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Good news for Web developers: Safari 3 does Windows

Apple has ported Safari to Windows with version 3. You can download the beta version of Safari 3 from Apple's site. Find out why Tony Patton thinks this new formidable browsing option is just what Web developers need.

A few years ago, I developedĀ a Web application that worked as planned in every browser tested, but it failed miserably when viewed in Safari. Since I don't use an Apple computer, it has been a chore to properly test an application in Safari — until now.

Apple has ported Safari to Windows XP and Windows Vista with version 3. You can download the beta version of Safari 3 from Apple's site. This new formidable browsing option is just what Web developers need.

Features

Safari 3 has all of the features that users expect: tabbed browsing with support for drag-and-drop support for tabs; inline search toolbar; built-in RSS; pop-up blocker; robust security; and an overall easy-to-use interface. There is a handful other features that stand out.

  • Bookmark support: This makes it easy to manage My Favorites with an interface along the lines of managing music in iTunes.
  • Private browsing: This feature allows you to browse without maintaining a digital footprint like cookies and browsing history.
  • SnapBack: This feature allows you to easily return to a page with one click of the mouse.
  • User interface: The browser's UI follows the look-and-feel of Apple, so it is a change for Windows users. However, the UI is intuitive, so I had no problems using it.
  • Performance: One feature included with the browser announcement is performance statistics that suggest Safari 3 outperforms Internet Explorer 7 by a 2-to-1 margin, with Firefox 2 somewhere in the middle. This applies to loading HTML, JavaScript, and application startup. While Safari 3 loaded without hesitation for me and quickly rendered requested sites, it is hard to discern a performance advantage over a competitor when the difference is a second or two. I need to conduct more tests to get a better idea of which browser performs best.

WebKit

I find it interesting that the open source browsing engine WebKit is at the core of Safari. WebKit was originally derived from the KHTML software library of Konqueror. Apple, Nokia, Google, and other companies have contributed to the development efforts to extend this core engine.

WebKit is broken down into two smaller frameworks called WebCore and JavaScriptCore. These frameworks provide the features for Web browsing and JavaScript interpretation, respectively. (These frameworks are available for Mac OS X application development to add Web content rendering capabilities.)

The WebKit Open Source Project site provides loads of information about using it in your own projects or using some of the tools offered on the site. One positive aspect of Safari for developers is the availability of tools.

(A couple of asides: While WebKit is at the core of Safari, it is also used in other browsers for mobile platforms like the iPhone and offerings from Nokia. In addition, it was used to build Google's Android platform.)

Tools

Safari cannot match Firefox when it comes to developer add-ons and tools, but it does offer tools and options for Web developers with Drosera and the Web Inspector.

Drosera Drosera is a JavaScript debugger that you may use with Safari. It is available for download from the WebKit site. It is included with the WebKit nightly builds, which may be downloaded for Windows or Mac platforms. It requires Safari 3 beta or higher.

Drosera runs in its own window and provides most of the debugging features that you would expect. This includes the ability to step through code, breakpoints, a command console, and access to the variable and function stack.

The Drosera page states that it is not currently available on the Windows platform, but it was available when I downloaded the nightly build on Feb. 2, 2008. Drosera has a way to go to compete with Firebug, but it does offer a usable tool.

Web Inspector Web Inspector allows you to get an inside look at a Web page and examine the DOM hierarchy and page resources. Like Drosera, it is included with the WebKit nightly builds.

Once you install Web Inspector, it is available via a context menu called Inspect Element, which you can access with a right-click of the mouse. You right-click on a Web page to open the DOM for the page with the currently selected item highlighted.

After the highlighted item is selected, Web Inspector opens in its own window and provides a split screen view of the page. Page resources are listed on the right; this includes HTML documents, CSS stylesheets, images, and scripts. The source of each selected element on the right is displayed in the left-hand portion of the window.

An interesting aspect of Web Inspector is the Network selection; it provides details about all of the resources used on the current page. This includes file size, load time, and so forth.

A growing browser market

Steve Jobs said the introduction of Safari 3 for Windows will help increase share of the browser market, where Safari currently has five percent.

On one hand, it surprises me that Safari 3 is available for Windows users because Apple always seems to keep to themselves and its own technology; yet, it makes sense to make Safari available on the most popular platform (Windows) to increase market presence.

As a developer, I am thrilled at the opportunity to easily test applications for Mac users, and the Safari browser is intriguing; it offers another option with a cool interface.

Are you currently using Safari? Do you plan on using Safari 3 on Windows? Out of all the browsers you use, which one do you think performs best? Share your thoughts with the Web Developer community.

Additional resources about Safari 3 on TechRepublic

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

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Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

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