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Apple Releases Safari 4 Beta

Apple have suddenly released a beta version of Safari 4 (external link), their web browser, which they seem to be marketing as the latest version that people should use, so it must be fairly stable at the minute. The new features are both cosmetic and under-the-hood.

The rendering engine now uses a much newer version of Webkit, which supports things like HTML 5 with offline storage and passes the Acid3 test. Safari 4 also features the Nitro Engine, a much faster JavaScript engine, which should help to keep pass with Mozilla Firefox 3.1's enhanced JavaScript implementation.

Screenshot of Apple Safari 4\'s new tabs-on-type style

More cosmetically, it now uses the same "tabs on top" style that Google Chrome launched with. It works well enough and it looks pretty great, even on Windows Vista. The Windows version now has a more native feel and does not use the horrible brushed-metal look. It now doesn't stick out like a sore thumb on a Windows desktop.

Screenshot of Apple Safari 4\'s new Top Sites page

Another big feature is the Top Sites page. It's a very similar implementation to Opera's Speed Dial, Google Chrome's initial tab, and the Fast Dial plugin for Firefox. They've also added Cover Flow to the bookmarks page. However, I've always found Cover Flow to be really annoying to use and it never really adds anything at all to the experience of finding and selecting something. Thankfully, it's possible to hide it; however, it will leave a large black box at the top of the screen.

Overall, it's a very capable web browser. However, there are no features to really write home about. Most of the features are already in other browsers and Safari doesn't actually add much to these features.

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