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Hands-on with OS X Yosemite: Safari slims down

Jason Snell | July 4, 2014
If there's a single app that defines the OS X experience, it's probably Safari. Not everyone uses it (many of my friends and family members prefer Chrome), but as the default browser it's the window on the Web for most Mac users. I've been using an early developer preview of Yosemite for the past few weeks, and it's clear that Safari is the stock Apple app that will change the most when users install OS X Yosemite upon its arrival this fall.

The centering of bookmarks in the Favorites Bar is also a mistake, because now when you resize a window or add or remove an item from the bar, every other item in the bar slides around. It's easy to build up muscle memory, knowing exactly where in the browser window you can find your favorite bookmarks — but in Yosemite the Favorites Bar is all shifting sands.

Adding more views

But Apple hasn't been content to just strip away or hide features in Safari for Yosemite: There are also several feature additions, some of which are taken from Safari for iOS. The demotion of the Bookmarks Bar seems to have happened because there's a new Favorites view that looks very much like what you see when you tap in the URL/Search Bar in Safari for iOS: The browser window fills with the contents of your Favorites bookmarks, the same collection that populates the Bookmarks Bar. The background to this page is translucent, so it will let in some hints of whatever's behind the browser window. If you like the Favorites view, you can even set it as the default view when you open a new page or tab. A smaller version also appears as a drop-down when you type Command-L or choose Open Location from the File menu.

Unfortunately, this view feels a little half-baked, at least in the prerelease version I've been using. There are large icons for each of the bookmarks, but they're just generic Safari compass icons (in the new flat icon style that has also replaced Safari's venerable metallic compass icon). All my bookmarklets display in this view, which is pointless since they're only useful when they're acting on other pages, and the sub-folders full of bookmarks that live in my Favorites list and generate dropdown menus in the Favorites Bar are not displayed at all. This is a view that could be useful for some users in the way that the Top Sites view (which is available from the same page as Favorites, via a toggle button) can be. But I can't envision ever using it myself.

Another addition is Tab View, which is actually a redesign of the existing feature that would let you zoom out (by pinching on a trackpad) to see the contents of all your open tabs in one place. In Mavericks, that view was a series of slightly zoomed-out pages that you could swipe through, one by one. Well, that's gone. The new Tab View, accessible via pinching on the trackpad or clicking on the new Tab View button in the toolbar, is a grid of thumbnails of the tabs currently open in that window, supplemented with a list of tabs open on your other devices, synced via iCloud. (This is the replacement for the old iCloud Tabs button.)

 

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