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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.

I never considered the old quick-tab view anything but a nuisance — a mode I got into when I zoomed out of a page too far unintentionally. And I'm still not convinced that the new Tab View is going to be used a lot, though the addition of iCloud Tabs will give some people a reason to visit. The ability to scroll through a long list of tabs in the Tab bar, added in Yosemite, seems like it will appeal to more people than this zoomed out view.

More ways to search

One feature addition that I really do like is the enhancement of the auto-complete options when you're typing in the URL/Search bar. And as you type into the URL/Search Bar, Safari's not just querying your search engine and bookmarks anymore — it's also searching Wikipedia, Maps, iTunes, and news — just like in Spotlight. It's a small change that makes it much easier to use the browser as a quick reference tool, since you can (for example) jump straight to the Wikipedia page for a topic you're interested in directly from the bar.

The destination of so many of my searches is a Wikipedia page that it makes sense for Apple to eliminate the middleman and allow me to jump straight there. In my testing I could only get Wikipedia searching to work, but adding other Spotlight data sources to the party sounds like a good idea, too.

There's also something called Quick Website Search. This looks to be a way for you to jump straight into a given website's own search engine from Safari. For example, if I type "netflix star trek," Safari gives me an option to search Netflix for "star trek", and if I select that item I am immediately taken to Netflix's own search results for my term. That's a nifty shortcut that, again, eliminates an intermediate page and takes me right to my results.

Hands off my stuff

Private Browsing, long a feature in Google Chrome, arrives in Safari with Yosemite. You can now choose New Private Window from the File menu and, according to Apple, your browser session will be completely anonymous. An alert appears at the top of the screen when you create a new Private Window; if you dismiss it, the Private Window looks just like every other Safari window. Your webpage history won't save, none of your cookies will be shared with regular browsing sessions ... you will be a blank slate. (It would be nice if the Private Windows were permanently marked somehow.)

Too much of our behavior on the Web is stored and tracked, and sometimes (especially when searching sensitive topics) it's comforting to know that what we're doing is not being stored. However, keep in mind that Safari's Private Browsing feature can't completely obscure you — your device's internet address and some other basic information about your computer are still passed on to servers.


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