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A Spotlight On Lion's Safari

Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion
By

Safari 5.1 for Mac OS X Lion has some pretty cool features that aren't in the Windows version. While none of the capabilities in this spotlight enhance performance, efficiency, reliability, or conformance in any way, they could very well mean more to a user than any of the above. Every one of these features is completely unique to Safari for Mac. And in requisite Apple fashion, they all display a certain level of polish that only Cupertino can pull off.

Full-Screen

While full-screen browsing is certainly nothing new (most Web browsers have had that option in their view menus for ages), the way in which Safari handles it is more functional than the traditional completely full-screen method. Oh, and the animation is slick, too.

Fullscreen in Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X Lion


While in full-screen view, the navigation and tab bars remain on-screen. There's no more hovering to the uppermost edge to reveal these important controls. However, hovering to the top of the screen does open the Mac global menu bar for full control. And the most important thing about the new full-screen feature is that it's the only way to maximize Safari. Since Mac OS X doesn't have a maximize button (it uses an "intelligent resize" button instead), we sure do welcome full-screen.

Multitouch Gestures

Like Lion itself, Safari 5.1 supports several multitouch gestures, provided you have a suitable input device.

Scroll

Swiping upward with two fingers causes the page to scroll down. Likewise, swiping downward with two fingers scrolls the page up. The scroll gesture also responds to momentum. The faster you swipe, the faster and farther it scrolls.

Back/Forward

Using the same two-finger swipe as the scroll gesture, performed left and right, controls navigation. Swiping two fingers to the right navigates to the previous page in your history, and swiping left moves forward.

The back and forward browser buttons are probably some of the most clicked-on controls in any UI. But never before has it been both faster and easier to use them as it is with multitouch gestures.

Back/Forward Multitouch Gesture in Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X Lion


Somewhat like the animations on tablets and certain e-readers, Safari mimics the page turning of books and magazines, which the Web never really tried to emulate (despite the fact we call them webpages).

Pinch-to-zoom

Like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, pinch-to-zoom now appears in OS X. Placing two fingers on the multitouch surface and moving them apart zooms the page in. Moving two fingers together causes the page to zoom out.

Tap-to-zoom

There is yet another way to zoom Safari with multitouch gestures in Mac OS X Lion. A double-tap with two fingers quickly zooms in on the portion of the screen near the cursor. A second two-fingered double-tap returns you to a neutral zoom level.

Reader

Apple has a unique feature in Safari called Reader. Reader essentially converts webpages into a clean "page," like you would expect to find in a PDF. This "page" is displayed above the original webpage, which is darkened out.

The Deus Ex 3 Article Before Safari ReaderThe Deus Ex 3 Article Before Safari ReaderAfter ReaderAfter Reader

One of the best parts about Reader is that it ditches sidebars and ads. Overall, we're pretty surprised at just how effective this feature is in focusing on and clarifying the actual content of the webpage. Here's Reader and the next feature, Reading List, in action:

Reader and Reading List in Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X Lion


While not a new feature, the updated implementation is slicker, and the whole "page" illusion works much better with multitouch.

Reading List

Another portion of Reader is the Reading List. The Reading List is a sidebar for saving webpages for later reading. Hence, Reading List.

Readin List Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X LionReadin List Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X Lion

When combined, full-screen, multitouch gestures, Reader, and Reading List succeed at making the Web look and feel like a traditional print publication. It really is fantastic. Not magical. Just fantastic.

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  • 5 Hide
    ne0nguy , August 29, 2011 4:22 AM
    The first chart says "higher is better" for the load time
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 4:29 AM
    ne0nguyThe first chart says "higher is better" for the load time

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 8 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    Chrome is the best browser out there right now. While FireFox maybe more popular then Chrome is, Chrome has shown why it is the best browser out today. If you haven't used Chrome yet it's def worth a look.
  • 0 Hide
    soccerdocks , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    The reader function in safari actually looks really nice. Although I'd never use Safari on principle. I hope other browsers implement a similar function.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 29, 2011 5:21 AM
    why does firefox(6/8/9) performa so horribly on the IE9 maze solover test?
    chrome13 completely obliterats it.

