Apple has released a public beta of its Safari 3 browser for Windows. It’s a small download, its rendering of pages is fast, and it comes with all of the features and elegant user interface tweaks (love that text search bubble effect) that make Safari such a popular browser among Mac users.

Safari running on Windows XP

What stands out for me though is the fact that it doesn’t utilise any of the standard operating system conventions–the browser chrome, scroll bars, buttons, menu fonts and user interface conventions for resizing the window all arrogantly snub the Windows API and provide a very Mac-like interface instead. If it wasn’t for the three buttons in the top right, you could be mistaken for thinking that you were running an OS X application!

In fact, some of the pages I loaded in Safari for Windows looked so much like those rendered in Safari on my Mac that I decided to dig a little further–it seems out that not only is the interface OS X-like, but the fonts used when rendering pages are also independent of the operating system. That’s right — Safari for Windows renders your web pages using whatever fonts come embedded in the browser, not those installed on your machine.
Joel Spolsky has a good write-up on why the fonts look different between Safari and other Windows apps: the rendering algorithms are completely different.

For web developers, this is gold! Potentially, Safari for Windows really could be a reliable tool for web developers who use a Windows platform to test how their sites render in Safari/Mac … without having to buy a Mac. Goodbye, Swift!

Being beta, however, there are still a few issues to address. Alex didn’t have quite as much luck when he installed Safari on his Windows machine–none of the fonts loaded at all, although I haven’t experienced any problems on my machine yet:

Windows Safari showing problems with font rendering on the page and in menus

So, beta glitches aside, what do you think? Is this is a smart move by Apple (get exposure and breed familiarity of the OS X interface to Windows users, through iTunes and Safari? Or is it a mistake (snubbing operating system conventions could lead to extreme confusion for users). Will anyone other than web developers and geeks bother using Safari? Could you survive without your Firefox extensions? And is this a Good Thing, or just another damn browser to test for?

Matthew Magain Matthew Magain
Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and He is the co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world.

  • charmedlover

    Anything that cuts out the market share from IE is generally good in my opinion. (Even though I would prefer that browser be Opera, lol.)

  • malikyte

    Without being allowed to install OSX on a VM, and Swift being a bit buggy, this is a godsend to web developers/designers in my opinion. Heck, I’d even pay a small fee for this.

    Thanks for the heads up, Matt!

  • cranial-bore

    Well Safari is already another browser to test for. This makes it a lot easier for Windows developers to test on without needing a Mac, or a Linux install (Konqueror being the next best thing).

    I probably won’t install until it’s out of beta, but it should definitely make things easier. I don’t know what the rate of broken-for-Safari sites is like, but this can only help.

  • AlexW

    I probably won’t install until it’s out of beta, but it should definitely make things easier. I don’t know what the rate of broken-for-Safari sites is like, but this can only help.

    In theory, yes, but only if it behaves precisely like the Mac native version. For instance, IE5 for Mac meant more testing, not less since it had a markedly different render engine. To this day, making a page work in IE5 for Win doesn’t by any means guarantee it will work and IE5 Mac and vice-versa.

  • Iceman90

    I think Safari for Windows can only mean good things. It’ll be nice for PC users to be able to test on Safari, but I don’t see anyone besides developers (and perhaps Mac users who maybe use a PC at work, or vise-versa) will use the browser.

  • Matthew Magain

    Apparently Steve Jobs suggested at WWDC that the iPhone will interface with Safari, so it makes sense that they’ve released this in anticipation of supporting iPhone customers who use a Windows machine.

  • Anonymous

    I downloaded it last night and run it on my windows machine. Sweet and fast.

    but still can’t see any mouse gesture like I found in Opera I currently use.

  • jinnyruth

    I didn’t get fonts either. Anyone know what causes the bug?

  • LucidSurf

    This is awesome – great work from Apple. The software installed fast (on Vista) and the browser actually does seem to render pages quicker than IE7 or FF. It won’t be my full-time browser but means that I won’t need to buy a Mac for testing just yet! Respect to Apple for investing development resource in this software.

  • Tyssen

    Could you survive without your Firefox extensions?

    Doesn’t Safari have its own range of extensions? Although I guess it might be a while before PC versions are available.

    I’m stoked that this has arrived now as I’ve been having trouble with my usual screen capture services recently.

  • Chris W

    Just installed this – great, never used Safari before – but what’s it doing when I type in a URL? It’s auto-prompting me; some of the addresses are my IE/FF bookmarks (which I haven’t imported) but not all of them are?

  • Matthew Magain

    Chris I’m betting those are paid listings.

