How I Learned to Love Safari
The first graphical browser was Mosaic. I remember the awe at what I saw (if you had been around in 1995 and seen the state of the web you would laugh).
I’ve used Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and for most of the last 4 years, Google Chrome.
But about 2 months ago, I dived deep in to Safari. And I’m glad I did. Let me tell you why, and why I think you ought to do the same.
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Around Christmas of last year (2012), I was having problems with my MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It was frustrating. I couldn’t figure out the cause of the issue (Apple replaced the computer eventually).
In an effort to isolate the cause of the problems, I finally took a deeper look. My conclusion? I couldn’t blame any one thing, but in the process of looking I discovered that whereas it had started out as a light weight and snappy browser, Google Chrome had grown into a behemoth. And while it continues to be a great browser, especially on a Windows platform, it was not what I wanted on my Mac.
I turned to Safari, which I had only used intermittently since I bought my first Mac back in 2009.
Initial thoughts about Safari
My initial feeling about Safari was one of bewilderment.
Here was a browser built on the same layout engine as Google Chrome (Webkit), but which seemed so very different. I had to learn to think different in order to use it as my primary browser (on Mac). Incidentally, how very Apple of Apple to actually force people to “think different” about a browser.
I noticed pretty quickly that the browser was pretty fast on Mac OS. I haven’t done research to reach that conclusion. You can find plenty of tests across the interwebs to satisfy your needs.
My impression initially was that Safari was very close to the speed of Google Chrome. Fast enough to make the browser speed of rendering pages pretty much a draw.Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mountain Lion Edition (Missing Manuals)
But my main thought in the first weeks of using Safari was how unlike Chrome or Firefox it felt.
For instance, adding extensions in Chrome is super easy. And there is an entire universe of extensions in Chrome that is astounding. It seemed, initially, as if customizing Safari wasn’t really easy. I felt like Safari wasn’t able to do what Chrome did.
This made me reevaluate what I wanted my browser to actually be and to do for me. And it occurred to me that it might well have been all those extensions (I have 26) installed on Chrome, that was causing my perception of Chrome to be what it was.
Which sort of brings me back to how very Apple Safari feels–how very much like a walled garden. Not a prison, but a protected green space, verdant and enjoyable. Chrome felt like a wild world, fully of promise, but so very wide open (to customize) that I didn’t realize how my own choices regarding Chrome was impacting (negatively) its performance.
How I Learned to Love Safari
Despite not being initially excited about my inability to customize Safari in the same way that I could customize Chrome, I decided to stay with Safari until I could use it comfortably.
After a week I discovered that the more I let Safari be Safari, and not think of it as I did/do Chrome, the better the experience would be.
There are distinct advantages to Safari on the Mac platform.
1. Because it is native to the OS, it integrates exceptionally well with the entire operating system.
2. Mac OS has a native spell check functionality that works just like you have experienced in iOS (assuming you own an iPhone or iPad). That shines through in native Mac apps.How to Do Everything iCloud
3. The address bar is smart. Nothing too exotic about that. Chrome’s is too. Just like Chrome the address bar functions as a search box. But the functionality in the address bar I especially like is it’s presentation of your recent history that corresponds to what you type. This makes accessing web pages you have visited recently exceptionally easy, not requiring more than a single click.
4. Problems with network connectivity show up as a spinning beach ball in Safari. Some people might find this annoying, but it is actionable information presented in context.
5. Stability. Chrome had been my favorite browser for a long time, but it seemed to me to become increasingly unstable over the past 6 months. Whereas all tabs being sandboxed, ostensibly to prevent a single tab from hosing your entire system, Chrome had become a cause of system degradation over recent months. When I switched to Safari, I noticed an immediate improvement in my Mac’s overall performance. This could just be my perception, and I certainly don’t have anything concrete to prove that, so take it for what it’s worth.
6. Extensions. Yes, Safari does have extensions, and though they may not be as numerous nor as easy to find as Chrome’s, they are there, and they are genuinely useful. To add them to Safari you simply select Safari from the menu bar, and Safari Extensions from the drop down. Virtually all of the extensions I used in Chrome or something doing the same thing but named differently can be found for Safari.
There are a few things I still miss from Chrome, and wish there was a way to accomplish in Safari, specifically the ability to “Pin” a tab open (in Chrome pinned tabs move to the left of the tabs in the browser). Pinning tabs resize them to be less obtrusive, freeing up more space to the right. Tab management in general is not as easy in Safari. I use Glims to add a site’s favicon to the tab (I need the visual cue as about what site a tab is open to).
So, there you have it. I am very comfortable in Safari on Mac now, and plan to stay here a while.
What about you? Have you used Safari? What is your favorite browser? Why? Tell me about it in the comments below.