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Our 4 Favorite Things About the New Safari 4 Browser

While Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is languishing in the news today, thanks to E.U. antitrust rulings, Apple is riding high with news of the public test of version 4.0 of its Safari browser with 150 new features. Here are some highlights.

Speed Safari 4 uses the Nitro JavaScript engine to achieve a super-fast reaction: Apple's saying it's 4.2 times faster at running JavaScript than Safari 3, over three times faster than Firefox 3, and a supposed 30 times faster than IE 7. More than just impressive numbers, it's a noticeable speed bump when you're using the app—the whole page loading experience is much snappier, and simply more pleasurable as a result.

Top Sites Safari 4 borrows an idea from the Google Chrome browser, and has a new "Top Sites" page layout. This grabs twelve of your most-visited sites and displays them on a video wall-like screen—thumbnail images of the sites are loaded over time. It's a feature that is great for casual users, who will be able to see if there's anything of interest on their fave sites at a single glance. And it's certainly a great productivity-boosting tool: Being able to quickly view and hop between the most relevant sites is a boon to Web writers—I've used it four or five times while writing this piece.

CoverFlow Apple's also taken the CoverFlow tech that added graphical polish first to iTunes and then to Finder, and integrated it into the History and Bookmarks views—a thumbnail of the top of the page listed under each heading can be viewed this way. Though it's slightly eye-candy for the sake of eye-candy, it's actually handy to see at a glance what each page looked like when you last visited: A neat memory-tickler if you viewed an interesting page just recently, but can't quite remember which site you found it on.

History Search The new "full history" search is another attempt to cure that "what the heck Web page was I looking at?" problem by letting you search the full text content of recently-visited website titles, addresses, and body content. Similarly the URL address bar and search field now offer a comprehensive auto-complete function. That's definitely a productivity aid if you're used to navigating around by typing in URLs and if you often Google for similar phrases.

Safari 4 is pretty snazzy, and offers a much slicker user experience. The browser's slimmed-down status (at just 32MB for the Mac download) and speediness bodes very well for the upcoming OS X Snow Leopard update.

[via Apple