  • szigeti

    So far I like Safari very much, but I already caught (and reported) a bug. I could not open a simple HTML page from a local hard drive. The same page can be opened with IE6 and FF2 without problems.

    By the way, is there a javascript console in Safari?

  • szigeti

    You can enable the Debug menu (which includes a Javascript console as well) by editing C:Documents and SettingsYOUR USER NAMEApplication DataApple ComputerSafariPreferences.plist

    Add the “IncludeDebugMenu” key to the list, followed by a “true” tag.

  • AlexW

    Just installed this—great, never used Safari before—but what’s it doing when I type in a URL? It’s auto-prompting me; some of the addresses are my IE/FF bookmarks (which I haven’t imported) but not all of them are?

    uh-oh. Check your mailbox. I bet it just ordered you an iPhone , installed Quicktime in your toothrush and iTunes in your dishwasher.

  • Espen Liland

    Well, it looks quote good. But IMHO this isn’t even worthy of an alpha release. So far the only site it’s managed to show somewhat correctly is Apples own site. It’s shockingly bad!

  • Matthew Magain

    I disagree Espen. Only one site that I’ve looked at renders differently to Safari/Mac (a very small overflow issue). Are you sure that the sites you are looking at look any good in the Mac version of Safari in the first place? It seems quite consistent to me. The front page of does a few tricky things and it is a case in point.

  • jelena

    I have same problem with fonts. They didn’t load. Too bad I can’t test it. Hopefully, soon enough this bug will get fixed.

  • Andy

    Beta version installed ok but browser didn’t work. Wouldn’t resize properly, menus didn’t load and couldn’t type an address in the address bar.

    Keep trying Apple!

  • Anonymous

    God… Another one of those browsers that is going to have incomplete standards support on Windows :(

    Downloaded the browser just to see what it’s like; Well I’m staying with Firefox thank you, so thank you Apple for making our job even more difficult.

    A grumpy Dr Livingston.

  • Patrick

    Can’t say I’m excited about this. I use Safari on my Mac and FF on my PC, and I’ve always found FF a better, easier browser. I can’t imagine bothering to download this, other perhaps than as another browser that I have to test for.

  • bjk2007

    That’s great for testing purposes, but I would need a Linux version. I guess I’ll have to throw it on my IE virtual machine.

  • pascalc

    I can’t say i am really impressed, not only is this version very unstable and crashes a lot, but most of the web pages are severely broken with text not being rendered randomly.

    It can’t be compared quality wise with Firefox 3 alpha which feels like a much more polished, stable and web-compatible browser than Safari3 beta.

    Feels more like a pre-pre-alpha application than a beta one IMO, it is interesting because it shows Apple commitment to the browser on Windows and we know that there will be a new kid in the block, but I don’t expect this to be a real competitor before 2008 at the very least.

  • Alan

    On my system none of the system fonts are displayed so the address bar and everything else is blank?

    What’s going on here?

    I know Apple quoted a ‘clean, sleek look’ for the interface, but surely that’s too much?


  • David

    Safari automatically imports your Firefox and IE favourites on start-up – so the auto-filling of addresses might not be that sinister …!

    What really bugs me is the faux-Mac interface – right down to only being able to resize the window from the bottom-right corner, just like it’s 1995. Why don’t they go the whole hog and give us the traffic-light buttons?!

    But still, good to have for basic site testing.

  • vSkyfluxx

    Safari is a minimalist waste of a browser. I think it’s only around because Apple wants as much control as possible of it’s core applications – but come on – at the expense of yet *another* browser to develop for? And what is it doing on Windows?

    You want add-ons? Firefox. You want speed and features that will be copied by others in the future? Opera. You want what the majority still somehow uses (bleh)? IE 6/7. Where is Safari’s place? Why is Apple complicating things for web developers? Would it have been really hard to strike a deal with Mozilla to have FF (or better yet, Opera) preinstalled with OS X?

    And the fact that it’s coming to Windows is only more annoying because it means Apple is actually trying to get more than ~2% market share (regardless of whether it’s somehow tied to the iPhone or not). Thumbs down Apple. Big thumbs down.

  • markus

    Very buggy!!!

  • Syfer

    Heck i have the same problem, none of the text for the menu are showing which is definatly not good. Being a web developer its hard hunting for machines to try websites on. All in all the functionality on the Apple site looks tremendously promising. But they should render fonts available on ones machine otherswise the browser will not be an ideal choice among web users.

    *Note I cant see any text in the menus*

  • MrSmiley

    The version I downloaded yesterday works fine. I was very suprised to see it rendering a new site I’ve been building correctly, even the drop down menu works fine.

