Safari 5: Faster Engine, Reader, Built in Bing, Interface Enhancements, More

With the release of Safari 5 for Mac OS X and Windows, Apple has made its Web browser faster, added support for additional HTML 5 features, added support for Google rival Bing, added a new way for developers to develop and release extensions for the browser, added a feature called Safari Reader, and included several interface enhancements.

Nitro JavaScript Engine

Apple is touting Safari 5 as offering significant speed improvements in specific areas of browser rendering. The company said that Safari 5 renders HTML and JavaScript faster than other browsers on the Mac, as demonstrated by the two charts below.


Safari 5 Speed Chart

Apple chart for i-Bench HTML rendering tests on Mac browsers

Safari 5 Speed Chart

Apple chart for i-Bench JavaScript rendering tests on Mac browsers

Apple also introduced Domain Name System (DNS) prefetching into Safari 5. This technique has the browser look up links on the pages you are visiting so that if and when you click on them, the browser already knows where to go.

According to Apple, “If you’re on a web page with links, Safari finds the links and looks up the addresses. Click one of the links, and Safari quickly loads the web page for you. And improved page caching means more of the pages you viewed in the past load faster than before.”


Apple has also added support for Google rival Bing into the search field in Safari. Formerly the home of Google searches by default, Safari 5’s search field allows you to choose between Yahoo!, Google, and Bing by clicking on the arrow to the right of the magnifying glass in the field (see the screenshot below).

Google, Yahoo, Bing

Is that a Bing in your pocket, or are you just happy to see some options?


HTML 5 has been the cornerstone of Apple’s refusal to support Flash on its iOS devices, and Safari 5 for Mac OS X and Windows boosts its support for the collection of open standards. As seen in the image below, Apple has added some 24 HTML 5 tags and features to Safari 5.

According to Apple, “Safari 5 supports over a dozen new HTML 5 features that allow developers to create interactive content and media experiences that work right in the browser — without the need for third-party plug-ins.”

Note the not-so-subtle dig at Adobe’s Flash in Apple’s verbiage, which does require users to install a plugin to view Flash content.

HTML 5 Features

New HTML 5 features supported in Safari 5

Safari Extensions

Apple has (finally) added a way for developers to easily add their own extensions to Safari, including a Safari Extensions Gallery for developers to then distribute their extensions.

According to Apple, “Safari 5 introduces Safari Extensions, a new way for developers to enhance and customize the browsing experience. Create buttons for the toolbar or make your own extension bar. Change the way web content appears. Add controls to web pages. Safari Extensions are built with web standards, so you can do it all using the power of HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript.”

The system is aimed at registered developers in a new Safari Developer Program, and participants in that program can have their extensions digitally signed and certified by Apple. That prevents them from being tampered with, “and ensures updates come only from you.” The program also includes sandboxing, which keeps extensions from accessing user information.

Smarter Address Field

Safari 5 remembers more about the Web pages that you visited in the past than earlier versions, including the titles of pages in both your history and bookmarks. So, if you can’t remember the URL or even the domain of a page you’ve visited, start typing what you remember about the title or contents, and Safari 5 will match that to the titles of all the pages it knows (see the screenshot below).


Safari 5’s new “smarter address field”

Windows Lovin’

Apple gave Safari users on Windows some love, too, by adding in support for hardware acceleration on PCs. This allows Safari users on Windows boxes with fast graphics card to use some of that processing power in rendering Web pages. The Mac version has long included this, bringing the Windows experience more in line with Mac users.

Safari Reader

One of the biggest changes in Safari 5 is a new feature where Apple makes it easy for users to steal content by bypassing ads on Web pages with articles. Called Safari Reader, the feature takes the content of a Web page and displays it in an overlay without the ads (that pay for the content) or other “distractions.”

Users can use this feature by clicking the “Reader” button on the right side of the URL field in Safari 5. Based on a product called Readability by Arc90, Safari Reader tries to detect Web pages that are articles. If it’s a home page or non-article site, the “Reader” button is not visible.

We’ll be examining Safari Reader in more depth in separate pieces at The Mac Observer.