I haven't had much time to stay up to date with Mac news lately so when reviews of the Safari 4 Beta popped up in my RSS reader I was a bit surprised. Especially as these are all a bit bemused and bewildered
about the interface changes.
Luckily for you lot I am working from home today as some workmen are coming over to tear down a wall or something in order to place a new water-heater that won't kill me in my sleep.
So a perfect time to check it out.
First thing you'll notice is that when you open Safari you'll see a new welcome page
that lists so called "top sites". At first I thought it would be based on what sites I frequently visit but then I noticed CNN and Apple were there too and I hardly ever visit those. Even worse: Ebay was there, which I never ever visit and isn't even in my bookmarks so I am guessing Apple went in for a bit of branding madness. Half the sites that were listed were my own though so that is good right?
Weeeeeelllllll... Maybe not, as it seems some of my most favorite sites are actually pages behind a password so instead of seeing pages from work I see a miniature screenshot of a login page, helpful? Not for me, but maybe you like login pages!
No matter, you can edit the welcome page which then displays gratuitous animations. Oooh, shiny!
Ok, so ignore that and let's get surfing. And now we run into a huge problem: design. Whoever designed the new tab bar on top of the Safari window must have been on LSD. I have done LSD in my time and I am sure this would have given me a giggle back then. As I haven't used any in 15 years though I cannot say I am impressed by this design and actually think it's about the ugliest thing Apple has ever produced in Software. Quite why Apple feels the need to mess about with a webbrowser's interface is beyond me. Perhaps some in management feel the need to be hip and cutting edge. If that is so then whoever is in charge should be taken out back and put down like a rabid dog. Perhaps it's some nutty tech that has a serious case of the Google
envy, in which case his commit privileges need to be taken away asap, after which he too needs to be put down for the sake of the world, who knows what he will decide to work on next!
The bookmarks in Safari have undergone a change as well, we now have coverflow in the bookmarks window. Why is not clear to me as previews are only regenerated when you actually visit a page. I never use Coverflow for my albums in iTunes and I seriously do not need to see them in my bookmarks. I think Coverflow in iTunes is already stretching the browsing a music store analogy a bit too far but I have no clue as to why we would want this, unless the preview images are actually updated live when you flip through so you have a visual recognition that a page has changed. Alas, this is not the case.
It is worth reiterating here that Safari 4 is still in beta so who knows what can change but in all honestly I do not like the new Safari, no I do not. But then I gave up on Safari a while ago and am using iCab (yes, I paid for a browser, how nutty am I?) which is based on Safari's rendering engine Webkit. Which has far superior bookmarking technology, has inbuilt filtering of ads and scripts and whatnot. It also looks and acts like a normal browser.
A webbrowser is, to me, a purely functional application. It is not meant to distract, it is not meant to hinder you and it is not meant to have design features that make you wonder whether you're having flashbacks. Keep it simple, make it highly functional, bury the really advanced features and either skip or make the gratuitous features a choice! Apple has failed in this.
Whatever is going on at Apple since they ditched the old Human Interface Guidelines and felt themselves to be above that has to stop in my mind, I do not want to go into the dark world that is Windows interface design where every app can more or less at random decide to throw faeces at you and force you to learn arcane magics to tame windows, menubars and commands gone feral. I like the Mac OS because software looks and behaves in a uniform way. Apple is, once again, going down a dangerous path of splitting the elegance of its design and it scares me to think of where this will lead. What is next for a "makeover"? The Finder? The single menubar on top that all Mac apps share?
Right, it's 9 o'clock, time to get some real work done...