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Safari 5.1.1: iCloud Ready, Performance Heavy

For persistent fans, it’s the features you likely already know about that make Safari a keeper. While I could blabber on about how Safari’s design far outpaces Google Chrome or Firefox in terms of both good looks and usability, Safari’s main assets are simply iCloud related.

The Reading List, revealed as a hidden side pane coated with a fresh paint of white linen, syncs saved websites to your iOS devices almost instantly over iCloud. Added to Safari earlier this year, Reading List is a sort of quasi-replacement for bookmarks. Bookmarks are useful for certain things: recipes, websites with code snippets, or perhaps a photography tutorial you came across online. References. But for things like articles and news you intend to read later, saving those pages as bookmarks often means they’ll be forgotten about and get lost in the clutter. Reading List attempts to alleviate this problem. If you’re reading an article in Safari on the iPad on the train and need to jump off at the next stop, you can save the page to the Reading List and it’ll be available on your iMac once you reach the office. I’ve always said it wasn’t an Instapaper killer — it’s a temporary container for items I want to read now, but am expecting some sort interruption during. Instapaper items are of course read in the evening, either on the iPad or Kindle. Talking about bookmarks, those get synced over too.

One feature I do want to see in the future is the ability to sync open tabs across OS X and your iOS devices. This seems like a no brainer to me, especially if Apple can work their magic in remembering what tab you had open and your page position.

Outside of iCloud, it’s the same ol’ Safari you’re used to. Safari 5.1.1 includes a slew of stability fixes and improved javascript performance, alleviating a lot of the bugs introduced with Lion and 5.1. Still, there’s room for improvement. More importantly, Apple needs to kill automatic tab refreshing. There’s just no need for it on a desktop OS.

Safari has a warm place in our hearts as Mac users, but the recent iOS-ificiation of the browser is turning away once loyal fans. The animations are fluid, page sliding is unique and thoughtful, and iCloud integrations carry over bookmarks and ‘read later’ items for consumption on any device of your choice, but it’s the automatic tab reloading and poor performance that overshadows great features for fear of lost productivity. I was hoping that Safari, improved in 5.1.1 with several bug fixes, performance enhancements, and iCloud integration, would be worth returning to to take advantage of everything Apple has to offer between iOS and the desktop. Unfortunately, the basic problems (or perhaps principle) of Safari’s mirroring with iOS features remain.

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