Apple's Safari 3.0.4 strikes an excellent balance between the need for increased functionality and the need to add new functions.

Increasingly, web browsers have become the conduit through which we interact with the world around us. It's not just about reading web pages any more - browsers now act as multi-functional tools for watching video, listening to audio and chatting with our friends.

Because of these greater demands, browsers are not only becoming more sophisticated but also more complex.

In this increasingly demanding atmosphere, Apple's Safari 3.0.4 strikes an excellent balance between the need for increased functionality and the need to add new functions.

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The best browsers support the current web standards for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (the technologies that make web pages), so that pages load consistently regardless of your chosen technology. Apple constantly releases Safari updates so that the browser always has the latest features, including some cutting-edge web standards that haven't been officially released.

Safari already displays the toughest web pages like greased lightening. Add to that its intuitive interface, with tabs and an easy-to-use bookmarking system.

Safari keeps its interface clean and lean so that you can focus on the web page.

Safari 3 adds to this solid foundation by refining existing features and adding new functionality that enhances how you use the web. Refinements include the browser's new inline searching, which highlights all matching search terms as you type, and new PDF controls, which allow you to display and control this popular document format directly in the browser window without having to open a new application.

For Apple users, Safari's most striking new feature is Web Clip, an OS X 10.5-only addition. Web Clip allows you to select part of a web page and instantly turn it into a Dashboard widget. For example, let's say your favorite organisation has a news headline section on its homepage.

With Web Clip, all you have to do is "clip" the news box from that web page by clicking the Web Clip button next to Safari's address field, selecting the relevant section, and clicking the Add button.

Whenever you want to check headlines, all you have to do is switch to Dashboard to see your clipping. This may well be the future of how we interact with the web.

NEXT PAGE: complaints about lack of customisation, and our expert verdict

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Apple's Safari 3.0.4 strikes an excellent balance between the need for increased functionality and the need to add new functions.

One common complaint we hear about Safari is that the browser lacks customisation beyond basic adjustments such as security, fonts and which buttons show up in the Toolbar. Unlike Firefox and many other browsers, Safari does not allow users to use third-party add-ons to increase functionality or change the interface appearance, nor does it allow you to specify the default search engine in the toolbar, so you are stuck with Google.

These are fair complaints. Still, browsers that offer more add-ons and customisation are also prone to crashing and interface clutter. Safari's approach seems a fair trade off for simplicity and reliability.

See also:

Internet Explorer 8.0 beta review

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Safari 3.0.4: Specs

  • Windows XP or Vista
  • 256MB of RAM
  • 500MHz Pentium-class processor or better
  • Windows XP or Vista
  • 256MB of RAM
  • 500MHz Pentium-class processor or better

OUR VERDICT

Mac users who need a streamlined web browser for simply browsing the Web should use Safari 3. (So should their Windows counterparts, since Safari runs on both platforms, although naturally Safari doesn't integrate quite so well with Windows.) Safari has all of the features that most web surfers will ever need, it's extremely fast, and it integrates seamlessly with other Mac applications. However, heavy-duty users such as web designers will likely want to explore alternatives that allow them to enhance the web development capabilities of their browser with add-ons.

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