Thursday, July 21, 2011

Safari for Windows, a fine alternative to IE and Chrome

Until Google Chrome came along, Safari was everyone's favorite WebKit-based browser and the hottest kid on the block. Now Safari's position in terms of usage share is at number four behind Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Still, it's an excellent browser for Windows too, not just Mac OS X. Apple has since long, addressed all of the concerns Windows users have had with early versions - like its look which didn't look "native" to Windows, or the ability to use Windows font rendering or the option of not having to install Bonjour. They even support hardware acceleration on Windows XP (okay it's not as great as Direct2D on Windows 7), but it's better than nothing, something which the new evil browser from Microsoft does not even attempt to do. And Google Chrome still lacks basic end user features such as the ability to save as a single web archive or a decent find-on-this-page function. Safari even has Inline AutoComplete like IE.

Yesterday, Apple released Safari 5.1 which brings several great improvements - notably, WebKit 2 along with its split process model, a reading list feature, new CSS3 features, new privacy features such as viewing the data websites store, HTML5 media caching, MathML and WOFF support, download manager improvements and auto session resume (a feature that IE8 did away with!).

With IE9 also doing away with the search box, Firefox losing its way and Chrome still targeting minimalists, I think Safari will now be my primary browser of choice. Its user interface remains more customizable than IE9, it doesn't abandon Windows XP users (not yet at least), and doesn't try to ape other browsers, losing its originality. I highly recommend Safari over Google Chrome v999, Firefox 4/5/6/7/8 or whatever and IE8/IE9.

As a bonus feature, only Safari manages to correctly save user names and passwords on the new Hotmail sign-in page that Microsoft put in place of the now discontinued Live Sign-in Assistant. All other major browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera) do not save and autofill Live ID passwords.

Now the reason why I recommend you try Safari is because IE9 is utterly dumbed down. I like the superior usability of Internet Explorer until IE9 came along and destroyed it completely in a single release.

Edit: All good things come to an end, while the bad things always continue. Apple has discontinued Safari for Windows probably because it was unpopular. :( More scope for the evil Explorer team to spread their evil and dumb down internet browsing to a chromeless-frame without any features.

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