud, so you can easily open tabs from other iCloud-enabled devices. Tab syncing has been available in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera -- albeit through their own proprietary syncing systems.

Unlike those browsers, the new Safari will also let you "flip" through your tabs on the Mac TrackPad with new gestures. The Tab View feature lets you scroll through your open tabs in what appears to be a style similar to Cover Flow. When you use it on a Mac, though, the TrackPad gestures will let you use pinch-to-zoom to jump from an open tab to the Tab View, scroll around, and then jump into a different tab.

The new Tab View in Safari 6.
The new Tab View in Safari 6. James Martin/CNET

It's not clear at this time whether the TrackPad tab gesture feature works only in Mountain Lion, or on previous versions of OS X as well. While this could be a very effective way to navigate a dozen or so tabs, it's not apparent yet how well it will handle three or four dozen tabs.

Federighi described the new scrolling architecture to the WWDC audience as "awesome."

Safari 6 for Macs will ship with Mountain Lion in July. Apple has not yet said when the update will be available for Windows, or which features will work in pre-Mountain Lion versions of OS X.

 

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