- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

In the space of three days last week, about 500,000 users of Apple Computer's Macintosh, at least those running the Jaguar version of OS X, downloaded a public Beta of the firm's new Internet browser, Safari.
I was one of those people, and so far, Safari free during the Beta stage is quite a trip. Apple says it's the fastest Web browser for Mac users; it's also rather spiffy. The new software is not I repeat, not quite ready for prime time, or for primary use as a Web browser by serious surfers or information workers. But it's a very good start.
The first thing any user will notice about Safari is that its screen looks very clean. There's a small bar at the top showing Web addresses and key commands, as well as a permanent search window that links to the Google search engine. Below the address bar is an area where some predefined links are included. You can augment these with your own bookmarks easily by dragging and dropping a Web address onto an adjacent space, or, as I did with the Web address for this newspaper, onto the "News" button, which reveals a drop-down list of news sources.
Next on the must-notice list is that pages do load very, very quickly. The firm says, "Safari's highly-tuned rendering engine loads pages over three times faster than Microsoft's Internet Explorer for the Mac and runs Javascript over twice as fast." I have no reason to doubt this at least for those of us who have fast Internet connections. A dial-up user of my acquaintance didn't notice a tremendous speed bump, however, when he did an initial test.
But faster Internet connections are something many of us have, and more of us will have eventually. Even those who don't get the service at home will be able to log on to faster connections via wireless stations at Starbucks coffee shops and other outlets, making this less of an issue.
Typefaces in Safari are a bit cleaner than in some other browsers, and the overall appearance for so-called "default" typefaces is reminiscent of the OmniWeb (www.omniweb.com) browser for the Mac, which, Apple says, is not the basis for this product. Increasing or decreasing type sizes on a page follows the usual Mac convention of pressing either the Command-plus sign or Command-minus sign key combinations.
One of the nicest features of Safari is that it really does seem to block the pop-up and pop-under ads that accompany many Web sites. With Safari, a check of the activity window showed that ads tried to get in, but in vain.
What are the negatives of this new browser? A couple. While it worked well logging into a Microsoft Outlook server system, where I troll for e-mail, Safari only went so far into my bank's system, and then things stopped. To check my balance, I needed a more established browser.
Copying text from Web pages is not an uncommon practice for writers, researchers and, of course, denizens of Internet discussion groups. But unlike many browsers, clicking on the right button of the mouse (or, if using Apple's mouse, pressing the option key while clicking the single mouse button) doesn't yield copy as a minimenu option. This can be fixed, but the lack is annoying.
I like having the Google search feature built-in; click on a snap-back button and you can return quickly to your last search results. The same go-back feature is in the main Web address bar.
Best of all, for now, the cost for a copy of Safari is, well, zero. Apple, reportedly, doesn't plan to charge for the browser, though that could change. What really would be exciting, of course, would be to have this program available not only for Mac users, but also in some version for the PC folks. For now, check out the one-and-only Mac version at www.apple.com/safari.
E-mail MarkKel@aol.com, or visit his Web site, www.kellner2000.com.


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