Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Safari 4 Public Beta A First Look

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I always get excited at the prospect of trying out new software. What new features or innovations are we getting this time to make our lives a little easier and a little more productive is the questions I ask myself as I install the new software and eagerly await my first opportunity to take it for a test drive.

Well, this time Apple has really outdone themselves with Safari 4 Public Beta. Everything we wanted in a browser and more. First the browser chrome is totally minimized so your focus is on the webpage not everything around it. You can now drag your tabs out of your browser and move them into a new window or collapse multiple windows into a single window with tabs. It just makes it easier to organize your work flow to whatever works best for you the user. Also to minimize the chrome the tabs have been moved out of their own area above the bookmark bar and given their own space at the top of the window itself.

The rendering speed in Java thanks to the Nitro engine makes this the hands down fastest browser I have ever used! I use Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari on a daily basis both on Windows and Mac. Now there is nothing that comes close to the speed of Safari it is like the whole Internet just got a Turbo Boost! Safari also sports a new predictive loading feature so your browser can start loading pages before you even ask for them making load times even shorter.

The visuals of the new browser are just amazing as well. When you grab the right edge of a tab and pull it off the Window you get a thumbnail of the tab and when you release it it blows up into a full window ready to use.

New Developer tools lets you view pages as different browser types, view site elements, Resources, Scripts, and profile websites to show you where the performance issues lie. I can't wait to spend some real time digging into these features. It really gives developers an opportunity to make sites better and faster.

On opening your browser you can choose to be presented with a grid of your top sites you visit. Small, medium, or large you choose the amount of updated pages you see in this panorama. Click a site and it flies into the full window and you are off and surfing.

Even browsing bookmarks was rethought with the addition of Cover Flow. On first access it is a little slow while the browser goes and gets a thumbnail of each page. After that it is like surfing Cover Flow in your iTunes Library, or your data in the Cover Flow View is Leopards Finder. It is just so well thought out. You can even search for bookmarks based on keywords. You don't have to remember the site name just type in some things you remember and let Safari do the rest. Even your browser history is available in Cover Flow to find things fast and easy.

So far in my attempts to stress test the browser I opened over 85 tabs in one window and moved between them while downloading files, pulling tabs out to their own window and pushing other back into the first window. If you have multiple windows open you can even click Window / Merge All Windows and all of your browser windows consolidate down to one Window with multiple tabs instantly.

Safari has just moved way ahead of the pack in the browser wars and it seems everyone in this space is leaving Microsoft in the dust. With this browser a completely standards compliant platform it is sure to pick up a huge market share in the future and will be the browser that Windows and Mac users alike are sure to fall in love with.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reverse Switching?

In my years of working on Macs I have never known of anyone who was willing to switch back to a Windows PC after using a Mac. However after years of helping people make the transition I may have found the first one.

What motivates someone who has switched to a platform that frees them from Virus, Spyware, and unending security problems and hack attempts to go back to constant patching and the need to be distrusting and vigilant? Worried about Rootkits, botnets, and other dangers lurking on the Internet?

I am not saying the Mac will be safe from all of this forever at some point someone may come up with a way to infect a Mac on the Internet but for now it is very difficult to do and requires a user to actually install a program on the machine with Admin privileges to be infected. We saw the first two in the wild this year. One claiming to be Photoshop CS4 and the other claiming to be iWork 09. So as long as you are not downloading illegal software from the Internet you are fairly safe from the dangers lurking on the Internet.

Some users are still trapped on the Windows platform to a degree by companies like Intuit who keep promising Mac users versions of their software that will work on the Mac or websites that will work with browsers other than IE 6. At least design websites that work with Firefox and we will be set. Also companies like MLXchange the company that produces MLS for Real Estate Agents the end user portion works on any browser but the part the Real Estate Agent uses only works on Internet Explorer 6.

When will companies learn there are millions of users out there who want a choice? Who wants to make their computing life simple? We as Mac users do not really want to be forced into running Internet Explorer in an emulator or run Boot Camp or Parallels to do our daily work. Users forced to do this day in and day out can become frustrated and make them want to go back to Windows. Apple and Mac developers need to take a stand and start giving us real alternatives to the Windows domination we have lived with for years. While the Apple has become more compatible and things like VMWare, Parallels, and xVM Virtual Box from Sun have given Mac users the ability to run Windows the reality is we would like to stay in OS X, stay safe, and still run all of our programs.

Dealing with the heaviness of Virtual Machines and not one but two very complex Operating Systems exacts a heavy toll on the average user creating more frustration. It is time to make the computing experience easier and safer for business users as well as home users. Make the computer experience something they look forward to and don't have to fight with all the time.

It doesn't matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux. They are all very complex and unexpected things happen and not everything is as intuitive as we might like them to be. Not everyone wants to be a computer expert. Sometimes people just want to get their work done. Let's create an environment they can do just that.

Apple has the easiest to use of all the Operating Systems out there. So let's start getting software on Mac OS X so users don't have to switch back and forth all the time. Let's remove some of the complexity from end users computing lives. Let's help those that are thinking about switching back to Windows why they don't want to go back down that path.