The finished version of Apple's Safari 3.0 web browser will be the bundled browser in Leopard when Mac OS X 10.5 ships in October. It will also run on Windows XP.

You see, Leopard isn't the only OS that this Safari web browser update will run on - and we're not just referring to Tiger. Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently announced that Safari was joining the ranks of iTunes and QuickTime to become a cross-platform app that runs on Windows as well as Mac OS.

See also - Reviews: Parallels Desktop 3.0 - run Vista on a Mac and News: Apple's Safari for Windows hacked already

Here are some of the more compelling new features in Safari 3.0, which we're running as a beta on Mac OS X 10.4. We also took a quick detour into the land of Windows XP, courtesy of both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop, to see how well Safari works there.

Speed

During a recent keynote address to developers, Jobs discussed benchmark results that showed Safari to be the quickest of the "big three" browsers. (Microsoft's Internet Explorer (reviewed here) and Mozilla's Firefox (reviewed here) are the other two.) In our limited time with Safari 3.0, it certainly seems fast. However, we were hard pressed to note any substantial loading time differences between Camino, Firefox and Safari 3.0 on a MacBook Pro - they all handled a selection of test pages just fine.

Greatly improved find-on-page

We have a love/hate relationship with the Find function in most browsers - sure, it's great to be able to find something on a page, but it's nearly impossible to see those matches once they're found. Most browsers simply highlight the matches, and, on a page full of text, that can make spotting the matches very hard.

In contrast, Safari 3.0 makes it really easy to spot the matches. When you press Command-F and enter your search term, Safari dims the current page, shows matches with a bright white background, and shows the currently selected match with a can't-miss-it orange background.

This is a great improvement over the blind searching in the current version of Safari.

Draggable tabs

In Safari 3.0 you can now drag-and-drop tabs to rearrange them. You can also drag a tab out of the tab bar to create a window containing that tab. There doesn't seem to be a "put tab back" command, however. There is a Merge All Windows command in the Window menu, though, which will do the trick for all open windows - it will place them all into one new tabbed window and close the others as it does so.

Resizable text boxes

Don't you hate those websites with tiny little fill-in forms? Seems many places don't know that monitors are larger than 13in now, and that we can type more than 80 characters on a row. The new version of Safari takes care of that problem with its resizable text entry boxes.

This is a most useful feature, especially if you spend a lot of time working on web forms.

Other new stuff

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