Safari 6 review

Safari is Mac OS X’s (and iOS) default web browser shipped with all Macs. Superficially it does the same job as other web browsers (you type in URLs or search terms) and it serves up web addresses. 

Over time Apple has included features once the preserve of other browsers such as extensions and add-ons, and steadily tried to ensure that it remains one of the fastest browsers on the market (speed is probably the essence of most web browsers, but more on that later). 

Safari is also – unsurprisingly for Apple – one of the most visually pleasing browsers on the market. With its restrained grey interface, clean menu system, rounded buttons, and unobtrusive styling it makes browsing the web a pleasurable experience.

The latest update to Safari introduces a few – but not many – new features and improves functionality. It’s a moderate but welcome update.

See also: Up close with Mountain Lion: Safari - Mac software - Macworld UK

Smart Search Bar in Safari 6

Probably the biggest change is the merging of the URL text box with the Search box into one area that Apple is referring to as the Smart Search Bar. Enter a straight URL (like www.macworld.co.uk) and it takes you straight to that site. 

Otherwise it works a little like Spotlight, returning Top Hits, Google Search suggestions, Bookmarks and History results and offering an option to find the term on the page. 

This is an approach that we first saw in Google Chrome, although Apple has taken the idea and run with it a little further. We like it, it seems logical to us to have just the one point to start your navigation to a website, regardless of whether you’re going directly their or via a search engine, bookmark, or history.

See also: Safari 6 for Lion adds unified search bar, more

iCloud Tabs

Another new feature is the ability to access any pages open on a Mac or iOS device in Safari. Clicking the iCloud Tabs button opens up a list of all your iCloud devices and you can open pages directly. 

It is kind of interesting, and if you’re looking at a page on your iPhone, you can carry on reading it on your Mac without having to re-search for it. As a feature goes it works just fine. Outside of testing, however, we haven’t really found ourselves using it that much. Your milage may vary depending on how useful you find it. 

Safari 6 iCloud Tabs

Safari 6 Tab View

Safari has always had a visual edge on most other web browsers, and a new feature called Tab View is designed to make navigation between tabs more visual. It’s activated by  making a pinch gesture on the trackpad (or by clicking the Tab View icon to the right of the tabs).

The web page zooms out (almost like Coverflow but you only see the single page and the ones to the left and right poke in from the edges of the screen). You can flick left and right through pages and click back on the one you want. 

How useful you’ll find Tab View depends on how many tabs you have typically open at any one time. It is a good way to visually flick through tabs if the tabs don’t have enough space for full description. Speaking of space, Apple has changed the way Tabs themselves are displayed; they now take up the full width of the browser, so if two tabs are open each one will be half the width of the screen. While this looks quite comically large, a lot of web page descriptions can be lengthy these days.

Safari 6 Tab View