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A Spotlight On Lion's Safari

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

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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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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