Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger' in depth

Part three: Mail, Safari and security

Safari 2.0

At first I thought Safari's 10.4 tweaks amounted to little more than the much-hyped and long-overdue RSS viewing facility. I spotted the best feature, for me, by accident. Having installed Acrobat Reader 7.0 under 10.3.9, I finally got the opportunity to open online PDF files in the web browser. But it was slow, and I soon went back to saving PDFs to disk and then opening them in Mac OS X's Preview utility. With 10.4, Safari has this inline viewing facility built in. At first, I thought it was just the old Adobe plug-in at work, but its speed made me realise this was not the case.

There's a preferences file hack you can employ to turn this facility off, but as someone who looks at a lot of online PDFs, I'm now able to do this efficiently in Safari without having to waste time downloading files or waiting for tardy Acrobat to do its thing.

Apple maintains Safari 2.0 is also faster at rendering pages than previous releases, and it feels faster, but then other browsers feel faster still. But it's getting there, at least.

Safari 2.0RSS support has similarly been a long time coming, but it's a good implementation. Safari's ability to flag up the availability of a site's RSS feed is particularly welcome, since it saves having to hunt through increasingly complex page layouts for the vital link. With a series of RSS subscriptions in place, Safari provides a handy text search tool, along with a variety of options - handily place to the right of the RSS article listing - to help you find the stories you're most interested in. A slider neatly lets you move from headlines to full-length stories.

The only irritation is Safari's habit of ditching all your other tabbed pages when you select a feed. Quite why an RSS listing can sit alongside a regular web page, I don't know - Command-clicking on an RSS link in the Bookmarks bar at least gives you the option of viewing the listing in a tab.

Apple has added a web archive facility to allow you to save complete pages rather than just the HTML code that underpins them. It's about time - Internet Explorer had this feature back in the Mac OS 9 era, and even then it was better than Safari 2.0's implementation. IE would at least allow you to download pages linked from the one you were viewing. And if I remember correctly, it saved the results as real files, not as an inaccessible binary file as Safari does.

Safari will now display the certificate supporting the authenticity of a given website - you click on the lock icon at the top right of the window - but it doesn't help you accept a site whose certification authority is not known to it. You can tell it you're happy to trust the site's certificate, but it will continue to warn you every time you load it.

Still, Safari remains my favourite Mac OS X browser, though I'm increasingly wondering whether a shift to Firefox might be in order. I like the way you use Safari, but Firefox has an edge in rendering speed and, crucially, compatibility. Yes, every so often I still need to fire up IE in order to view websites that Safari can't render. I know that's the web site's fault, not the standards-based Safari, but that doesn't help when someone is tapping their foot behind you while you have to launch another browser. Bastardised standards are wrong, but ignoring those with a weight of users behind them is silly.

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