Thursday, July 19, 2007

Update on Safari for Windows

Apple released Safari 3.0.2 a short while ago, which was a version updated from the one we reviewed here back on June 17th.

I went ahead and installed the updated browser on a laptop, and the problem I reported in my first blog post in regards to not being able to access some secure areas of a web application was fixed. So far it seems I can use the browser to do my normal activities without issue. But I did notice one other thing that bothered me that I did not really pay much attention to in my first look at the program.

Apple uses their own font rendering algorithm inside the browser, so that if you are looking at text that is Arial 10pt, it will look different than the same size font in Internet Explorer or FireFox. Several tech web sites have done screenshot comparisons showing the difference of the text. I am not going to go into that much detail here but if you want to see some images, do a Google search for Safari font rendering. When I first used the browser back in June, I did notice the difference but figured it was just a setting that I could adjust. It was not until I took a further look while using Safari 3.0.2 that I found out that this way of displaying the text was built into the browser and could not be changed.

I have no problems with Apple having their own font rendering process. It is hard to say if their process is better than Microsoft's or not. Ask either company (or their respective fan bases) whose is better and it is not difficult to guess their answers. I do know that you cannot always judge a process based on first glance. Your eyes need time to adjust. When I first enabled Microsoft's ClearType in Windows XP a while back, I remember thinking the text had lost crispness and seemed too blurry. A colleague of mine encouraged me to leave it be for a week and then reevaluate, which I did. Since then I have always used ClearType and now when I am on a computer that does not have ClearType enabled, it looks too pixelated and light to me- I now prefer ClearType. So it is very possible that if I were to use Safari for a while, I would come to like the Apple font rendering. While I cannot at the moment conclude who has the better process, I can conclude that it is very annoying to my eye to be working in Safari with Apple's font rendering and then switch over to a Windows application where the same size fonts look quite different. When you work on a PC quite often, as I do, you need font consistency. Using Safari on Windows disrupts that consistency. I understand Apple wants to open up the world of "Apple greatness" to PC users (no sarcasm intended), if you will, but they really do need to build in an option to let users choose Windows font rendering for text. Though I like the speed of the Safari browser, I could never use it on a regular basis inside Windows due to this issue.

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