    In terms of the font issue that you noticed Matt, it looks like the same problem the first betas of IE7 had when they enabled clear text. You can alter the font smoothing in the Safari settings, but even at its lightest shade, its still blurry. By the time IE7 went public, Microsoft had sorted whatever the problem was with IE. Hopefully Apple will do the same thing with this.

    In relation to the GUI deviation, try viewing the page source. It comes up in an OS chromed window, sorta like a weird version of Notepad. Wonder why there is an inconsistency in the chroming style?

    My only beefs so far:

    . Mouse wheel click doesn’t shut tabs, but does open new tabs on links
    . A lot of links don’t change the mouse cursor to the hand pointer icon, so you cant tell what is a link and what isn’t
    . Font anti-aliasing/clear text implementation isn’t very good
    . Accessing the history isn’t intuitive (you have to hold the button down, every other browser has an arrow next to the button indicating what to do)
    . Every time you bounce between pages, or browser windows (browser, bookmarks, browser), it keeps reloading the pages from the website, not from cache. Maybe that’s a perceived thing, but hitting the back button in Firefox, IE, or Opera displays the web pages instantly, you have to wait for it to reparse the page in Safari

    All in all, I’m finding it actually works a lot better than I expected it to.

  • MrSmiley

    Yikes, just ran some memory tests…

    IE7 with 3 tabs open, 50Mb RAM
    Firefox 2 with 4 tabs open, 45Mb RAM
    Safari 3 with no tabs open, 132Mb RAM

    For comparison, the page that is open in Safari is also open in Firefox and IE.

  • hidran

    I’ve installed it and it shows sitepoint’s forum links
    with white color so Im’ not able to see those links.
    It’s different from your snapshot what I’m seeing.

  • D.D.S. Polymath

    I agree with most of MrSmiley’s observations and hope the issues would be attended to shortly. Otherwise I am quite pleased with the little beast.

    Of all complaints above, the blurry and rather bolder typeface rendering is what I find somewhat annoying, though I had experienced no missing fonts from the application menus. I searched the installation directory and found two font files, i.e. Lucida Grande and Lucida Grande Bold in the Safari.resources directory. When I renamed them the menus turned to a mass of unrecognizable gibberish. Perhaps the font files are somehow missing in some people’s installation directories…

  • Howard

    No fonts showing up, either. Mem tests shown in earlier post are a little scary, too.

    But, jeez, the world really does need another browser! :-)

  • whyulil

    As somebody who cant get on with macs and is rather skint so cant afford space or money for multiple computers, this is a great way for the people like me that dont have access to Mac OS for testing. But FireFox will remain as my browser of choice due to firebug etc. ill be installing this at work for sure.

  • Matthew Magain

    Joel Spolsky has a good write-up on why the fonts look different between Safari and other Windows apps: the rendering algorithms are completely different (hat tip: Luke).

  • onlycodered

    For all of you who are having the font problem, here’s my fix for it:

  • hummelConcepts

    Just installed Safari on my PC…love it. Sure, there are a few bugs…I still love it.

  • Caterwomtious

    This is great for Windows web developers (like me) but I don’t see it getting many real users because that’s not what Apple wants here. If it wanted a share of the Windows browser market, it would use the Windows interface. This is an ad campaign wrapped up as a product.

    It crashes in Windows Server 2003 behind an authenticated firewall (not sure which of those is the problem). I reported it. I just hope they make it possible to run multiple versions, to avoid all the virtual machine networking nonsense I’m struggling with just to get a print preview in IE6.

  • AlexW

    For all of you who are having the font problem, here’s my fix for it:

    Worked like a charm. I had an inkling it might be linked to the large number of fonts I have, but hadn’t spent any time looking into it. Nice work onlycodered.

  • Tyssen

    Another one of those browsers that is going to have incomplete standards support on Windows

    What are you talking about? Safari doesn’t have incomplete standards support. It may have OS issues in Windows at the moment but that’s got nothing to do with how it renders HTML/CSS.

    So thank you Apple for making our job even more difficult.

    Again, how is it making life more difficult? If you’re a PC-only user, having this makes being able to check your work in the predominant Mac browser easier .

  • martyd

    Who the H needs it! First off the bat, only Google and Yahoo seemed to come up as search engine options. Prefering Meta search, I don’t “Google” or “Yahoo”

    My big problem with non IE browsers is the need to find plugins as needed. Who gives a ‘rats a__’ a browse is a tenth of a microsecond faster than IE.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like all of IE, either. But any traffic analyzer I look at tells me over 90% of the browsers used today are still IE. (The exception seems to come when the only when looking at area that Non-Microsoft wierdos tend to go and then non IE seems to show a bit more.

