Safari 3.0: Long overdue improvements, some still missing

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 15th, 2007 • 5:11 pm

Safari 3.0, which is now available both with Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and as part of the Mac OS X 10.4.11 update, features some long overdue improvements that are finally good enough for me to get rid of the third-party hacks that I was using to make my browsing experience more palatable.

Here is a quick review of those that are the most significant in my humble opinion.

First of all, if you try to quit Safari or accidentally press command-Q while Safari is in the foreground (it can happen), and there are windows currently open in Safari with sites loaded in them, Safari does not immediately quit with no confirmation. Instead, it shows an alert asking you to confirm that indeed you want to quit it:

Alert before quitting

Anyone who has ever accidentally quit Safari while he/she had a bunch of web sites loaded and waiting to be read should be very pleased with this.

The same thing also applies to individual Safari windows when they contain more than one tab: If you try to close one such window, Safari asks you to confirm.

And, as the picture above also shows, the same thing happens even with individual Safari windows that contain only one tab with only one page loaded, as long as this page contains a form with some text that you have entered and have not yet submitted. An unsubmitted form is the equivalent of an unsaved document, so it’s very good of Safari to remind us that we have such forms with unsaved text that will be lost if their windows are closed.

In addition, I should commend Apple on making the alert message so explicit and clear. In the situation above, Apple could have easily been content with saying something like, “There are 4 windows open in Safari with multiple tabs. Do you want to quit anyway?” They took pains to make the message more specific, and it’s nice of them.

A complementary feature that was added in Safari 3.0 is the ability to reopen the windows and tabs that were open when you last quit Safari. The command for this is “Reopen All Windows From Last Session” and is in the “History” menu. This alone, even without the alerts above, would have already helped make the accidental quitting of Safari less painful. Combined with the alerts, it really eliminates the one major reason why I was using SafariStand.

Now I can quit and relaunch Safari at any time without worrying about losing track of what I was in the process of reading or planning to read soon. Even better: Safari also remembers the windows from the last session even in the event of a Safari crash. In other words, even if Safari was not quit normally, it still remembers the windows that were open just before the crash—which clearly means that the “session” is not saved when you quit, but continuously, in the background.

The only thing that I find is missing in this feature is the ability to actually view the titles and URLs of the sites saved as part of the “session.” It is something that could and should be accessible when viewing “All Bookmarks,” either under “History” or in a separate section. It could just be called “Last Session” and provide a list of the bookmarks for these sites that are part of the session. Instead, this session recording is done invisibly behind the scenes by Safari and you cannot see it anywhere in the user interface. Since the regular history is accessible through the UI, it seems to me that the last session could be accessible too, if only to get a sense of what sites the session includes without having to load them.

But it’s a minor quibble. The addition of the command, and especially the fact that it works fine even when Safari crashes, is a terrific thing.

Finally, another useful addition in Safari is the ability to reorganize tabs by dragging them around in the tab bar or even from one window to another. SafariStand had this, but Safari 3.0’s implementation is better, not just because it’s built in and doesn’t require a third-party hack but also because, in my experience, the transfer of the tabs’ contents occurs instantly and Safari does not feel obliged to reload the sites from the servers as often as SafariStand did.

There are still a few other things that I wish Apple had added in Safari 3.0, however. One is the ability to turn animations off by default. The only option you have is to disable plug-ins altogether, which is not really a viable option. I just wish there was a command for stopping Flash animations from repeating endlessly, and for stopping GIF animations as well. I find these animations distracting. I also wish there was a way to load Flash animations optionally, on a case-by-case basis, which some third-party hacks or browsers do provide.

And of course, there are still a number of flaws and bugs that have yet to be fixed. The delay before Safari starts rendering a page is still fairly unpredictable and leads to visually confusing situations.

And the AutoFill feature for forms still suffers from one really annoying flaw where, if you type an item that appears in the list of AutoFill suggestions in full without using the AutoFill list and then press Return while the AutoFill list is still visible, instead of submitting the form, Safari only removes the AutoFill list, and you have to press Return a second time to actually submit the form.

It is a small thing, but I find it very irritating. I don’t want to turn AutoFill off altogether, because it’s actually useful, but sometimes it’s just faster to type the entry in full yourself rather than select it in the AutoFill list, and then the AutoFill list should just disappear by itself and a single Return keystroke should be enough to submit the form.

I submitted this as a bug report to Apple ages ago. I have yet to see it fixed. And it’s something that I encounter every day, several times a day, because I look up a lot of terms in various terminology databases for my work.

Still, all in all, Safari 3.0 is a pretty good upgrade and is definitely a browser that I can now use without third-party hacks and without experiencing too much daily frustration.

3 Responses to “Safari 3.0: Long overdue improvements, some still missing”

  1. Arden says:

    One thing I like about Saft’s implementation of saved browser state is that in the event of a crash, it allows you to pick and choose which windows/tabs you want to reload the next time you launch Safari. This was added for the times when a rogue website causes your browser to crash, which you would not want to pull up again. If Safari 3 doesn’t include something like this, I’ll probably keep using Saft (especially with some of the other stuff it provides).

    And the AutoFill feature for forms still suffers from one really annoying flaw where, if you type an item that appears in the list of AutoFill suggestions in full without using the AutoFill list and then press Return while the AutoFill list is still visible, instead of submitting the form, Safari only removes the AutoFill list, and you have to press Return a second time to actually submit the form.

    You can submit a form immediately by pressing Enter on the numeric keypad. It’s not the most ideal, but it at least works the way you say Return should work.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, that was part of my reason for wishing there was a way to access the “Last Session” bookmarks through the bookmarks page.

    As for the Enter vs. Return, I am afraid it makes no difference. One way or the other, if the AutoFill list of suggestions is still visible, pressing Return/Enter just once only dismisses the AutoFill list. It doesn’t submit the form.

  3. sjk says:

    Yep, it would be useful having a way to select specific tabs when/after relaunching, like SafariStand (which I’m still using for that purpose) and Saft can do.

    Hopefully PithHelmet eventually regains the ability to control GIF animations that it lost with Safari 3.

    An easily noticed improvement is stability. I’ve only had one crash since updating with 10.4.11, triggered by attempting to reorder tabs in SafariStand’s sidebar (essentially unnecessary now anyway). One thing I haven’t figured out how to do (if possible) is to easily move a single open tab between windows when the tab bar isn’t visible. Awkward workaround is to open an empty tab to temporarily reveal the tab bar as a drag or drop target, then close it (when necessary) after the move. The preference to always have the tab bar visible I thought existed in Safari 2, which I’d consider enabling now, is gone in Safari 3.

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