Safari 4 Public Beta released

Apple released the first public beta of Safari 4, bringing all the work done on WebKit for the first time to end users since Safari 3 came along with Leopard.

There has been definitely made leaps of progress in this fourth release, while the third release seemed less interesting, except for the Windows port. First of all is the new rendering engine dubbed Nitro, which can outperform any other web browser out there (Chrome, Firefox 3.1) when performing JavaScript and HTML based benchmarks (yes this also includes SquirrelFish Extreme). But Nitro is more than speed, Nitro shows Apple's eagerness to lead the pact in the web world by introducing CSS3 Web Fonts, HTML 5 media tags, CSS animation, and CSS effect. Of course Safari 4 already comes with ICC color profile support, and SVG 1.1. All of this leads to Safari 4 passing the Acid 2 and 3 tests.

But 'just' a new rendering engine isn't everything. Apple committed a lot of time on improving the overall user experience for this release. First of all there is "Top Sites" a feature similar to Google's Chrome where Safari creates a page of thumbnails with your most visited sites. Another new feature is Cover Flow. Yup, the iTunes (and Finder) feature has made its way into Safari, allowing you to see visual representations of your history and bookmarks. In short it can be said that both features look stunning compared with other web browsers.

A feature already found in Chrome, Opera and, more or less, in Firefox is full history search, meaning you don't need to remember a URL precisely, but just keyword of that page. The visual appearance of Safari 4 has also been improved. You'll first notice that the tabs are now positioned at the top of the window, rather than below the location bar. This gives a very Chrome-like feeling, but certainly isn't a bad thing. On the Mac the look has changed as well, everything uses the unified toolbar layout introduced by Leopar, and tabs have more vertical space as well as visual indicators for closing and moving. For Windows users the change is style is even more noticeable as it will now use much more of the native look, rather than an out-of-place look of a Mac application on Windows.

Of course there are many, many more features such as full-page zoom, smart address field (like the Firefox awesomebar, and Chrome's omnibar), smartt search field (auto-complete), phishing and malware protection,.

You can download Safari 4 for Mac (Tiger/Leopard) and Windows (XP/Vista) from Apple's web site. Do note that Mac users will need to restart.

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I think you'll find that Nitro is not a new rendering engine but just a new name for SquirrelFish (Extreme). Safari 4 has the same rendering engine as Safari 3, with small improvements.

You are correct, Nitro is a rebranding of SquirrelFish Extreme, the new JavaScript JIT compiler and not the entire engine (which also consists of WebKit for HTML/CSS/...).

Although I wouldn't call the changes small in Safari 4's rendering engine ;)

Having tried safari 4 for the past few days, tabs on top are actually starting to grow on me, and it makes me wonder if Mozilla will introduce something similar to a later version of firefox. I'm actually not a big fan of safari as I make heavy use of the available plugins for firefox, but I really like to see that they're pushing these new features, especially @font-face and better support for SVG images.

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