posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Dec 2007 16:27 UTC

"Safari, Mail.app, iChat; Misc."

Safari, Mail.app, and iChat

As usual, Apple also updated most of the applications that come with Mac OS X. First off, Safari has been bumped to version 3, and comes with some interesting additions. Just like Firefox has had for ages, Safari now has an inline 'find-as-you-type' search bar. A welcome addition, as the search dialog in Safari 2 started to feel fairly archaic. Safari 3 also includes inline .pdf controls, which solves the problem in Safari 2 where .pdf files were rendered a tad bit too small for my comfort.

I am no fan of tabbed browsing (ok, I hate it), but I would still like to mention that Apple has implemented dragging tabs, and the possibility to drag a tab out of its parent window, creating its own window. You can also easily create Dashboard widgets now by simply selecting a piece of a webpage which will be turned into a live widget. My most beloved feature in Safari 3, however, is the fact that you can tell Safari to re-open the last closed window - or all the windows in case you shut Safari down. This is a great little tool, and a small step towards my ideal of a system-wide undo. Sadly, the tool has no shortcut key assigned to it (it is in the History menu).

Safari has one big problem though: it is unstable. I am used to Safari being an application that I could run without ever having to worry about it crashing or hanging up on me - apart from badly designed websites with lots of Flash and Java stuff that would bring the poor thing to a crawl. In Safari 3, however, even the simplest of websites can lock Safari up completely, with the infamous spinning beachball out in full force. It happens once about every two to three days, and I noticed in the Resource Monitor that during such a hang, Safari would eat up 16777000 TB (tera bytes!) of shared memory (see the screenshot). Something tells me that cannot be right.

That's a lot of shared memory right there.

Mail.app has also seen numerous improvements. Sadly, it still uses the odd-looking pill buttons, but to compensate, there is now a nice and long-overdue activity section placed conveniently in the Mail.app main window. Additionally, you can now create and manage notes and to-dos in Mail.app, which are accessible system-wide. You can also convert emails directly into notes or to-dos. I can sure see how that would eliminate the need for emails to yourself, something I see people do quite regularly.

A more debatable feature is the new stationery element of Mail.app - more commonly known among us geeks and nerds as annoying html email. I have an absolute distaste for html-based email, whether Apple calls it stationery or not. Yes, it looks 'Applelicious', is easy to use in an iWork kind-of-way, and yes, I can see the usefulness of the feature for people who want to make birthday invitations for their children - but still, I cannot get over the fact that Apple just reintroduced html-based email and even put the spotlight on it. As a geek, I find that all email ought to be text based, period.

iChat has also been significantly overhauled. Apple has done some amazing stuff with iChat, I simply have no other word for it. Firstly, you can play around with Photo Booth effects when you are videoconferencing. Not particularly useful, but definitely a fun thing to do with your friends when you are bored. It also includes a backdrop feature, a feature also seen in the new Photo Booth. It will ask you to step out of your camera's view, after which you can step back in and it will know where to draw the backdrop. This can be a bit problematic on a laptop, though, when you use it on the couch. Nice playthings.

The star of the iChat show, however, is iChat Theatre. With iChat Theatre, you can show nearly any file to your friends in a videochat; it will even play music, slideshows, you name it (if it does Quick Look, it will do iChat Theatre). Ever seen a keynote by Steve Jobs? You can now do all that in iChat yourself. You can also do screen sharing, and pass on control of your Mac to your friends, so they can help you in troubleshooting sessions. You can easily record all these iChat sessions in ACC or MPEG4, but only with full consent from the people in the chat.

Misc.

For the rest, just about any application or utility in Leopard has been under the knife. iCal's interface has been reworked, Preview has finally gotten the ability to resize/crop images, and to order and merge .pdf documents. As I already mentioned, Photo Booth has gotten the backdrops feature, while also receiving some new effects and the ability to record video. Front Row has a completely new interface, similar to that of the Apple TV. It is still amazingly easy to use, and actually looks a little bit better than previous incarnations, if you ask me.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction; The appearance"
  2. "The Finder, Quick Look, Stacks, Spaces, and Spotlight"
  3. "Time Machine"
  4. "Safari, Mail.app, iChat; Misc."
  5. "A few notes on the MacBook; Conclusion"
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