    Don’t say I didn’t try Safari but I won’t be buying it. Never did like the “dumb a__” look of Apple’s interface anyway

  • ronin701

    Works fine for me, no font problems, very fast with precise rendering.
    One irritating bug though, I added it to my browser list in Dreamweaver, when I call it from DW to load a page it opens to a blank page, I can browse to the page on my hard drive and it will open just fine, very weird, anybody else had this problem and/or come up with a solution????

  • Edge

    While the “alien” user interface and the lack of skinnability is somewhat irritating, it still has a way to go in terms of CSS support, like the CSS “overflow” declaration, for instance.

    Whether you set the value to “visible”, “hidden”, “auto” or ‘scroll”, it treats it as “visible”. Which is horrible when your content includes source code listings, which typically use the <pre> and <code> tags.

    Still, I presume this will be fixed by the time it’s ready for use.

  • Edge

    “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like all of IE, either. But any traffic analyzer I look at tells me over 90% of the browsers used today are still IE.”

    That seems pretty inaccurate to me. The latest browser stats at indicate that IE has less than 60% of the market.

  • Edge

    “Still, I presume this will be fixed by the time it’s ready for use.”

    Maybe I presumed wrongly? Apparently, Safari uses the KHTML engine, which has known problems with CSS.

  • Matthew Magain

    Safari uses the KHTML engine, which has known problems with CSS.

    On the contrary, Safari traditionally has been at the front of the pack in terms of CSS compliance. No rendering engine is perfect, and Trident (used by IE) is probably the least perfect of the lot (but getting better).

  • mx3design

    I completely agree with your summary Matt.

    I’m pleased this has been released, it makes developing and designing a whole lot easier – now I no longer have to fire up the dreaded ibook…

  • Eric

    This is all about the iPhone, regardless of whether web developers get heartburn about it or not.

    Safari for Windows will get better (beta, remember?), but it won’t go away. The end game for Apple is measured in the billions of dollars, so you know it’s about something more than a free browser.

  • kris

    Whatever you do, don’t bet against Steve Jobs and Apple. Sure they can make mistakes, but they’ll probably get it right most of the time than you.

    What people like Mattew Magain forget is that they put lots of thought by many intelligent people at Apple. I’m sure they have their end goal, and worked on how to get there.

    Apple will build some cool features into Safari. Think about a feature that lets people create iPhone widgets using Safari, just like in the Leopard preview for widgets on a Mac.

    Soon you’ll have people installing Safari just after buying an iPhone. If millions of Windows users can put up with Windows, then Safari will be successfull, as long as Apple works to make it the best they can.

    And I’m sure Apple have just ordered some Dell, HP, Acer to better test out Safari, because Safari for Windows on a Mac will probably always run the same, but it’s different in the Windows world where there are lots of hardware and software mix going.

    Safari for Windows works well on my 2GHz Athlon machine.

    People had so much valid points against the iPod, but the iPod ended up dominating.

    Whatever you do, don’t bet against Apple and Steve Jobs.

  • Matthew Magain

    @kris: I certainly don’t doubt that many smart people work at Apple, and I’m surprised that you reached this conclusion from reading my post.

    Also, you’ll notice that I already mentioned the iPhone earlier in the comments.

    Finally, who bagged the iPod when it came out? People loved it from the word go!

  • Edge

    “On the contrary, Safari traditionally has been at the front of the pack in terms of CSS compliance”

    You mis-read what I said, which is that it uses a rendering engine which has some CSS problems. See my original post for specifics. For a practical example, see this page in Safari/Konqueror and then Firefox/IE/Opera.

  • Matthew Magain

    I didn’t misread you Edge. I just think that the statement “Safari uses a rendering engine which has some CSS problems” applies to all of the rendering engines out there. Are you suggesting that Trident and Gecko are perfect? It would be simple enough to construct a page that displayed fine in Safari but did not in one of those two. That doesn’t make the WebKit engine perfect.

  • macandwin

    Safari 3 for Windows has improved a lot in 2 years.

    I am currently running it on Win 2K with Flash Player 8 plug-in and it works great. “Snappy” as they say in the Mac world…

    When I want to resize the window I simply hit the middle button in the upper right corner but dragging the bottom right corner is not too much work once you get used to it.

  • macandwin

    Oh, almost forgot, I stumbled across this site because I was looking for a fix for the fact that it still apparently CAN NOT, however, open local files on a PC.

  • macandwin

    Oops… Check that, Flash Plug-in 9 ( not 8, Safari 3.0.2 and Win 2K.

  • macandwin

    Btw, this is what I was talking about in previous email re: opening local files on a PC w/ Safari for Windows:

    Anyone ever find a solution for this?

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