On top, what’s not to like?

The new web browser from Apple, Safari 4, has got many a blogger blogging on its virtues and flaws. The most controversial of the lot seems to be tabs on top.

Tabs on top ala Google's ChromeThe one thing it gets right is the fact that the ‘Address & Search’ bar in now contained within the tab. It now makes more sense that the contents of the ‘Address & Search’ bar changes from tab to tab. After using Safari for years I found that one of the things I never got the hang of. 

Tabs on top fixes this issue for me. It’s like a totally new web browser. It’s difficult to put into words how much more effective this feels to me. And yet it also bug me a little. The aesthetics of the tabs looks little awkward to me.

I’m not going get started on the click through issue. That this issue has been banging around now for half a decade says a lot and to honest it has never been a big problem for me.  Other that it is non consistent, and that’s just a little stupid. The list of things that are little stupid is a whole other kettle of fish.

So the tabs, they look a little off. Is this a purely aesthetic issue or is there an underlying UI problem?
The tab bar, formerly know as the title bar, has zones of activity.

  1. Window buttons, close, minimise and maximise.
  2. One or more tabs with a close button and a drag handle.
  3. A seperate button for adding tabs.

Window buttons ahve the problem that they kind of hover above an active and a non-active tab. They don’t change with the surface they sit on. So why are they always part of the first tab? This also make the tabs look uneven, this become less of an issue when there are more tabs. It looks especially strange and unbalanced when you have just two tabs, which is often.

The tabs drag handle actually looks like a resize handle. It’s not clear that you can drag to reorder. The handle seems to suggest that you drag the tab another window or create a new one. Which, of course, you can. I wonder if the handle could be changed to suggest a more universal dragging functionality. Also, it took me while to realise that I could move the window by grabbing a non-active part of the tab.

I’ve always wondered if it is necessary to have a button to allow users add tabs. It seems obvious that you should, but should you?  It doesn’t hinder the overall design so I’m not to bothered about it. Shortcuts are indeed not for everyone.

On the whole I like the changes to Safari. They’ve made some serious steps forward. My problem with the tabs are more than just aesthetic and hopefully Apple is aware of these issues and give them a little TLC for the Snow Leopard release.

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