Another feature that comes with Safari's improved rendering is much-improved scalability of fonts and images. As on the iPhone and iPod Touch, Safari now scales an entire page's content rather than just the fonts on the page. It's a winning feature on a mobile browser made even more effective on a computer, particularly if you have a recent Apple laptop with a multi-touch trackpad. You can easily use finger pinch motions to change how a page displays.
The effect of scaling perfectly -- and with surprisingly little pixelation or distortion -- is impressive. If you use a small display or constantly need to enlarge text or images, you'll be wowed by what you can now do.
I've used Safari 4 for less than 36 hours at this point, and I'm sold. It has a collection of innovative additions, performance boosts and standards compliance. It also has features that look like the love child of the iPhone OS and an action/sci-fi movie. Those cutting-edge advances make Safari 4 fun to use, but only because the browser backs those interface elements with a solid underpinning.
The big question now is just what other software goodness does Apple plan for the final release that didn't make it to this beta? More importantly, do the tweaks and changes now showing up in Safari offer some clues about what Apple has in mind for Snow Leopard, which is due out by midyear?
Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. You can find more information about him at RyanFaas.com.