New Safari Features Added Since OS X Yosemite

This Is Not Your Father's Safari Browser

Safari Features
Safari's new method for displaying your favorite web sites. Courtesy of Apple

Safari underwent some key internal and external changes with the advent of OS X Yosemite. Old favorites such as Top Sites and Tabs are still present while new features including the brand new Nitro Javascript engine have been added. With the new attention Safari is receiving from Apple, I expected Safari to remain one of the leading browsers for many years to come.

 

Safari User Interface

Safari's makeover goes much deeper than how it presents itself to the user, but let's start with the UI anyway, and then work our way into Safari's internal plumbing to uncover its new capabilities.

The UI changes let Safari concentrate on presenting web content; the Safari we're used to puts itself first and content second. You'll notice the difference right away. The out-of-the-box configuration of the new version of Safari sports a single unified bar for entering addresses, performing searches, pulling up bookmarks, or using installed Safari extensions. The purpose of this unified bar is to allow Safari to devote more room to actual web content. If you prefer, you can bring back some of the previous bars, such as the bookmarks or tab bar.

I think I'll be turning on the old bookmarks bar. During the on-stage demo of Safari's new smart bar, the presenter showed how clicking in the smart search field causes a grid display of your favorites to drop down from the bar. The demo showed a neat grid of 12 icons representing someone's favorite web sites. I probably have more than a hundred favorite web sites, organized into folders on my Safari bookmarks bar, so I'm looking forward to seeing how well this feature works in real-world use.

If you have a small collection of favorites, it may work quite well.

Tabs have also been enhanced in Safari. You can view all of your tabs as thumbnails, similar to the way the older Safari Top Sites feature displayed your favorite web content; it will now be easier to see and switch between tabs. Safari can group tabs for you or you can create your own tab groups, for better organization and easy access.

Moving along to additional UI features, Safari's Private Browsing mode, which allows you to browse the Internet without storing any tracking cookies or creating a browser history, will now have its own visual style to remind you that Safari is in Private Browsing mode. That's a nice change from the current version of Safari, where you pretty much have to guess whether you're working in Private Browsing mode or not. (Of course, you can just check the Safari menu to see if Private Browsing has a check mark next to it, but the new method saves a step.)

Safari Searches

The universal bar will support searches, just like the current bar does, but there will be a difference in how results are displayed. Safari will let you preview the links on the search results page, without having to open the linked content. Think of this as more of a quick peek, to help you decide whether the linked web page is really where you want to go.

Additional HTML5 Support

Under the hood, Safari picks up support for WebGL a leading standard for 3D web graphics. Apple also made passing mention of its intent for Safari to support HTML5 premium video. Safari already supports many HTML5 video codecs and services, but the mention of premium video suggests that the new version of Safari will have a DRM (Digital Rights Management) module of some type, to allow playback of content from various studios.

New JavaScript Engine

One of the biggest features of the upcoming Safari browser will be a new JavaScript engine. JavaScript is the heart of any browser, and how quickly a browser can process JavaScript determines how fast the browser is. Safari has seen its JavaScript engine, and, therefore, its overall performance, rise and fall over the years, but in the last few years, the trend has been down, down, down. Safari has been surpassed by Google Chrome and Opera, and is just barely keeping ahead of Firefox.

Apple claims the new Nitro JavaScript engine is up to 2x faster than Chrome in page rendering.

We'll put the new version of Safari to the test later this year, but in the meantime, you can see where the current version ranked in our April 2014 Browser Bakeoff.