First Look: Safari 3.1 adds speed and HTML 5 features

The latest version of Apple's browser adds some major enticements to switch

Apple released Safari 3.1 this week with an updated rendering engine that makes the fastest Internet browser even faster.

On top of that, Apple's new browser includes some features that reflect the future of the HTML 5 specification: offline storage, media support and CSS animations and Web fonts. It also adds some needed compatibility and bug fixes as well as some other new features that really make it a great everyday browser.

For the uninitiated, Apple provides a great PDF overview of Safari. You can get the upgrade/installer from apple.com/safari/download/(it's about a 16MB download for both Mac and PC) or simply update from Software Update. The installation is easy, but strangely requires a restart on Macintosh and not on Windows. By the way, Safari 3.1 is the first Windows version not to carry the Beta tag.

The interface and the user experience are largely unchanged from those in Safari 3.0. Under the hood, however, Apple has made some significant changes that it has pulled from the latest builds of the open source Webkit engine.

WebKit is the framework version of the engine that's used by Safari. It is also the basis of the Web browsing engine in iPhone's Mobile Safari, Symbian's browser, the Google Android platform, and Adobe's new AIR platform.

Testing

To check out how well Safari 3.1 handles Web sites, I ran it through some popular standards testing -- and found that it leads the pack. In the Acid3 Tests, which were created by the Web Standards Project to test dynamic browser capabilities, Safari 3.1 scored 75 out of 100, significantly higher than the previous version of Safari and other shipping browsers (Firefox 3 Beta 4 scored 68/100, while the most recent WebKit scored 92/100).

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