Safari vs Mozilla

Safari with Gmail is just one frustration after another, so I moved to Camino and I never thought I’d look back. But now I use Mailplane to access my Gmail e-mail, and there’s no compelling reason for me to stay on Camino anymore, so I thought I’d give Safari another try as my main browser.

Speed

Camino is fast, much faster than Firefox, but Safari is still the fastest. In my unscientific and perceived tests, Safari seems to render pages just a fraction of a second faster than Camino, but its the frequency of the lock-ups I get from Camino — especially when I try to open multiple tabs — is my biggest annoyance with it.

Rendering

Text rendering in Safari has historically been superior to Gecko, but the new 3.0.3 seems to have taken a turn for the worse. Originally, when faced with a typeface that didn’t have a natural italic, it substituted with an appropriate alternative, which is much superior to Firefox and Caminos method of faking the italics by slanting the roman text.

With the new 3.0.3 Safari, they have reversed this decision and are now faking the italic font. In my opinion this doesn’t look anywhere near as nice as replacing the font, but more importantly the slanted roman Lucida Sans is not as legible as using Lucida Grande Italic:

Safari 2.0: Safari 2.0 Italic Text Rendering

Safari 3.0.3: Safari 3.0.3 Italic Text Rendering

The next version of Camino is supposed to use the cairo graphics library, which in turn can use the newer Core Image instead of the current Quickdraw. This gives all Gecko based browsers — including the next version of Camino — a much better “italic font faker”. In general cairo renders text very well indeed, and a more in-depth look is needed once more stable browsers are released — the latest trunk build of Camino renders all italic text as roman, so currently I’m unable to test it.

Tabs

After using Firefox with Tab Mix Plus and Safari 3.0.3, Camino tabs feel old and tired. You can’t rearrange them, a huge downer for me as I like to organise my tabs into my own little groups, and there’s no way to configure it to open new tabs to the right of the currently open tab, instead of at the far right.

This isn’t to say Safari tabs are perfect, infact without the add-ons mentioned below it would be almost impossible to use Safari. But with the add-ons I much prefer Safari tabs to Camino or Firefox1 especially with the new feature in 3.0.3 where its possible to drag a tab off into a new window.

Add-Ons

Unfortunately for Safari it has a lot of quirks that can’t be solved without third-party software. Fortunately though, there are a lot of add-ons for Safari that makes it — in my eye — bringing Safari to a useable state for my browsing method.

I prefer to have everything in one window, sometimes if you click a link in Gmail, it opens in a new window, even if you Command-click the link. With Saft, you can force Safari to open new links and windows in the browser. For me, this makes it worth its $12 price alone.

Safari has no built-in ad-blocking capability, beside using a custom stylesheet. However PithHelmet makes it a much easier process to add your own blocking rules, and the set of included rules block 95% of the adverts I come across. Its a bargain at $10.

SafariStand is the exception in this list of Safari add-ons, being the only free one. But for me it offers little for me except for syntax colouring in the view source window. However this doesn’t work in Safari 3.0.3 even with the beta version of SafariStand thats compatible with it.

Safari As Your Main Browser

For web designing, you can’t beat Firefox with Firebug, this combination of free software has saved me countless hours, although Safari has something similar, they’ve yet to implement live CSS and HTML editing, which is invaluable when you’re working with complex layouts.

But Safari is an incredibly refined browser compared to the oafish Firefox and, certain circumstances, ungainly Camino, and that is why I use it as my main browser.


  1. They look ugly and the close button is on the right side of the tab, also known as the wrong side.
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