A Closer Look At Safari 4: How Does It Stack Up?

Features Comparison

Truthfully, most of these modern browsers share many of the same features. Tabbed browsing on all? Check. The ability to restart with all of the tabs that you had open when the browser was last closed? Check. Predictive text URL entry? You bet. They also feature convenient search boxes in the top-right corner; well, except for Chrome, which lets you just type your search query in the address bar and it automatically handles the Google search.

Firefox 3.5

In fact, outside of those few unique features in Safari 4 that we touched on earlier, all of the other important features are also found in the rivaling browsers. Firefox 3.5 doesn't have too many significant bonuses outside of its Private Browsing mode, TraceMonkey engine, Location Aware Browsing (to share your location with websites), newly-supported CSS features and improved use of resources. But the massive amount of add-ons is a huge boon for Firefox. By and large, this is the go-to browser for those sick and tired of IE 8. There is a huge development community out there supporting Firefox, and the amount of plug-ins and add-ons that make the browsing experience much better makes FF a hard option to ignore.

Firefox 3.5; Click To Enlarge

Opera 9.6
As for Opera 9.6? While it's definitely a dark horse in all of this, it does boast a few features that may be appealing to a ceratin sect. Opera Link enables users to synchronize data online among different computers and devices, so that your Opera browser is the same everywhere. It's like MobileMe, but unlike Apple's implementation, this won't cost you a yearly fee. There's also a Feed Preview, though most other browsers offer some sort of sneak peek into RSS feeds, if not in a less elegant form. Opera Mail is a new take on handling email, as it organizes, indexes and sorts your messages for you, and it's built right into the browser. The Trash Can is also a neat feature, which enables you to instantly re-open recently closed tabs, but it's not terribly unique; Firefox 3.5 can do the same thing, though you'll have to wade through the History pull-down to find it.

Opera 9.6 Predictive Text Entry; Click To Enlarge

Internet Explorer 8
Internet Explorer 8 is, without qualifications, the most sluggish and least advanced browser of the bunch. One could blame it on the "monopoly" of having it included with every copy of Windows sold (but hey, Apple does the same thing with Safari these days), but IE 8 is very similar to IE 6, just with a little more polish. The address bar area is still largely cluttered, and the browser just seems to "drag" in use. That said, Microsoft has included a few features that would be awesome in a browser that performed better, including Visual Suggestions--which offer up visual aids when entering search queries rather than just text-- and a Smart Address bar that can usually recall URLs by just typing a snippet from it. Granted, Firefox 3.5 does this as well (and impressively so, might we add), but we'll take it if it's all we've got. To be frank, IE 8 lags behind the rest in terms of radical features.

Internet Explorer 8; Click To Enlarge

Google Chrome
Out of all of Safari 4's competitors, we'd say Google's Chrome has the best shot at beating it in the unique features department. Fortunately for Apple, Chrome is a Windows-only application--for now. We have an idea that Chrome will eventually be released for OS X, and we wouldn't be shocked to see a Linux variant arrive too. Understandably, Chrome is the browser to get if you're really into Google Gears and Google Applications. Chrome provides easy-to-implement app shortcuts as well as Dynamic Tabs, which can be re-sorted, made into a new window, or gathered into a new window when talking about a cluster of tabs. Chrome also runs each tab as an independent process, so if one tab runs into problems, it shouldn't bring down your whole browser. Incognito mode rivals Firefox's Private Browsing mode, and the "obtrusive" download manager has been replaced with a simple bottom-bar notification of status.

Chrome Top Sites; Click To Enlarge

As with Google's Chrome over the PC side, Camino is a Mozilla-powered (think Firefox innards) browser built specifically for the Mac platform. The newest version, 1.6, doesn't offer too much in the way of extra features, and because it's so fundamentally similar to Firefox, most folks side with FF due to its wide library of plug-ins. Indeed, with Camino touting common features such as session saving, feed detection, spell-checking, AppleScript support and Keychain support, you can tell that it doesn't have a lot of extras to brag about.

Camino 1.6; Click To Enlarge

Related content