The Acid Test, 21st Century Style

For those that might not know, there are a group of tests for a web browser called The Acid Tests, which tests the browser’s ability to render a web display properly (as referenced by the World Wide Web Consortium). These tests are meant to provide benchmarks for browser developers to use to improve their products.

Well, it’s not surprise that in most circles Firefox is considered to be the king of web standards & compliance. It is also widely agreed that Internet Explorer is, in contrast, the nemesis of web standards & compliance. Other browsers are assumed to fall somewhere between the 2.

Recently Apple released Safari 3.1 for Mac & Windows claiming to be faster, more stable and more compliant that other browsers. So, naturally I wanted to put that to the test…the Acid Test.

I decided to pit Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer (IE) & Opera against each other in the 3 available acid tests to see who really was king of web standards & compliance. I was surprised by my findings.

The Acid Tests
There are 3 Acid Tests, each designed to test a different reference point within the development of web standards. At this point every browser should pass Acid Test 1 & Acid Test 2 without issue. Acid Test 3 is, however, a test of proposed standards and while a browser passing is a good sign, it is not yet something to worry too much about if a browser doesn’t get a 100 out of 100 in the test’s grading.

Acid Test 1
All the browsers passed the first Acid Test.

Acid Test 2
This one was surprising. We had a 50/50 split with 2 browsers passing and the other 2 failing the test. Yes Internet Explorer failed, but so did Firefox. Both Safari & Opera passed.

Acid Test 3
Acid Test 3 isn’t a simple pass/fail test, but rates a browser on a scale of 0 to 100. A 100 being a perfect score of rendering all the items on the page. Surprise, surprise Internet Explorer scored a 5 out of 100 (at least that’s the best I could tell while trying to read the results, as they were mangled beyond almost all recognition). The next worse was Opera, scoring a 46 out of 100. Firefox came in 2nd with a 53 out of 100, leaving Safari as the clear winner with a 75 out of 100.

Who Knew?
I’ve been a rabid Firefox user for years and believed the it to be the best, most compliant browser available. With Apple’s release of Safari 3.1 I need to rethink that assumption and my browser choice.

With the exception of Internet Explorer all the browser are available for Mac & PC users. I tested the latest versions, which were: Internet Explorer 7.0.5730.11, Firefox 2.0.0.12, Opera 9.26 & Safari 3.1 (5525.13) on both Mac OS 10.5.2 & Windows XP Pro SP2 with all the latest updates (as of this past Tuesday).

Mac OS X Leopard

AKA Mac OS 10.5

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my production system to Apple’s latest OS. Other than a it being a long process (full backup of the current hard drive and then the upgrade of the OS plus running all subsequent updates to be current at 10.5.1), it was a smooth upgrade. Here are my first impressions:

The Good: Apple has done an exceptional job “under the hood”. With my main 3 or 4 applications running I am seeing my CPU at about 96% idle. That coupled with general improvements throughout has made all the time I put into the update worth it.

Some Specifics

Mail.app, Apple’s included mail client, has updated to be even more integrated with their Address Book (aptly named “Address Book”) and Calendar (called iCal) so that it recognizes data within the email you receive (sch as addresses, email addresses and dates) and allows you to capture that information appropriately. I can grab an address than someone sends me and add it to their address book card, or create a new address book card if they don’t already exist in my list. I can also add dates to my calendar from information in email. I’m using this feature daily. It certainly helps a busy consultant keep on top of th barrage of information that comes my way everyday.

WebDAV finally works as it has been touted. I can open a WebDAV volume from my desktop and manipulate files & folders as if they were right there. This is huge for all the website development I do.

The Finder has undergone a complete overhaul. It has taken on a more iTunes styled look, but I think Quick Look is certainly a key feature. I can page through just about any document on my system without ever launching an application. What a time saver when I just need to look up data from a Word document or Excel sheet. No more waiting for Office load.

The Bad: My biggest complaint is that my default printer, which is attached to my Airport wireless router via ethernet, was not picked up via Bonjour like it was in 10.4.x.  I won’t blame the fact that the driver installer dropped a bunch of files with bad permissions on my system, that is simply Hewlett-Packard’s deal, but Apple has taken a giant step backwards in their printing engine. I think it’s related to Bonjour (their zero-config process), since I also notice that the printer’s configuration web interface is sometimes recognized and other times not in the “Bonjour” item in Safari (Apple’s web browser).

The Ugly: Okay, whose bright idea was it to have a translucent menubar with no option for making it fully (or at least more) opaque?? It’s very distracting and a bit hard on my eyes. I finally had to resort to a solid colored desktop background to make the menubar usable. I’ve heard many complain about the new 3-d Dock, but since I keep my Dock on the left side of the screen rather than the bottom it auto-reverts to a 2-d Dock, though more high-tech looking than previous iterations.

So, after 3 days of daily use, I will say that I am mostly pleased with the update. There is still some digging and exploring to do, but I find the under-the-hood enhancements to be well worth the price (in both money & time) for the update. I still need to play with Time Machine (a built-in backup utility) and Spaces (a UNIX style desktop manager).