    and firefox 8/9 are still a memory hog.
    not really surprised by poor show of ie9. moat updates it gets are "security updates".
  • -5 Hide
    tofu2go , August 29, 2011 5:50 AM
    Being on a Macbook with only 3GB of memory, memory is the most important factor for me. I open a LOT of tabs and I keep them open for long periods. For awhile I used Chrome, but recently switched to Firefox 6 and saw my memory utilization drop by well over 1GB. Granted with Firefox I was able to do something I am not able to do in any other browser, I could group my tabs into tab groups. I believe this allows for more efficient memory management, i.e. only the current group uses much memory. Not having done any tests, this is pure speculation. All I know is that I'm seeing MUCH lower memory usage with Firefox on OSX. Despite what this article would suggest.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 6:00 AM
    @soccerdocks

    Yeah? And exactly what principle would that be?
  • -7 Hide
    andy5174 , August 29, 2011 6:09 AM
    @Google:
    Bring back the Google Dictionary, otherwise I will use Bing Search, Firefox and Facebook instead of Google Search, Chrome and G+.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , August 29, 2011 6:34 AM
    Quote:
    Firefox 6 comes in third for both OSes, representing a major drop from Firefox 5.

    According to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.
  • 2 Hide
    LaloFG , August 29, 2011 6:37 AM
    I keep Opera, more memory used and time to load pages is nothing when it load pages correctly; and the feeling in its interface is the greater.
  • 0 Hide
    noob2222 , August 29, 2011 6:53 AM
    while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 6:57 AM
    kartuAccording to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:09 AM
    On OSX browser 'vendors' are denied access to certain os hooks that would make their browsers better than they are.
  • 1 Hide
    yankeeDDL , August 29, 2011 8:14 AM
    Nice overview: thank you.
    These "browser" GP are getting more and more complete and the're always very interesting.
    I have to say, I am a bit surprised to see FF being so close to Chrome now: kudos to Mozilla.
    I have been using FF since 1.0 and only recently coupled it with Chrome (it is just convenient for me to have 2 completely different setups).
    FF 7.0 should have a significant boost in memory efficiency: if everything else stays the same, we´ll have a new champion ...
    But if anythin is clear from these reviews, is that nothing stays the same for very long in the browser´s domain (well, except IE).
    Looking forward to GP7, whenever that will be.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:40 AM
    Adam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.

    You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.
  • 9 Hide
    cookoy , August 29, 2011 9:35 AM
    Quote:
    Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times.


    And to think Apple hates Flash...
  • 0 Hide
    damasvara , August 29, 2011 9:54 AM
    Tried Chrome, but somehow it doesn't behave the way I wanted. Browsing pages is faster with Firefox on 384 kbps internet. Makes me wonder...
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:34 AM
    noob2222while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.

    There are no points in the analysis tables. They simply list how each browser rates per category of testing. The 'Strong' part of the table was added a long time ago and it basically means that it's right up there with the winner in terms of performance. When we get a solid point-based scoring system figured out 'Winner' will only receive a minor boost above 'Strong', whereas 'Strong' will receive a significant boost above 'Acceptable', and 'Acceptable' above 'Weak'. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer with every WBGP. The composite tests are a BIG step in that direction, and the new benchmark rankings further lay the groundwork for a fair scoring system which accurately reflects scale.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:51 AM
    tgreaderAdam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.

    The analysis tables were created to balance the raw placing tables. The problem with what you're saying is that you would have to decide which categories are more important than others. Is JavaScript more important than CSS? Is HTML5 more important than Flash? This is going to depend on who you ask. People who only watch Netflix with an HTPC will put mega emphasis on Silverlight perf, whereas the chronic YouTuber will be more concerned with Flash, and devs are going to gravitate towards standards conformance. Ranking benchmarks based on the importance of what they test isn't a one-size-fits-all type of thing with Web browsers. As far as your other suggestion, dealing with practical ties, this is something we definitely want to look into moving forward. Thanks!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 10:58 AM
    I had to switch to Chrome, FF was crashing like crazy here, and i only have Firebug add-on installed.
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