OS X Mavericks preview: Safari

OS X Mavericks doesn't just bring core improvements like Finder Tabs, better battery life and more efficient processor use; a new version of Safari is in the works that will make your Web browsing faster and more social.

While it's great to have a boatload of improvements in the operating system, few of us would be able to use OS X Mavericks for too long without having to surf the Web for something. So it's good news that Apple is improving Safari for Mavericks as well. Many of the enhancements are under the hood tweaks aimed at improving performance, but there are some new features to talk about as well.

The pseudo-3D gallery interface for Top Sites is gone in the new Safari, replaced with a flatter look that complements Apple's new flat design philosophy. There are some functional changes, as well - you can add sites from your bookmarks, and you can rearrange top sites by clicking and dragging thumbnails around.

Mavericks Safari Sidebar

A new plus button has been added to Safari's toolbar, which provides one-click bookmarking. And a new Sidebar interface consolidates bookmarks and your reading list, making it easier to locate links you'd like to follow. Web pages you've marked to visit in your reading list will now scroll consecutively, so as you finish one web page, another one will load automatically.

A third tab is added to the new Sidebar called Shared Links, and that provides a social component that's new to Safari: links shared by people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also retweet links you're visiting directly in Safari.

Here's what Apple has to say about Safari's interface improvements in Mavericks:

Safari in OS X Mavericks delivers blazing performance and introduces breakthrough technologies. Innovative features make it simple to return to sites you visit often — and discover new sites as well. Shared Links in the new Sidebar shows links posted by people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn, so you can keep up with the latest interesting content.

Performance and efficiency improvements are also key to Mavericks' new version of Safari. Apple says that JavaScript execution is 1.44 times faster than Chrome, beating Firefox as well (at least according to the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark), while JSBench suite testing shows Safari as 3.8 times faster than Firefox, handily beating out Chrome as well.

Apple's tests also show that Safari is more memory-efficient than Firefox and Chrome, while - thanks in part to Mavericks' core improvements, as well, CPU efficiency in Safari is almost three times better than Firefox, and leaps better than Chrome too.

Safari App Nap

Have you ever heard your Mac's fans spin up when you load a processor-hungry Web page but send it to the background? That problem should be solved when Safari for Mavericks makes its debut - it takes advantage of Mavericks' new App Nap function, which tells the CPU not to waste cycles on Web pages that aren't front and center. That should improve battery life on laptops.

Safari for Mavericks isn't radically different than Safari under Mountain Lion, but it doesn't have to be - Apple's already got a class-leading Web browser, and it's making some gentle interface tweaks that should improve the experience across the board. But as with a lot of Mavericks' other enhancements, the real improvements to Safari are under the hood, providing better efficiency and improved performance for all.

Are you looking forward most to performance and efficiency improvements in Safari, or are the new features like the Sidebar and one-click bookmarks more important? And do you think that adding a social component via Shared Links is a good idea, or have you had enough of social networking? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Peter Cohen