Friday, July 13, 2007

Browser Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Apple

Finally we get to Safari, Apple's web browser ported over to Windows, and I must say I am very unimpressed. I realize this is still in beta, but, as a browser, it's sadly behind all the rest.

The first problem is that Safari just doesn't get tabbed browsing. The default is to always open a new window for any links that require one; in order to use a tab, you have to hold down CTRL while clicking. Compare that to Opera, which opens new links in a tab, or MSIE and Firefox, which tries to figure out which is the best option (and do it fairly well). This seems like a very grudging acknowledgement that, "Yeah, Marketing says we need to have tabbed browsing." Even worse, there is no button to create a new tab. (There is a button to report bugs; hopefully, once the beta version is complete, this will be replaced; otherwise the idea that it's more important to easily report bugs than to open a tab seems to say, "we expect there to be problems.")

There's also the built-in search. Where other browsers give you many choices of search engines for the bar (and MSIE and Opera allow you to add any site's search engine to the search), Safari gives you two: Google and Yahoo.

The way Safari handles bookmarks is different without being better. Other browsers have a dropdown list of bookmarks, along with a way of creating a toolbar of your favorites. Safari has no dropdown list, just the toolbar. The problem with a horizontal toolbar vs. a vertical dropdown list is that it holds fewer items. Safari figures you can create folders; if you click on these, it will give you a dropdown list; each list works like a the usual "Bookmark" menu item. You can make these work, but it requires added management of bookmarks. If you do want to do things this way, though, both MSIE and Opera are capable of it.

The handling of RSS feeds is crude to say the least. Again, Opera leads by notifying you on startup if any of your RSS feeds have new items. MSIE and Firefox will show you the new items within the browser without having to go to the page. But Safari only gives you a link to the RSS feed page; you have to go to the page the check for updates.

In addition, there are no add-ins available, so what you get is what you get.

I really hope that this Beta is still being worked on, because right now, Safari is far less useful than any other browser.