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Thursday, October 18, 2007, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Road to Mac OS X Leopard: Safari 3.0


Apple Launches Safari

After being left for three years with a stagnant version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer on the Mac, Apple announced the public beta release of its own new web browser at the January 2003 Macworld Expo. While many expected Apple to release a customized browser based upon Mozilla's Gecko engine, Apple instead chose to base its browser upon KHTML, the engine powering KDE's Konquerer browser.
 
This is particularly interesting because Apple had hired Dave Hyatt in 2002, who had been working for Netscape since 1997. Hyatt created the Camino browser and was a co-creator of Firefox, both of which were based on Gecko. By the time Apple began work on Safari in 2002, Mozilla had a few years of development effort invested in its new Gecko engine. However, KDE had invested a similar amount of time in its own KHTML browser engine, which began in 2000. KDE's engine was faster, smaller, and offered better support for web standards.
 
Rather than using Gecko, Apple chose to enhance the KHTML rendering engine, replacing its dependancies on the Qt toolkit with an adapter that wrapped the engine with a Cocoa friendly Objective-C API. That enabled Apple to preserve as much portability and commonality with KHTML as possible. The result was the open source WebCore library. Paired with Apple's JavaScriptCore, similarly based on KDE's kjs JavaScript engine, the entire package is called WebKit. That framework is used by a number of Mac applications to render HTML content, including Safari.
 
Safari adds user interface features to WebKit in the same way Firefox adds a user interface to the Mozilla Gecko engine. Like Mozilla, Apple earns some revenue from partnerships with Google. However, the main reason for developing its own browser has been to ensure the Mac platform isn't left with a second class web browser.

Safari 1.0 (below) introduced innovative bookmark organization and featured a slim user interface profile to show-off the web content being displayed rather than the browser's own buttons.

Leopard: Safari 3.0


Safari 2.0, released with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, was commonly called Safari RSS in Apple's marketing to feature its built in support for parsing syndicated RSS feeds (below). It also supported a private browsing mode, parental controls, and saving website content locally as a web archive. Safari had also advanced in its support for web standards and in rendering speed in a series of regular update releases.

Leopard: Safari 3.0


Apple released Safari 3.0 (below) in June as part of the WWDC private release of Leopard, but also as a public beta for users of Mac OS 10.4 Tiger. Apple also offered a version for Windows XP and Windows Vista in an effort to spread the adoption of its Safari browser and make it easier for web developers to perform cross platform compatibility testing.

The new version of Safari featured improved searching within web pages, the resizing of text input fields within a page, drag and drop tabs, and the ability to save a group of tabs as a single bookmark. Apple also touts major speed improvements, claiming page rendering that's up to twice as fast as Internet Explorer 7, and JavaScript performance that is up to 2.8 times as fast as IE 7.

Leopard: Safari 3.0


Safari 3.0 on Leopard

Running on Leopard, Safari loses the brushed metal frame it has always had, and adopts the standard unified appearance of other Leopard apps. On Windows, Safari is already there, although its close box is strangely on the wrong end of window's title bar.

Safari in Leopard also has a new feature called Web Clip. Click the scissor toolbar icon, and Web Clip allows you to select an area of a web page as a web clipping widget for use in Dashboard. The selection arrow turns into a box that locks onto specific regions of the page in the same way the iPhone's Safari identifies areas for zooming in when its display is double tapped. You can also create a freeform box that can cut out any arbitrary section of a web page.

Once selected, the region becomes a live widget in Dashboard that works identically to loading the full page a Safari window. Clippings can be assigned a custom frame design, and you can load any number of clippings into the Dashboard.

The new Safari can also purge history items at a set schedule, either every day, week, two weeks, a month, annually, or manually. Like other Leopard-savvy apps, it also defaults to directing downloads to the new Downloads users folder, and those files are tagged with the date and time they were downloaded. When you open them, the Finder warns you that the file was downloaded from the Internet, and tells you when, flagging any potential malware as suspicious.

Leopard also indexes a full text content search of bookmarked web pages and history items, so when you search through your history or bookmarks looking for information on a previously viewed page, you don't have to recall the website, the page title, or anything in URL; you can simply search for the word you are after.

While the rest of Mac OS X Leopard doesn't come out for another eight days, you can download Safari 3 now for free, both for Mac OS X Tiger and for Windows.

Check out earlier installments from AppleInsider's ongoing Road to Leopard Series: iCal 3.0, iChat 4.0, Mail 3.0, Time Machine; Spaces, Dock 1.6, Finder 10.5, Dictionary 2.0, and Preview 4.0.