Full Review: Apple Safari 4 Beta

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"Safari 4 is the fastest and most efficient browser for Mac and Windows, with great integration of HTML 5 and CSS 3 web standards that enables the next generation of interactive web applications," proclaims Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing.

Safari prompts you to install Bonjour for Windows and Safari Desktop shortcuts. Bonjour is the applet used to aggregate content from attached devices as well as your hard drive. It's not an essential part of the Safari experience.

Having specified whether these two extras should load along with Safari and accepted Apple's licence agreement, you get a rather odd Apple thankyou message that stalled the installation progress. What it actually means is we needed to quit the existing web browsing page so everything could be updated. It would have made sense to say so.

Once the installation has finished, and you've gone through the rigmarole of restarting your PC, you'll be able to start using the Safari 4 beta. Unless you've specified a home page, the main window will be black - something we can only hope Apple changes in the final release as it looks plain wrong.

To set your website as the home page, you need to click the Sprocket icon to the right of the Safari home page and click the Preferences option the drop-down list. You can then enter a new web address as your desired home page.

At first glance, Safari is a plain-seeming browser, but, as soon as you start typing in web addresses or entering a search term, things pick up. If you were already using Apple Safari as your web browser, the Top Sites tab should already be populated; if not, you might want to start by having a look at what Apple deems Popular.

The tab on the right of the links options immediately below the web-address bar in Safari 4 proffers a drop-down list of sites such as eBay, Amazon, Craigs List, Flickr and so forth. You can optionally view these as a succession of tabs that runs across the top of the browser window. If you find these less-than-inspiring, press the + button and, rather than being offered the option to add items that are Popular with you rather than Apple, you get a list of Top Sites.

Much like Google's Chrome browser, this list is displayed as a set of visual thumbnails of sites you frequently visit. The thumbnails are 'live', meaning that you can see what's currently on the main page, rather than being shown what was uppermost on your last visit. You can flick through these if you're using a touchscreen display or zip through them with a mouse. The experience is similar to the Cover Flow feature in iTunes or on the latest iPods and iPhone.

See also: Google Chrome review

In any case, Safari remembers what you looked at, the pages you visited on each site and records useful keywords so you can easily call up previously-visited information.

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