Safari 5 review

We take a look at Apple's latest browser to see what Safari 5 has to offer users.

Safari logo

Safari 5 was unmentioned in Steve Jobs' opening keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, which focused solely on iPhone OS 4.0, Apple's newly rechristened mobile platform.

Nonetheless, a few hours later Apple pushed out the latest version of its web browser with little fanfare. Surprisingly so, because even though Safari 5 plays catch-up with other browsers by finally introducing a proper framework for extensions to add new functionality, and marks yet another round of tireless muscle flexing performance statistics, there is one new feature that makes this update worth checking out.

That feature is called Reader and it's intended to make longer articles on the web a more comfortable and convenient experience. Once a page has finished loading, Safari tries to identify the portion of the page that brought you there - the real content amongst the chaff of ads and navigation. Part of its decision is based on the length of the longest flowing portion of text. Exceptionally short news items can escape its gaze, but for content that's worth the pixels they occupy, Reader does a good job of picking it up.

If it's successful, a button appears at the right side of the address bar that when pressed dims the normal page layout. The article appears in a layer on top of it, reformatted in a plainer serif font that's fairly easy on the eye. It retains pull-quotes, box outs and other illustrative material and flows the body of the article around them, so that you don't miss essential information that complements the thrust of the body copy.

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Roll the pointer over the bottom of the page and a toolbar fades in, with controls to adjust the text size, email the article (along with a link to the original) and print it. The text size is a persistent setting, so you won't need to fiddle once you've found a comfortable size for your eyesight, but that's the limit of customisation. There's no way to change other attributes - neither the font used nor the line spacing. To our eyes Apple has done a decent job of picking the settings, but the opportunity to tailor them would have been useful, if only to get away from the harshness of black text on a white background.

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