What's new in Safari 5 and will it improve your browsing?

Apple's Safari 5 is free, but it does require a reset, so should you bother going through the process of rebooting your computer just to get a new browser.

Here are the main new features to look forward to after your reboot:

Safari Reader

With so many sites splitting their stories over a number of pages to improve "page impressions" and sell more advertising, Apple has decided to allow Safari 5 readers to view any article, news or review in one page in a simple to read design that greys out the rest of the page.

If the page is eligible to be read by the new Reader feature, an icon in the address bar appears and all you have to do is click on it. Where this feature is amazingly effective is that it will load multiple page stories into a single scrollable page that you can read.

You'll also be able to zoom in and out, making the text bigger, print or email it straight from there (as long as you use Apple's Mail application).

While it's good for consumers, publishers will be terrified that this could be the shape of things to come. Not only will it destroy their page numbers, but it will also possibly steal away standard advertising opportunities. Lucky for them that Safari has a relatively small share of the browser market. For the record, Pocket-lint already shows you all the words on a single page for both news, full reviews and features, and we have done for many years now.

Smarter Address Bar

The address bar has been improved to give you a heads up of the site that you are in the process of entering. Interesting the Address bar now grabs the title of the page in question as well giving you a heads up if the URL is written in a not too helpful way (think an Amazon shop URL for example), if you've been to that page before.

"In the Smart Address Field, just type what you do remember, and Safari matches the text against the titles of web pages in your history and bookmarks. Safari also offers suggestions when you type any part of the address," says Apple.

Search with Bing, Google and Yahoo

In Safari 4 you got to only search Google via the search bar on your toolbar, unless of course you go about installing Glims.

With Safari 5, that's changed and now in general perefences you get the option to set your "default search engine" as well. Users not so keen on Google, can now opt for Yahoo and most likely more relevantly Bing. It's not the default, but it might just help you find an alternative, and for Apple moves away from the reliance of their recently fallen out friend.

Faster browsing

What's the point of a new browser if it doesn't improve the speed of the experience. Here Apple are claiming speed boosts in a number of areas behind the scenes so that you'll get access to the web quicker.

Any site that has gone down due to demand on traffic will tell you it all comes down to how the site you are visiting is optimised, traffic levels and other elements, but a faster browser is always welcomed.

In Apple speak that's "Enhancements to the Nitro Engine mean that JavaScript will run up to 30 percent faster than Safari 4, 3 percent faster than Chrome 5.0, and over twice as fast as Firefox 3.6." Notice though that there is no mention of Microsoft's IE9.

Other tricks the browser uses is Domain Name System (DNS) prefetching. Virtually every site that runs a series of Facebook, Tweet, and Digg buttons will use DNS requests and that slows everything down. Safari 5 is promising to improve that element so the page loads faster.

Better HTML5 support

This is one that you'll probably find yourself using, but not just yet. Apple's all about HTML5 at the moment as it argues that Adobe's Flash player is clunky and annoying.

Greater support for HTML5 options including full-screen video and close captions without you having to download or install anything else are included just as they are already included on Google's Chrome browser.

Other HTML5 newbies include allowing your browser to use geolocation to tell you were you are (think Google Maps on your phone) and a whole host of other HTML5 options that you'll probably enjoy but don't really care how.

Needless to say, like Chrome and Firefox this is futureproof, for now.

What Apple don't tell you

Of course with any new software roll out there will be sites that aren't completely ready for an out of the blue announcement of a new piece of software that yesterday they didn't even know existed and already work perfectly fine with the other three major browsers.

Google Analytics until Wednesday informed users that they were using an out of date browser, while a number of plug-ins that worked with Safari 4 now don't work, or need a run around.

In the US that meant popular video streaming service Netflix didn't work for a brief period.

It's fair to say that most if not all will be ironed out in the next couple of days, but if you aren't a trail blazer that likes to experiment and you think that one of your favourite bolt-on's won't work, it's probably best to avoid until you know that it will.



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