Apple announces Safari 4 public beta

Safari 4 is said to be much faster than the previous version and comes with new navigation features such as Cover Flow and Apple's take on FireFox's "awesome bar."

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read
Safari 4 will use the Cover Flow interface to let users search their browsing history. Apple

Apple on Tuesday announced the release of a public beta Safari 4 for Windows and Mac, promising a much faster browser with improved navigation and searching.

The company said the newest edition of Apple's browser for both Mac OS X and Windows will run JavaScript commands 4.2 times faster than Safari 3, and also claims to deliver better JavaScript and HTML page loading than Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 or Mozilla's FireFox 3. Apple also added the Cover Flow interface now found in almost every piece of its software to let users scroll backwards through browsing history as if they were flipping through album covers, and what appears to be Apple's own implementation of FireFox's Smart Location "awesome bar" called Smart Address Field.

The new beta version is available for download at Apple's Safari Web page with both Windows and Mac OS versions ready for testing. Mac users need to be running Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6 and Apple's latest security update or Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.11 on an Intel Mac or a G3 or better Mac. Windows users need Windows XP SP 2 or Vista.

Safari is used by about 8 percent of Internet surfers, according to Net Applications, trailing Internet Explorer and FireFox.

Update 6:50 a.m. PST: Apple senior director of system software Brian Croll said the performance improvements are the result of a new JavaScript engine called Nitro. Apple used the SunSpider benchmark to post the JavaScript results, and the iBench benchmark for the HTML numbers, he said.

Croll emphasized Safari 4's support for Web standards like HTML 5, which allows Web applications to work while offline, and CSS 3 for adding graphical effects. Safari 4 has passed the Acid3 test developed by the Web Standards Project, while FireFox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 have yet to do so, he said.

As far as changes that will be more visible to average users, Safari 4 moves the tabs from below the address bar to the very top of the window, and allows you to add a new tab by clicking a "+" sign in the uppermost right-hand corner of the window.

Apple added some new history browsing options, such as the aforementioned Cover Flow interface in the basic history view as well as a new feature called Top Sites, which checks the various Web sites you visit most frequently and arranges them in a grid pattern. If one of your Top Sites has published new content since the last time you visited, a white star on a blue background appears in the upper right-hand corner of the view for that site.

Windows users will notice a new "Windows-native look," according to Croll, that uses the standard Windows font rendering. Safari has been available as a Windows browser since June 2007.