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Apple adds features to Safari browser

The company updates the test version of its new Web browser as part of its efforts to distance its software environment from Microsoft's.

Apple Computer on Monday released an updated test version of its Safari Web browser as part of its effort to distance its software environment from Microsoft's.

The new test browser, dubbed Safari Beta 2, includes added features such as the option for users to switch between Web pages using navigation tabs. It also includes an AutoFill feature that automatically enters a person's personal information or passwords into online registration forms.

To perform the AutoFill, Apple's software actually draws on the information stored in the address book program built into the Mac OS X operating system, said Brian Croll, senior director of product marketing in Apple's system software unit.

"It shows you how we are integrating in Mac OS X," he said.

Safari Beta 2 also allows users to import bookmarks from Netscape and Mozilla Web browsers and includes support for AppleScript, more standards compatibility and support for more languages such as Japanese, French and German.

Although other browsers have offered a tabbing feature, Apple thinks it may get used more in Safari.

"Because we've made it easy to use, we think we're going to bring it to a lot of people," Croll said.

The new browser can be downloaded from Apple's Web site.To run, it requires Mac OS X.

Apple said the test browser has been downloaded 2 million times since it launched Jan. 7. At the time of launch, analysts said Safari offered little challenge to Microsoft's browser dominance, but that the Mac maker could benefit enormously if it could wean itself from Internet Explorer.

Apple said it expects to have a final version of the program sometime later this year, but Croll declined to offer a more specific estimate. The company has also not said whether it eventually plans to charge for the browser, though Croll did say, "We want to have it in as many people's hands as possible."