Mossberg reviews Apple’s Safari 4 Public Beta: ‘Succeeds at speed, flops on features’

“Last week, Apple released a new version 4 of Safari, for Mac and Windows, that it claims is the world’s fastest browser, and that has a number of new graphical features Apple says will make it easier to navigate the Web. Safari 4 is labeled as a beta, and both the Windows and Mac versions are free downloads at,” Walt Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“First, let’s talk about speed. I tested Safari 4 on multiple Macs, and on multiple Windows PCs running Vista and XP… The results were striking. In nearly every case, Safari 4 was much faster than any of the other browsers. In many of my tests, it required only a third or a half of the time to load a given page, or a group of sites, as the other browsers did, even though all were running on the same computer and the same Internet connection,” Mossberg reports. “I was especially interested to see that Safari 4 for Windows blew away Google’s Chrome in my tests.”

Direct link to video here.

“I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the other changes in Safari, but I can’t. Apple’s worst decision was to move the tabs that represent open pages to the very top edge of the browser screen, above all the toolbars and menus, instead of below the toolbars and menus, where they have traditionally resided,” Mossberg reports.

“Apple’s implementation, in my opinion, makes the tabs harder to see and use on a crowded computer screen and separates the tabs too much from the content in the pages they represent,” Mossberg reports. “In another unfortunate choice, Safari 4 has done away with the progress bar that shows how much of a page has loaded. The company says it did this because Web pages are now so complex that the bar was no longer fully accurate. But I believe users like to see where they are in the page-loading process, even if it’s only a rough approximation.”

Mossberg reports, “I am not alone in this sentiment. Already, Apple-oriented Web sites which normally defend the company’s every move are publishing instructions on how to hack Safari 4 to restore the old tab system and the progress bar.”

Read Mossberg’s full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: Those “Apple-oriented Web sites” that Uncle Walt mentions includes us. We are not ones to embrace change simply for the sake of change; we embrace good change, not bad.

Here’s what we’ve been saying since Safari 4 Public Beta’s release day, along with the instructions on how to fix Apple’s ill-conceived UI mistakes in Safari 4 Public Beta for those who might have missed them:

It’s highly likely that we use the Safari web browser more than, or at least as much as, any living person. 16, 18, and even more hours per day. When the very first thing we did after the first day with Safari 4 Public Beta was to fire up the Terminal to nuke the poorly-thought-out tabs, restoring them back under the Bookmarks Bar where they belong, and re-enable the blue loading bar behind the URL, then Apple has a problem.

Hopefully, Apple is listening: Rethink and rework the current default Tabs in Safari 4 Public Beta before the final release.

To fix Safari 4 Public Beta, just do this:

$ defaults write DebugSafari4TabBarIsOnTop -bool NO
$ defaults write DebugSafari4IncludeToolbarRedesign -bool NO
$ defaults write DebugSafari4LoadProgressStyle -bool NO

Then just relaunch Safari for the changes to take effect and go to View>Customize Toolbar> and add newly-enabled the Stop/Reload button, so that Safari 4 Public Beta looks and works like this:

For more info on changing and restoring Safari 4 Public Beta features, see "Safari 4 Hidden Preferences," here.

Apple should at least provide the ability to do what we've done above via the final version of Safari 4's preferences.

Safari 4 Public Beta with "classic" tabs and blue progress bar is the ultimate Web browser available today.

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