Wil was out of town so I had the pleasure of sitting in front of his big 27-inch iMac and trying out Mac OS X Mountain Lion.
My only trick was to use his Mac for awhile and not leave a tell tale trail of destruction behind. The first stop was Safari 6 which brings plenty of under-the-hood functions, but some much needed eye candy, too, including some functionality obviously lifted from browser nemesis Google Chrome.
Remember Browsers Back In The Day?
First, a bit of history and why Safari 6 is so important to Apple. It was back in 2003 when we Mac users were treated to twin visual and emotional pleasures.
Apple introduced Safari to the Mac. And Microsoft decided to discontinue Internet Explorer for the Mac.
It was the best of times. Looking back, it’s easy to see why Apple created Safari. The Mac browser (and, later, a Windows version) advanced the start of the art in browsers with better and faster web page rendering, and adherence to web standards that Microsoft still cannot match.
Today, Safari is everywhere. Not only do tens of millions of Mac users call it the browser of choice, but it’s the de facto standard on a few hundred million iPhones and iPads. Safari’s original engine, WebKit, also makes the basis of Google’s Chrome browser.
What’s new in Safari? Here’s what I’ve found so far.
iCloud: There’s a new iCloud button in the toolbar that will sync up tabs between the Mac and iPad. Sure, Chrome, Firefox, and even Opera have had the same thing for awhile. For the Mac, you can flip through tabs using the trackpad. But it only works on open tabs in Safari.
Unified Search Bar & URL: Google’s Chrome has a unified search and URL bar, which is also coming in Safari 6. I’m not sure I like that. Chrome doesn’t do as good a job with auto fill as Safari, which I use a lot. Still, it’s one less thing to think about. Apple calls it the Smart Search Field.
Share Button: I love this. It works almost the same way as the Share button in iPhone and iPad on iOS. Email, Messages, Facebook, and Twitter.
Tabs: Google’s Chrome tabs are the most functional, and the ugliest. Safari’s new tabs are somewhere in between. A single tab takes up a chunk of real estate so it’s easier to see what’s in the tab, but the close button should work like Chrome.
I’m not keen on this showing up in iOS 6 for iPad and iPhone if it loads up those tabbed web pages in the background and sucks up even more pay-by-the-byte cell phone bandwidth.
CSS3 & HTML5: There’s even more support for the growing web standards, including 3D transforms and CSS animations in Safari 6. It even supports HTML5 audio and video elements. When it comes to a de facto standard for web audio and video, well, there is none (Flash is passé, folks).
SVG: Safari now displays Scalable Vector Graphics without using a plug-in. This is nice and all, but unless every other web browser does the same thing, there won’t be much SVG usage on web sites.
Tab Crash: This isn’t a new function, but I wasn’t able to get Safari to crash a web page in a tab. In previous versions of Safari, if an extension or plugin crashed, each tab would need to reload. I hope it works like Chrome now.
Do Not Track: This is new and remains to be seen how effective it is, but Safari 6 supports the Do Not Track standard.
Elsewhere: Here are a few other observations on Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Goodby iChat. It’s now Messages. Goodbye iCal and Address Book. It’s now just like iOS; Calendar and Contacts. Reminders from iOS is now on the Mac and syncs nicely between devices.
The Preference Pane is notably different with a keyboard shortcut to access the Accessibility pane from anywhere. I didn’t have a chance to try AirPlay Mirroring, but that’s got to be a hot feature. The single sign on that we use in iOS for Twitter, Facebook, and others is also in Mountain Lion.
The Dictation on my iPad is now on the Mac. Wherever you can type you can talk and what you say shows up in the text field. I have a few relatives in Brooklyn where that feature will be challenged.
Game Center is coming to the Mac. Software updates will show up in the Mac App Store app instead of in System Preferences. The Notification Center is likely to curtail my use of Growl. I didn’t try it but Power Nap looks very cool. The Mac can go to sleep but mail, notes, messages, and reminders can stay up to date.
Remember when we used to stand in line in front of an Apple Store to get the latest version of OS X (and a new t-shirt)? Those days are gone.